RALPH NADER, Consumer advocate
Consumer advocate and four-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader spoke with BTN’s Lauren Darson about
Business Travel News: Should corporations address TSA
rebuking the Department of Homeland Security’s use of full-body scanners and intrusive pat-downs, and
calling on corporations and airlines to get involved. Speaking in Washington, D.C., this month at a conference
sponsored by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Nader said the Transportation Security Administration’s
initiatives to beef up airport security violate passengers’Fourth Amendment rights, pose health concerns re-
lated to radiation exposure and are insensitive to religious practices. Nader and other panelists agreed that the
government should adopt recent recommendations made in a report by the International Air Transport Associa-
tion on ways to improve international security by using booking data to pre-screen passengers instead of full-body scanners. IATA proposed
that passenger tickets be classified according to three levels of risk and security checkpoints be divided into three corresponding lanes, allow-
ing frequent travelers to more easily pass through security.
initiatives in duty-of-care policies?
Ralph Nader: Yes. First of all, these [body scanning]
machines can malfunction, and as scientists at the
University of California said, you can get serious
burns. CAT scans have malfunctioned, so have medical X-rays and dental X-rays over the decades. We have
documented all of this in fighting for the Radiation
Control Act in 1968. Companies should be concerned
especially if their employees have medical devices in
them or if they are pregnant.
The corporations, the travel managers, are the
people who really do travel. Where are they? Why
aren’t they at the table? Where are the airlines? Why
aren’t they speaking up? Where are the airline union
workers? They are not standing tall for the interest of
the American people that they are uniquely equipped
I called the Air Transport Association and various
airlines—they have nothing to say. Either they don’t
call back or they just say that they are adhering to all
federal standards. The pilots union had to speak out
because it was so inconvenient, now they have a special line [to go through security].
BTN: What are your thoughts on the IATA report?
Nader: That’s a new factor. IATA used to be a price
fixer. It was a cartel, but at the same time it has an
amount of prestige and authority. That report is going
to be a major thing to try to get congressional hearings
DHS doesn’t have an integrated international plan.
You can see how different the European governments
are; there is no coordination. For example, you can
fly from a European city to the United States without
going through these new scanners, but you can’t fly,
presumably apart from the pat-downs, from Chicago
to New Orleans, once they put them all in. Is that
rational? It’s insane.
BTN: Will DHS airport screening policies deter air travel?
Nader: I ask people when I am in the airports and
most of them haven’t been subjected to these intrusive
searches. They personally have been going through
either the scanners or more likely the metal detectors.
It’s only when they have an experience that they start
saying, “For trips of under 400 miles, who needs to
fly? I will take a train or I will drive a car.” And that
is where I think the airlines are going to start losing
out—on the short-hauls, and Amtrak knows that. If
you take all the hassles that are ordinary and then you
add this one, people will start to say, “I don’t need this.”
It does come down to personal, adverse experiences.
TSA says the radiation exposure is equivalent to two
minutes in the air, which is not true; it’s a different
kind of radiation that just hits the skin.
BTN: As travelers look to rail for shorter trips, what are
your thoughts on rail security?
Nader: We all know what the problem is: TSA moves
when any terrorist attempt is bungled, so it reacts.
You have the shoe bomber; we take off our shoes. The
logic of TSA would force them to cover everything.
What’s the difference? What are they waiting for, a shoe
bomber on Amtrak? What about buses and subways? It
hasn’t happened yet; you haven’t had a bungled attempt.
BTN: What are your thoughts on congressional reaction
Nader: The pattern has been to try to avoid facing up
to the problem because they don’t want to be accused
of being soft on terrorism. It’s sort of like the old days:
“Who’s soft on communism?” Instead of intelligently
trying to guide TSA, they give them no guidance at
all, no framework, no disclosure, no explanation or
requirements. The default option is to do nothing. So
[Congress does] nothing and they let TSA do whatever
they do so [Congress] can’t be accused of being soft on
There is a huge amount of money that is being
wasted here and the Government Accountability Office has documented this. As they put more of these
machines out, they have more training that they have
to do, etc. In airports, they have now converted back
to more metal detectors, and the question is, why? Are
they having trouble with the machines? We have to
force DHS to be more responsive. ■
European Online Booking Penetration
Nearly At North American Levels
that. The question is: Have online tools reached the sat-
uration point or is there more op-
portunity? I think it’s the latter.”
Considering overall survey re-
sults, Tilstone said, “Some things
have progressed in the last 18
months, but there are still oppor-
tunities for people to get a better
hold of their policy.” Examples
he cited include 64 percent of
respondents only issuing verbal
reprimands for noncompliance,
while 14 percent warn travelers
that they may not be reimbursed
in whole or part.
“If you are going to the trouble of creating a robust
policy, then something more than a verbal sanction is
BY AMON COHEN
NEARLY THE SAME RATIO of companies in Europe
require travelers to book through corporate online tools
as in North America, according to a study released last
month by the NBTA Foundation, in association with
Egencia. The study included responses from 383 travel
managers in 20 European countries and found that 61
percent require some or all trips to be booked online.
That compares with 64 percent of North American
travel managers in a similar study released by the NBTA
Foundation in July 2010. The new study also found that
24 percent of represented European organizations have
no corporate booking tool.
“The gap has certainly been closing over the last two
to three years, so I wasn’t surprised by the European
figure,” said NBTA managing director Paul Tilstone. “I
was more surprised North America hasn’t gone beyond
appropriate, especially if one bears in mind duty-of-
care responsibilities,” said Tilstone.
“The question is: Have
online tools reached the
saturation point or is
there more opportunity?
I think it’s the latter.”
—PAUL TILS TONE