Airport screening: Security gets personal

The Transportation Security Administration has begun widespread use of its new, full-body imaging devices. Passengers who refuse to be scanned are given an “enhanced pat down.”

At airports, the backlash has begun, said Dan Gillmor in Salon.com. The Transportation Security Administration has begun widespread use of its new, full-body imaging devices, and “it’s freaking people out.” Pilots are rebelling against passing through the scanners several times a day, and some bloggers have named Nov. 24 “National Opt-Out Day,” to encourage travelers to demand a body search instead of passing through the scanning machines. Some travelers say the ghostly images of bodies that the scanners produce is an invasion of privacy; indeed, “the scanner images of children would qualify as child porn in other circumstances.” Others question the TSA’s assurance that the scanners’ low dose of radiation will be safe for frequent travelers and pilots. If you think the imaging is intrusive, said Steve Chapman in the Chicago Tribune, just try opting for the “enhanced pat down.” TSA agents will aggressively feel around breasts, buttocks, and crotches. “If we don’t say no when they want to inspect and handle our private parts, when will we?”

The TSA is not out to humiliate anyone, said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in USA Today. Even after thwarted attempts at airborne terrorism by the Underwear Bomber and the Shoe Bomber, U.S. intelligence reports that al Qaida and its allies are plotting to strike at aviation targets “and are constantly adapting their tactics for doing so.” All images of passengers’ bodies will be viewed only by a TSA officer behind a walled-off enclosure, and that officer will never interact with the passenger. “We face a determined enemy,” and to prevent another terrorism atrocity, sacrifices must be made.

There are sacrifices, and then there are sacrifices, said Jeffrey Goldberg in TheAtlantic.com. To see what it’s like, I recently opted for the pat down at T.F. Green International Airport in Providence. An agent snapped on latex gloves, and ran his hands up my thighs, over my buttocks, and then between my legs. It was very weird—and pointless. Both the pat down and the scanner machines would not detect plastic explosives or weapons that a terrorist could insert into his or her body cavities—which al Qaida suicide bombers have already done. To really keep terrorists off planes, the TSA should take the Israelis’ lead, and focus on “learning the identity and background of each passenger.” Viewing naked images of us, or groping around in our crotches, is “meaningless security theater.”

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.

SUBSCRIBE & SAVE
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/jacafc5zvs1692883516.jpg

Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us