airport scans update

8 04 2009

Just found a piece by William Saletan on where he does a really good job expressing the concern I feel over the new airport scanning technology.

You’ll need to read the whole thing to get the context, but a couple of key points:

Initially, Saletan endorsed the technology, largely because it was less invasive than a pat-down and because faces and private parts would be obscured in the images. He writes:

Now I’m having second thoughts. I still like the technology. It’s the people behind it who worry me. Yes, the scan is less invasive than the pat-down. But TSA has just demonstrated its ability and willingness to move the goalposts. When TSA offered pat-downs as the alternative to body scans in secondary screening, the scan sounded pretty good. Now TSA is offering pat-downs as the alternative to body scans in primary screening, and again, the scan sounds better. And if TSA announces tomorrow that pat-downs are the new alternative for all train or bus passengers, body scans will seem preferable there, too. Anywhere we’re threatened with pat-downs, we’ll settle for body scans. Where does it end?


The TSA is no longer talking about a “privacy algorithm” that obscures faces and genitals. The obscured areas (the genitals specifically, since the face is typically readily visible) provide “gaps” where terrorists could hide things from the scans. In fact, according to the TSA, this has already happened. Saletan writes:

In other words, any detail omitted by airport screeners—a blurred crotch in the body scan, an untouched groin during the pat-down—becomes a “gap” exploited by terrorists or testers, which must then be closed.

“The enhanced pat-down will be used only after all other screening methods have been used and the alarm remains unresolved,” TSA promised last year. It added: “This new procedure will affect a very small percentage of travelers.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s what you said about the body scans. Just put on the gloves and get it over with.

I find myself feeling pretty conflicted about this. Again, I don’t object to the body scans per se. But I’m concerned about the sort of presumption of guilt that is implied and the invasion of personal “space.”




5 responses

8 04 2009
All Nudist

The endless procession
Of freedom’s suppression.

All for the fear of
Weapons possesion.

Pat down on busses
And strip search on planes.

It all kinda seems
Rather insane.

Oh say, can you see
By dawns early light,

The land of the brave
Now full of fright?

Really baaad poetry, but… -Steve

8 04 2009

they gotta scan or search every body. what if the shoe bomber put the bomb in his crotch? or dont search any body— no way.

9 04 2009
local nudist

I understand the security argument, and I do agree that I’d rather undergo a body scan than (1) a pat-down or (2) being blown up on a plane. So I’m not against it, and in a way it falls under that whole “only criminals have something to hide” category. So yes, I agree – scan every body. That’s the rational side of me talking. The emotional side says, “It feels like a step toward a big-brother style police state.”

9 04 2009

I”ve never been fond of flying. Well, actually it’s the process of getting to the plane that I have a problem with. One thing that bothers me about the TSA is that they are targeting the same demographic for employees as McDonalds.

I think the terrorists have already won. They changed us into a paranoid society. They don’t have to blow anything up. All they have to do is announce some clever new way to get a bomb on a plane and then watch us jump through hoops to counter the new “threat” while laughing there asses off.

I live in greater fear of my own government trying to keep me “safe” than a group of terrorists.

Since 9/11 it has been so much easier for the government and society as a whole to assume guilt and overreact than to use common sense and good judgement.

9 04 2009
All Nudist

You got that right, Rick. We’ve been ‘terrorized’ much more by our own government than by any outside source.

If being constantly afraid and mistrusting of your neighbors, police, government and strangers on the street meets the criteria of living in terror, if we’re reduced to accusing persons with a different political point of view of being ‘communists’ and ‘Nazis’, if sacrificing freedom for security becomes the national mantra, then they have already won.

How many of us nowadays woud actually say, in truth, ‘Give me liberty, or give me death!’?

Sadly, I’m sorry to say that, like most of us, I walk with the sheep. Yassa Massa, I’s be good! Jes don’ whip me no mo…

Even sadder, MY kids have grown up expecting to live that way.

Thomas Jefferson suggested that an occasional revolution isn’t such a bad idea, all we have now is revolting people. :’-(

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