Cynical Synapse

Wed, 24 Nov 2010

People Like Full-Body Scanners. Why?

Full-body scanner at Detroit Metro

As most will know, there has been a lot of media hype about the full-body scanners and/or “enhanced” pat-down procedures the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) put into effect recently. Even the Senate joined the media frenzy by grilling TSA head John Pistole. He has held firm on the procedures.

We know the terrorists’ intent is still there. We are using technology and protocols to stay ahead of the threat and keep you safe. [Several near-misses by terrorists on airplane bombings] got through security because we were not being thorough enough in our pat-downs.

Excuse me, Mr. Pistole, but the last terrorists on domestic flights were the 9/11 terrorists. They used box cutters, which are detectable by metal detectors; they were permissible at the time. Since then, the shoe bomber—Richard Reid—and underwear bomber—Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab—both were stopped by passengers, not TSA or Homeland Security. And both boarded aircraft overseas, not in the US.

TSA octopus

The key concern has to do with whether full-body scanners and pat downs are a necessity or invasion of privacy. They are both invasive and not proven effective, in my opinion. Others have called for more efficient screening as well. According to US Rep. Candace Miller (MI-R), we’re quite at risk:

There are well-trained, well-armed terrorists trying to get on planes and kill us…I want to be sensitive to preserve privacy, but I don’t want to die in an airplane getting blown up.

So, when’s the last time Rep. Miller flew on a regular airliner like the rest of us? And does she go through the screening like the rest of us? Any bets?

TSA enhanced pat down

Ancillary to the issue of the full-body scanners and “enhanced” pat downs is a backlash against TSA. Feeding this frenzy is US Rep John Mica (R-FL), who calls TSA “dangerously ineffective. Its specialty is what (its) critics call ‘security theater’.”

Most of us are accustomed to TSA officers at the screening point. There is a growing movement to ditch TSA without realizing private screeners must meet the same standards. While the law permits using non-TSA screeners, it does require adhering to TSA security edicts, so the same rules about scanners and enhanced pat downs apply.

Police and TSA at Newark

Despite the fact our country is fast becoming an overbearing police state, there remains popular support for the invasive screening procedures. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 64% favored full-body scanners and 48% had no issue with enhanced pat-downs. How can people be so willing to give up their freedoms for no tangible purpose or benefit? Reminds me of the 1967 Country Joe and the Fish song lyrics:

And it’s one, two, three, four
What are we fighting for?

Seems to me, the terrorists have won, with so many people willing to surrender their dignity, rights, and freedoms all in the name of security. Problem is, it’s not real security. There are 494 airports with commercial airline service, but full-body scanners are in place at only about 70 airports. That leaves 424 airports serving commercial air travel with the old-fashioned metal detector only passenger screening procedures. TSA head John Pistole withheld information on the new procedures until implementation so they would make us safer.

I wish I could say somebody else was responsible for that, but that is my decision and it was a risk-based decision. … In this instance my concern was … that we not publicize that because it would then provide a roadmap or blueprint to terrorists.

Just so I understand, Pistole didn’t want terrorists to figure out how to get around the new screening procedures before they rolled out. Will they somehow not be able to figure that out now that millions of law-abiding citizens must suffer invasive screening? That logic is so flawed as to warrant John Pistole’s resignation or firing for exceptionally idiotic and poor judgment. I live about 45 minutes from Detroit Metro Airport, which has millimeter wave scanners installed. About an hour away is Flint Bishop Airport, which does not have full-body scanners. For an extra 15 minutes, I can avoid the whole process. So what’s the point of wasting taxpayer dollars and punishing rule followers? Pistole said it himself—terrorists will find a way around the system.

The furor has been good for at least one entrepreneur, however. He’s marketing special underwear to prevent TSA from seeing your privates. At best, wearing these is likely to get you a free follow-on full-body massage in the form of an “enhanced” pat-down.

Previously on security theater:



  1. Thanks for linking.Never would have thought that the TSA would become such a hot button issue 9 years after the fact.

    Comment by 5etester — Wed, 24 Nov 2010 @ 5:35 pm

    • You’re welcome.

      The government response after 9/11 has been largely security theater. I visited the Liberty Bell summer of 2001 and no security. When I took my kids in spring of 2002, it was surrounded by temporary fencing and we had to go through metal detectors in a trailer. I’m sorry. Achmed’s just driving his truck bomb straight in there. What’s the point?

      TSA, of course, is the most visible security theater to most people but what they’re doing is no better than pre-9/11. They don’t check against No-Fly lists and they don’t validate boarding passes. Their stand-offish demeanor has alienated them from the public and they seem to arbitrarily get more and more Orwellian.

      Comment by cynicalsynapse — Wed, 24 Nov 2010 @ 7:06 pm

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