Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Co-Ed Naked Airport Security: Would You Strip if it Guaranteed Your Safety?

The majority of Americans (4 out of 5) in a recent poll said they would. And that other person? Well, he is protesting the increased security measures at airports around the country, because he thinks it’s an invasion of his privacy.

His name may very well be John Tyner, the traveler who recently refused to undergo the new security measure at the San Diego airport, and also refused to undergo a pat-down, only to leave the airport—with a full refund for the flight he didn’t take. (The whole incident was recorded and you can see it here and here.)

What, exactly, was Tyner—and other privacy-sensitive people like him--protesting? Full-body scanning machines.

The TSA rolled out full body scanners at 65 airports across the U.S. in October, including ones at the large airport near me, Philadelphia International. These Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) units use X-rays and electromagnetic waves to detect both metallic and non-metallic threats including weapons and explosives. Both types of machines create a full-body image, like this:

Looking at the pictures above, can you see why some people are up in arms?

Never mind that these machines are safe, according to the TSA. (They claim our cell phones are worse for us.) Or that they require only seconds of your time to walk through. And never mind that they pretty much weed out terrorists and other bad guys and guarantee safe flights for everyone because they detect ALL metallic and non-metallic threats.

No, the hubbub has to do with the fact that your fat, flabby body will be seen by a TSA agent you can’t see and will never meet. 

You see, these machines can pretty much see through all the layers of your clothing, and images of your (naked) body are what pop up on the scanner’s computer screen. And that’s exactly why Tyner refused to go through them in the first place. His words to the San Diego airport’s TSA officials? “I didn’t want anyone looking at my naked body.”

People are protesting this latest technology because they think it’s an invasion of their privacy. (Whether these people use the “invasion of privacy” term as a replacement for “fear of embarrassment” is open to debate.) These machines have created such a hullabaloo that a group of fed-up fliers have created the National Opt-Out Day, scheduled for November 24. Their cause has a website here 

 On that day, travelers who think their privacy is being violated by the thought of going through the AIT scanners should refuse to do so. They will tell the TSA agents, “I opt out,” and in doing so will be pulled to the side for an “enhanced” pat down. (The National Opt-Out gang wants you to think the TSA will grope your genitalia during the pat-down—a further violation of privacy--but the TSA is pretty vague about what “enhanced” means.) The end-goal? Get enough passengers riled up and refusing to go through the scanners, and thus creating even longer lines at airport security and complete mayhem at airports around the country during the Thanksgiving travel season.

Huh. So these opt-out people would rather waste five minutes being groped in public by a complete stranger during a pat-down than take three seconds to walk through a scanner and be on their way? And not only that, they want to create longer lines for you and me, their fellow American travelers who have no problem with the scanners, and are willing to piss us off on a principle? Really?

I could go further and say that they’d rather take the risk of being blown up mid air than allow an invisible stranger to see an image that is a mere reflection of their naked body, but that would be insensitive of me. Instead, I’ll just say thanks, d-bags.

On Monday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the stepped-up airport security measures. "This is all being done as a process to make sure that the traveling public is safe," she said. I wish she would have said what she was really thinking. “You fools wanna be blown up by terrorists? Be my guest. My ass is walking through that scanner.” (Wouldn’t it be awesome if we lived in a world where politicians could say what was truly on their minds? Life would be so much more interesting. But I digress. Sorry.)

Look, I don’t want airport security to see my “naked” body either, but we live in a world where bad guys are getting smarter, their technology increasingly advanced. We need to be smarter than they are. And if an AIT scanner will do that, then so be it. The TSA agent looking at my “naked” self can laugh all he/she wants. This is a person I will never see and never meet.

My only complaint about these new scanners? That they weren’t instituted sooner.

Hey, if nothing else, the new machines will force us to get in shape, something we need to do anyway, because America is getting fatter and fatter and obesity is now an epidemic in this country. So if takes a few seconds of embarrassment for us to change our eating and exercising habits, awesome. Bring it on.

A slimmer America with no terrorists? Hurray to that.

I raise my glass to the new AIT scanners and look forward to stripping naked for the TSA.

Who’s with me? Anyone? Hello??

1 comment:

  1. While I agree it's creepy and thought provoking, something's got to be done.

    "your fat, flabby body will be seen by a TSA agent you can’t see and will never meet."

    If you told me someone sitting right THERE could see me and the images ... now THAT would be unacceptable!