'Naked' scanning at airports?

What the new technology means for your travel and privacy needs

While security experts say full-body scanning technology, which uses x-rays and radio waves to create a three dimentional image of passenger's body underneath his or her clothing, might have caught "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, some privacy groups protest that it's equivalent to an invasive "digital strip search." Last June, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill restricting use of the technology in airports, citing concerns about both privacy and effectiveness. Are the benefits of "naked" scans worth the loss of privacy? (Watch an AP report about airport security and privacy fears)

Fine, look at my "naked" bodyjust keep me safe: I'd take a "strip-search" scan over being blown out of the sky any day, says Froma Harrop in The Seattle Times, and I imagine I'm not alone. Besides, an anonymous "naked" once-over beats the screening alternative: "having someone pat you up and down is a lot more personal than letting an officer in another room who can't see your face take a quick look at a picture."

"The naked truth about whole-body imaging"

Subscribe to The Week

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


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

The privacy risks are too great: The machines offer no guarantee for stopping determined terrorists, says Lillie Coney of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, as quoted by NPR. So why make the enormous privacy "tradeoff" with a technology "that will literally strip away human dignity"? Also, keep in mind there's nothing to prevent an image of your naked body "from being retained" by government employees, "even when they say" that won't happen.

"New airport screening described as 'intrusive'"

Scan passengers — but be selective: Our focus on "keeping bad things — as opposed to bad people — off of airplanes" highlights a "flawed philosophy," says Robert Poole in Reason. Not every air passenger is equally likely to be a terrorist, and those deemed "higher risk" are the ones who should be made to undergo full-body scans. And now that terrorists are "hiding explosives in their underwear and body cavities, we have no alternative."

"Will we get serious about aviation security?"

The scanners are as necessary as a metal detectors: Some opponents argue scanners are a backward-looking strategy and the terrorists will just "think of something else," says Allahpundit in Hot Air. That might be true — "but how does [it] justify not doing anything about something they’ve already thought of?" Just because "jihadis have already thought of smuggling guns and knives onto planes" doesn't mean we should ditch metal detectors.

"JetBlue announces dopey new TSA regulations"



Yemen: America's next war?

Should Obama fire Janet Napolitano?

Flight 253: Who is to blame?

Who is Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab?

World newspapers reaction to attempted Northwest Airlines bombing

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.