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As if travelers don’t have enough to worry about when they go through airport security, the leader of a prominent anti-gay hate group has added a dollop of his personal agenda to the mix. With the controversy growing over whether the new full-body scanners and more-aggressive pat-down searches are excessive invasions of privacy, Peter LaBarbera, long-time anti-gay activist and director of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) is worried that gay Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees will “get turned on” while patting down travelers of the same sex.
LaBarbera’s press release, published on AFTAH’s Web site Nov. 16, came in response to a statement from U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano assuring that members of the same gender would perform checkpoint pat-downs. “Isn’t it just as inappropriate for a ‘gay’ male TSA agent to pat down male travelers as it is for a normal, heterosexual male TSA agent to pat down female travelers?” he wrote. “The reality is, most traveling men would not want Barney Frank to pat them down at the airport security checkpoint. … Neither would it be fair to assign Ellen DeGeneres to pat down female travelers.”
LaBarbera – who has a reputation for going to gay bars and fetish events to snap photos as he conducts “research” into the “homosexual agenda” – is using the concerns of mainstream groups over the new security procedures to stoke his own long-burning anti-gay fires.
U.S. airports increasingly are turning to sophisticated full-body scanners using Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT). An AIT machine produces a detailed three-dimensional image of a person beneath his or her clothing. The Electronic Privacy Information Center calls AIT machines the equivalent of a “physically invasive strip search.” EPIC has filed a lawsuit against DHS to suspend the deployment of AIT machines pending an independent review. The ACLU also has registered complaints about the technology.
Travelers can opt out of going through the AIT scanners – but then they must submit to the TSA’s recently enhanced hand-search standards. Rather than using the backs of the hands to check a person, TSA security personnel now use open hands and fingers on travelers’ bodies, including on breast and genital areas. In one recent incident, a rape survivor stated she was “traumatized” all over again by the procedure.
A public outcry has also accompanied the new standards. Today is “National Opt-Out Day,” organized by We Won’t Fly, which bills itself as a grassroots consumer advocate group. The protest calls on travelers to refuse the electronic scan and choose a pat-down instead, hoping that slowing down airport security lines will amount to a “creative protest.”
But to the mind of LaBarbera – who seems to have no greater calling in life than fretting about gay pleasure – that would just mean more salacious opportunities for homosexual TSA agents to titillate themselves at the expense of travelers. He demands “the TSA should put conditions on employment for self-acknowledged homosexuals.” They should be barred from patting down travelers, “so as to avoid being put in sexually compromising situations.” And if the TSA doesn’t know which of its employees are gay, LaBarbera continues, “Is it fair to travelers who may end up getting ‘groped’ by homosexual TSA agents who are secretly getting turned on through the process?”
Requests for comment from TSA have not been returned.