New Airport X-Ray Too Friendly For The Friendly Skies?

I fly way more than the average person: in 2008 I flew 130,000 miles, to 10 states and 5 countries (six if you count Nebraska). That means I have piles of resentment about inept airport security personnel and their pointless procedures. I’m also pretty concerned that airplanes be safe places.

Now it just so happens that I support the ACLU with my heart and soul (they’re in my will, too). So it grieves me to disagree with them about one of their current crusades, against the latest airport screening technology.

“The naked machine” is how they dramatically describe the new full-body scanner that’s going to supplement metal detectors this summer. You’ll walk into a little booth, harmless “millimeter waves” will bounce off you, and a TSA screener in a nearby room will view your black-and-white image on a screen, looking for suspicious shapes or shadows.

No matter what you’re wearing, the TSA screener will be able to see the shape of your belly, butt, penis, breasts, tampon string, colostomy bag, and everything else you have. And so the ACLU (soon to be joined by others, no doubt) is yelling because the images are too revealing—“virtual strip-searches.”

I agree that the TSA is completely out of control, and I despise how they’ve turned airports into slagheaps of anxiety—while adding almost nothing to our actual safety.

But once again, Americans’ shame about our bodies obscures the much bigger civil liberties problems to which we’ve acquiesced at the airport. Who cares that some screener can tell that you’ve had a boob job, or that you’re even flabbier than you seem? It’s just a body. We all have one, and the only person who really cares about yours is you.

The Republic is at stake here. So forget your vanity about your insignificant body, and worry about these serious breeches of our rights:

* Worry about airports filtering which websites you can access using their broadband on your own computer.

* Worry about airlines’ announced plans to filter which websites you’ll be allowed to access once broadband is rolled out on some flights.

* Worry about the books and magazines you’re unable to purchase at airport gift shops because one small-minded company doesn’t want to “offend” anyone.

* Worry about being prevented from flying because some airline employee thinks your outfit is too skimpy.

* Worry about government entrapment stings in airport bathrooms.

These all involve real constitutional issues.

And if that isn’t enough, worry that soon people will be allowed to talk on their cell phones during flights. This will surely make us reevaluate the idea that being hijacked is the worst thing that can happen up there.

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