ExpressJet First Officer Michael Richards refused to be abused by airport security screeners at Memphis International Airport on 15 October. This is the same screening point he’d gone through every week for the past 4-1/2 years. The difference? Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials asked Roberts to go through the newly installed full-body scanner. TSA calls this opting out, so Roberts was told he needed to go through the metal detector and undergo a hands-on search, a pat-down. Again Roberts declined, so he was told he could not pass the checkpoint.
Roberts’ fundamental concern, for which he intends to file a lawsuit, is violation of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. Roberts said:
It’s an outrage. The Fourth Amendment is there for a reason. It’s not dispensable for the sake of security, just to make us feel better or that something’s being done.”
Clearly, Roberts disagrees about the effectiveness of either the scanners or the patdown in ensuring security of the travelling public. Even security experts disagree on the full-body scanner’s effectiveness. Israeli security expert Rafi Sela testified before the Canadian parliament:
I don’t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747. That’s why we haven’t put them in our airport.
His message to TSA: “No groping me and no naked photos.” Roberts finds TSA’s virtual strip search or fondling options overburdonsome. On top of all this, he still had to take his shoes off. In my mind, that could have been the only benefit of what TSA calls Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT).
Ever since shoe-bomber Richard Reid tried to light his foot on fire, TSA makes law-abiding citizens take their shoes off to pass through security screening. Following Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to blow up his underwear, TSA has wanted to be able to make passengers take off their underpants. Knowing that would never be tolerated, TSA is implementing virtual strip searches. But Richards is not one of the sheeple.
In addition to their questionable security effectiveness, what are the health implications of full-body scans? There are two types of full-body scanners. One uses millimeter-wave radio frequency energy supposedly 1/10,000th that emitted by a cell phone. The other uses backscatter technology in the form of ionizing radiation at a dosage about equivalent of two minutes on a cross-country flight.
Previously on security theater:
- Security Theater Leaves US More Vulnerable
- Epic Fail: Airport Security Theater
- The System Worked—Not
- Air Travel Security Hoops and Loopholes