Hello savvy travelers. Anyone who has read this blog – pretty much ever – knows that I’m no fan of the TSA and its asinine procedures. Momentum is gathering in both old and new media to question TSA’s use of visual strip searching and genital fondling, and I wanted to provide five points on this subject for your consideration. I’ll leave the constitutional questions out of this particular debate and stick to
1. WBI (whole body imaging) is only-skin deep. That’s right, if a terrorist puts a bomb in a body cavity he’ll sail right through these machines without being stopped. Don’t think it’s been done yet? Ask the Saudi prince who almost lost his head when an al-Qa’ida guy detonated a rectal bomb a few feet away from him.
2. TSA lied about these machines not being able to store or print images. According to documents obtained by EPIC, in 2008 TSA specified that the machines had to have image storage and sending capabilities. Beyond that evidence, let’s apply some common sense to this: let’s say TSA catches an actual terrorist with one of these scanners. Are they trying to tell us they would not be able to produce evidence from these machines for law enforcement? I don’t believe it. And that opens up a
whole host of other questions, like how long are these images being stored for, how are they secured, who has access to them, what legal protections do travelers have to ensure they are not distributed? The list goes on.
3. The person viewing your naked body in a booth might be sequestered, but there’s no guarantee they are same-sex. How would you feel about a pervy 50-something TSA’er ogling the naked image of your teenage daughter? Enough said.
4. TSA’s alternative to the strip search – an ‘enhanced’ pat-down – would be sexual assault anywhere else. The nature of my job is that I’m in contact with a lot of frequent fliers. I’m one myself, but
thankfully have not yet had to opt-out of these machines. But for those who have, I’ve heard stories from credible people of testicle and penis fondling, breast squeezing and other inappropriate touching. If that ever happens to me one of two things is going to happen (and I say this
very seriously): I’m going to punch the guy in the head as hard as I can, or I will file sexual assault charges against him. It just depends on how much restraint I can muster when the moment comes.
5. The scanners are nothing more than another revolving door deal from Washington. Ex-Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff has his own consulting firm now. Who’s on his client list? Body scanner manufacturers. Follow the money, folks.
All that and I haven’t even mentioned poor Rolando Negrin, a screener at Miami International who is facing assault charges against a co-worker. Why did Mr. Negrin assault him? Co-workers had been teasing Mr. Negrin mercilessly for months about the size of his genitals, revealed during a body scan. If the TSA can’t even keep its own house in order…
[Edited to add: I didn't get into the health risks either! See the resource sites below for more information on that.]
Lest I be accused of offering criticism without suggesting a solution, I say focus on explosives. Whole-body imaging is about money, power and control, not security. Metal detectors and standard x-ray machines are very effective at detecting firearms, and hand and bag swabs (explosive trace detection) are more accurate in checking for bombs. That covers the bases, with the added benefit that no one needs to slip a Benjamin into my waistband as I leave the checkpoint.
Finally some resources for further reading. Learn what rights you have at the checkpoint: