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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 2/16/10

Forget Privacy and Dignity...Body Scanners will also cause major delays

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The government plans to install in airports over the next two years 950 body scanners in a calculated over-reaction to the Christmas Day bomber's attempts to light his shorts on fire, (all after federal counterterrorism officials had begged off revocation of the bomber's VISA despite him being a terror suspect, and despite the fact that he was allowed to get on the plane without a passport with the aid of a still unknown person).

Apparently not only will the scanners allow complete strangers to clearly see the naked bodies of your children and make them easy prey to any pedophiles who wish to infiltrate the TSA, but they're also going to cause delays to travelers.

According to an article in USA Today titled, "Airport scanners stir fears over security lines" (not "Airport scanners stir fears over loss of privacy...or civil liberties") the new full body scanners take at least five times longer to scan a single passenger than a standard metal detector would. So by simple logic passengers should expect it to take five times longer to get past security and therefore plan to be at the airport five times earlier than they would have been before. All in the name of protecting them from any future bombers that the FBI might purposely allow onto their flights in a mystifying counter-terrorism strategy that screams of criminal incompetence or...dare I say... a possible "inside job".

In a society of mostly vigilant, informed citizens in which a mainstream media puts more energy into spotlighting threats to freedom and the dangers of expanding federal power, and less into fear-mongering and reinforcing the message that an, (at best), incompetent bureaucracy knows better than you, such a point would be minor. However, the society described above hardly exists in America today, so despite everything else, the threat that the body scanners pose is re-framed as one of personal annoyance rather than personal dignity.

That the body scanners may cause delay is something that the TSA has noted, though a spokesman said the scanners will not "significantly increase" checkpoint lines.

Previously the public was assured that the body scanners couldn't record the images of passengers. Then it was revealed and confirmed surprisingly by CNN that body scanners could record the images while in "test mode". This week an Indian film star claimed that fans working at Heathrow airport printed out a naked scanner image for him to sign. Heathrow responded by saying his story was "factually incorrect" since the scanners couldn't record or print images, which challenges CNN's story and makes the picture below of a printed body scanner image all the more baffling.

(Image by Unknown Owner)   Details   DMCA

One of the greatest advocates for the use of body scanners is former Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, who's title seemed to give his opinion credibility to safety conscious citizens until a New York Times editor's note revealed that Chertoff's consulting company represents Rapiscan-- a manufacturer of the scanners. Since people in government using their connections and influence to make money for themselves and their friends, even if it's at the expense of liberties (and in the case of Cheney and Haliburton, people's lives) has become an acceptable form of corruption by a weary and apathetic public, the authority behind Chertoff's recommendations is still superficially maintained by the opinion-shepherds on TV.

Often those who challenge the invasion of their privacy by machines like the body scanners are reassured that if they have nothing to hide then they have nothing to worry about. In the case of the body scanners nearly everyone who gets on an airplane, (with the exception of exhibitionists), has something to hide.

Forgetting for a moment the issue of the naked body images, the scanners show such personal accessories as back braces, maxipads, adult bladder control pads,and apparently fake breasts, according to Politics Daily author, Sandra Fish, who's article also relates that a friend of herswas forced to lift his shirt to reveal his colostomy bag to TSA screeners. Elderly travelers, who often face the stigma and ridicule of a youth obsessed culture, will now also face having to reveal the intimate details of their failing health to complete strangers or announce their personal ills before an audience of onlookers in order to avoid having to show what's concealed beneath their clothes. While some may argue it's a personal choice for an individual to fly, that presents quite a dilemma to a liberty-conscious 75 year old wanting to visit family in another state, having to decide between personal humiliation or a 26 hour bus ride, or 18 hour train ride.

Though, unlike the privacy issues, airport delays can be alleviated for the individual by reading a book or chatting with a friend, it is likely to be one that will be the most vocalized once the scanners are in place and part of the surveillance grid. In a society of fast food, high speed internet, and cell phones, the common annoyances that come with traveling are usually the most harped upon.

But if the technology advances and Chertoff's clients can figure out how to make the process of subjugation more timely and efficient, protests will most likely die down and America will timidly draw yet another line on the floor as it's backed further into the corner.

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Andrew Steele is the editor of America 20xy-- an independent news service that highlights articles from around the web focusing on international and economic policy, and human rights abuses. The mission statement for the page is a quote from Thomas (more...)
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