Saturday, November 20, 2010

TSA "logic" explained: I'm going to need to see you naked before you get on your flight.

"When I contemplate the natural dignity of man, when I feel (for Nature has not been kind enough to me to blunt my feelings) for the honour and happiness of its character, I become irritated at the attempt to govern mankind by force and fraud, as if they were all knaves and fools, and can scarcely avoid disgust at those who are thus imposed upon."
-- Thomas Paine

Greetings readers, and once again--*sigh*--my apologies for the long absence. (I'll spare you the boring details.)

In light of the current outrageous state of affairs with airline security--and our government's wholesale casting aside of Americans' civil rights and privacy, just because we want to go from point A to point B--I'm posting the spot-on (and dreadfully funny) Xtranormal video and strongly recommending the series of excellent TSA posts my co-blogger Lisa Simeone has been putting up at Cogitamus.

In case you're still catching up: the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have, in recent months, been spending countless millions of dollars on new, intrusive full-body scanning machines that utilize a type of x-ray radiation in order to see your skin beneath your clothes. So yes, that means they get to see you naked, from top to bottom, if you want to get on board an airplane at most U.S. airports. And it means your skin gets irradiated.

Well, you do have another option, one which, in addition to being shockingly invasive and sadistic, would seem to be punitive and coercive--in other words, aimed at forcing more people to submit to the scanners: you can undergo what is euphemistically called an "enhanced pat-down".

Enhanced as in, they will grope your sexual organs and breasts, sometimes directly on the skin, often without informing you that they're going to do that--in full view of other passengers waiting in line--and ask you to remove any medical devices or prostheses so they can humiliate you by holding them up and examining them, as they did to one flight attendant who was a cancer survivor wearing a breast prosthesis after her mastectomy. Yes, they will offer "private screenings", but you won't be allowed to document their procedures on video, not unless you want to be arrested; for this reason, many passengers who wish to avoid the radiation and thus submit to the gropefest are choosing to have it done out in the open, in front of witnesses.

Have there been abuses? You betcha. Already. Head on over to Cogitamus, and scroll through Lisa's numerous posts and the attendant comment threads. A Christian cookbook author was forced to strap her baby into a stroller and was then sexually assaulted when a TSA agent groped her beneath her clothes (she has wisely retained a lawyer). Numerous women report having their shirts unbuttoned and their underwear exposed to all and sundry; some have even had their underwear pulled away from their bodies while the agent peered in, front and back.

Listen, I'm not a prude. I've gone to nude beaches; I've been dressed, undressed, and re-dressed by fashion-show folk; I've given birth three times; when I was at UF, my friends and I would regularly go skinny-dipping in one of the many lakes and sinkholes near Gainesville. Furthermore, I don't belong to any organized religion, much less one that forbids women to expose their bodies. I respect the worldview of those individuals, of course; I simply don't have a problem, myself, with voluntary nudity in the appropriate context.

No, this is not about my modesty--or the lack thereof, ahem!--or, for that matter, yours.

This is about our Fourth Amendment right to be free from intrusive and unreasonable search and seizure.

This is about our rights to be secure in our person. Our right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent.

This is about our right to refuse to allow our children to have strangers touch parts of their bodies when we have all along been teaching them that only parents and doctors should touch said parts, and if someone else attempts to do that, they should scream loudly and inform a responsible adult.

This is about what it means to live in America, Land of the Free (to travel about the country) and Home of the Brave (as opposed to Home of the Pants-wetting Sheep Who Are Easily Coerced Into Giving Up Our Rights The Moment Someone Invokes The Terrorist Bogeyman).

As numerous security experts, including one responsible for the highly successful procedures at Israel's Ben Gurion airport, have noted, these scanner machines are not effective, and despite dosing you up with potentially cancer-causing radiation, they are not subject to the strict regulatory oversight, maintenance protocols, and calibration rules the way medical x-ray machines and CAT scanners are. They cannot detect some kinds of explosives, and they cannot detect anything that resides in a body cavity. Though the so-called Underwear Bomber is often cited as the reason the TSA needs to see you naked, the aforementioned experts state that these scanners probably would not have detected the type of explosives he attempted to use. It was passengers who thwarted that attack, as he succeeded only in setting his testicles on fire and embarrassing the CIA (again) when reports surfaced indicating that foreign offices had ignored the warning communiques of his own father, thus leaving him free to board an airline without setting off any alarm bells real or metaphorical.

Indeed, they are an enormous and shamefully wasteful expenditure by our government, one that was shot down by the House and somehow still foisted upon the public. A boondoggle and a giveaway to certain ex-Department of Homeland Security heads and their new, Dickensianly-named employers.

Good police work--by the FBI, for example--is what stops terror attacks before the perpetrators even get near an airport. Well-trained air marshals on select flights, metal detectors, responsible behavioral profiling by highly-trained personnel, chemical explosive detectors, and selective, secondary screening of high-risk passengers are what will keep us as safe as can be expected in a world, in a reality, where--let's face it--there are never any guarantees.

Other than this one: you are far more likely to be struck by lightening than to experience an airborne terrorist attack.

Oh, and this one: history tells us that when you give up some of your rights, you shouldn't expect to ever get them back.

Please contact your Senators and House Representatives and let them know you will not stand for these shameful, unconstitutional, and (ironically) terrorizing TSA procedures.

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