The National Opt Out and Film Week, a new campaign designed to expose the abusive policies of the TSA, is set to launch during Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel times of the year -- and the TSA might not be able to stop it.
The peaceful protest, conceived by activist Ashley Jessica and Infowars reporter Paul Joseph Watson, is a direct response to the implementation of potentially harmful body scanners, invasive pat-downs and other objectionable TSA policies that have led to public outcries for change.
Supporters of Opt Out and Film Week are encouraged to film TSA activities at their local airport -- even if they are not flying -- and upload the videos to Youtube and other sites. According to the TSA website, filming TSA agents and security checkpoints is not illegal, as long as it does not interfere with security procedures.
In addition, the Facebook page for the event suggests three ways that people can participate:
1) Fly within the United States, opt out of the body scanner and have someone film your pat-down.
2) Go to your nearest U.S. airport and hand out flyers to travelers to spread the word about the event.
3) Film TSA personnel at non-airport locations, like subways, train stations and bus stops, and peacefully re-assert your rights when faced with random bag searches and other unreasonable security procedures.
So far, over 1000 people have confirmed via Facebook that they will be taking part in Opt Out and Film Week at their local airports.
Jessica came up with the idea for the protest after she and her mother endured a humiliating pat down at an airport in Norfolk, Virginia.
"The TSA agent initially harassed my brother for filming her pat-down on my mom; however, once he asserted his right to film, I was given a second pat-down by another agent on camera which was considerably less invasive and much more respectful," Jessica explained in a email response to the Digital Journal.
"I then realized that filming holds the TSA accountable for the way they treat travelers and is a way for us to protect our rights, which they have a penchant for violating. My experience showed that they certainly don't want to mistreat travelers while being recorded. If everyone would opt out and film then perhaps we would no longer be subjected to violating and humiliating security procedures."
If TSA officials are aware of this impending confrontation, they aren't showing it. When asked about Opt Out and Film Week, TSA spokesman Nico Melendez told the Digital Journal, "I'm not familiar with it. I'll have to look into it." In addition, no mention of the event could be found in a search of the TSA website.
Regardless of how the TSA responds next week, the Opt Out and Film campaign could be a huge win for civil liberties advocates: if the TSA ignores it, then its appalling treatment of air travelers will be caught on camera; if it "stands down" by turning off the naked body scanners -- as it did during a similar protest in 2010 -- then passengers will be free from body scanners and enhanced pat downs for at least a week, setting the stage for further advances.
According to Jessica, this effort is vital to the restoration of constitutionally protected freedoms.
"We are at a critical point in time in which our rights are slowly but surely being taken away by the TSA in the name of protecting national security, but we still have the power to stop this," she said. "Participating in Opt Out and Film Week is our chance to send a message to the TSA that we will no longer allow them to treat us like criminals, violate our rights and risk our health, regardless of their justification for doing so."
The campaign has garnered endorsements from a wide variety of alternative news sites, as well as nationally syndicated journalist and consumer advocate Christopher Elliott.
"The reasoning behind a National Opt-Out Week is this: If the TSA decides to shut down its scanners in response to the protest, as it allegedly did in 2010, activists would have ample opportunity to document the action over a period of a week," Elliott wrote in an article for the Huffington Post. "TSA critics would then have more than enough evidence to prove that these scans and pat-downs are a false choice and do practically nothing to improve our safety."
The supporters of Opt Out and Film Week can also look to the words of Benjamin Franklin for motivation: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."