Don’t be surprised if you run into increasingly shocking and obtrusive security measures at airports this holiday season, courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a body of the United States Government. The latest twist in the ongoing farce of increased airport security measures is the installation of approximately 385 “advanced imaging technology machines” (read: full body scanners) in terminals across the country. The scanners work by emitting x-rays that easily travel through clothing but are stopped by the higher density of your skin, thus painting a picture for a security guard behind the scenes of your completely exposed birthday suit. The guard kept in a separate room then relays to the security guard if something is being concealed or if you are free to go.
I find it an obscene violation of travellers’ privacy to submit to this x-ray porn, even if the individual who monitors the scans is completely isolated from passengers. What is worse, however, and what has drawn the most scrutiny, is the alternative to the full body scan being implemented by the TSA. Putting it loosely, it can be described as a more “intimate” version of the security pat down, meaning that the security guard will get to shortstop with you without even asking for your passport or inviting you for sushi dinner.
Clearly, only 10 years after 9/11, airport security is still a relevant concern. So is security in trains, buses, and other public institutions that could be targeted by terrorists. I see no justification for why these particular new security measures, which I believe to be unconstitutional, unjust, and disturbing, are necessary. There are a few simple arguments against the necessity of these new devices: for one, seeing that they are not at every airport, and are only in the U.S. (so far), a terrorist with any amount of brains can simply choose an airport without the new technology (a list of airports is available online), or go on a flight en route to the States. Secondly, the absence of successful terrorist attacks cannot be proven as a sign that these increased security measures work. Rather, we can only say that millions of passengers are being inconvenienced and robbed of their civil liberties. Still, polls show over 80 per cent of Americans approve of the new security measures.
Only in a fear-driven, reactionary society could these and other similar airport regulations take foot. A failed shoe-bomber means that every passenger must take off their shoes. A failed underwear-bomber and we now must be subject to intrusive full-body scans or a “gentle pat-down.” The new scanners don’t penetrate body cavities: how long until it becomes standard to find explosives trapped in the place “where the sun don’t shine?”
Security regulators are missing the point, and violating passengers’ rights and dignity. I, for one, believe that simple interrogation and a metal detector is plenty sufficient to ensure my safety on board. When a traveller is flying to Mexico from New York with no suitcase, no return ticket, and is visibly nervous, maybe you ought to pull him aside for secondary testing and further interrogation. But don’t treat millions of passengers, elderly and children included, like terrorists with this disgusting treatment. If we do not stand up now and reverse this unjust practice, the next two words you might be hearing at an airport are “spread ‘em.”
Eli Freedman is a U1 Economics and Finance student, and can be reached at [email protected]