ANCHORAGE — A state representative is spending more than $2,000 in leftover campaign money to tell Alaskans they can avoid airport body scanners if the devices make them uncomfortable.
The ads featuring Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, say travelers can opt for pat-downs instead of body scans and can call state airport police if that alternative is too aggressive.
A spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration told the Anchorage Daily News that Tuck is not putting out accurate information. The agency installed body scanners in Anchorage and Fairbanks this month, said Lorie Dankers, but images of individual travelers are neither recorded nor stored.
“The technology does not take a picture; it’s bouncing electromagnetic waves off the body ... there is no image to store,” she said.
The advertisement first appeared Sunday. Tuck said air time cost $2,060 and was paid from an account that legislators are allowed to put surplus campaign cash after winning an election.
“I’m hoping to be able to properly inform people of their rights going through security,” Tuck said. “I think that people who don’t fly frequently don’t know what their rights are. ... During the holiday season, sometimes that’s the only time that people get a chance to fly.”
Older scanners raised privacy concerns, but those installed so far in Alaska and machines planned for Juneau and Ketchikan show a gray form. Hidden objects are indicated on screen by yellow squares.
Tuck’s 30-second ad identifies him as a representative.
“These machines still allow TSA screeners to see through your clothes. ... If you don’t want inappropriate pictures of you or your children taken and stored, or if you’re concerned with the possible health effects, all you have to do is say, ‘I opt out.’ It is your right,” Tuck says in the ad.
“Instead, they will pat you down. And if they touch you inappropriately, call the airport police,” he says.
Tuck said Monday a CNN reporter had “just informed” him that the Alaska scanners cannot store traveler images.
“Might be my mistake on that one,” Tuck said. He said he had not confirmed that and said he remains skeptical that Alaska scanners could not store the images.
“I would like to have TSA prove to me that these machines are incapable of storing it,” Tuck said.
Tuck said he chooses a private pat-down over a scanner when he travels, because “as a political official, I don’t want there to be a picture of me, because everybody has a phone and cameras, a picture of me with my arms up being frisked as if I’m a criminal.”
“All we’re doing is creating security theater, giving Americans the belief that they are safer. But the real question is, ‘Are we safer?’” he said.
Anchorage travel analyst Scott McMurren said he believes TSA does store the images. “They have to store them; how else would they go back and see them if there is an issue?” he said.
Body scanners are “invasive, degrading, ineffective and expensive,” McMurren said.