Memphis pilot leaves airport rather than going through scan - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis pilot rejects full-body scan, pat-down

Michael Roberts Michael Roberts

By Jamel Major - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Memphis pilot who refused a full-body scan and pat-down at Memphis International Airport says he's standing up for privacy rights.

Michael Roberts, a pilot for Houston-based ExpressJet Airlines, said in an interview Tuesday that security is important, but there should be a better system in place to keep passengers safe - a system, he said, that does not violate a person's privacy or civil rights.

Roberts' run-in with the TSA happened last week.

"I did exactly what I've done for the last four-and-a-half years to get to work, but this time they wanted to put their hands on me," Roberts said Tuesday.

Roberts felt going through a full-body scanner would be an invasion of privacy.

"They wanted me to take off my shoes to go through the scanner, and I told them I didn't want to go through the scanner," he said.

Roberts claims a TSA agent told him because he "opted out" of the scan, he'd have to go through a secondary screening, which meant he had to be frisked.

"The bottom line is, I'm not especially comfortable with being frisked by an agent of the federal government everyday on my way to work," he said.

After Roberts declined both the full body scan and pat down, another officer approached him, saying a report would have to be filed with the Transportation Security Operations Center.  The officer asked for Robert's drivers license, supervisor's name, and the number for the airline where Roberts worked.

In a statement, a TSA spokesperson said, "Advanced imaging technology is optional for all passengers. Passengers who decline to be screened using advanced imaging technology will receive alternative screening to ensure the safety of the traveling public. Anyone who refuses screening will be denied access to the secure area."

But Roberts disagrees with that policy.

"Evidently they saw my discomfort with the situation as a threat to airport security," he said.

After the incident Roberts was told he was free to leave the airport.  Since then, he has been taking time off from work and is seeking legal advice.

What do you think of Roberts' decision?  Please leave your comments on this story in the space below.

Copyright 2010 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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