Thursday, November 18, 2010

Don't Scan Me, Bro'

The huge uproar about full body scans and harassment of air travelers misses an important point. Yes, there is concern about invasion of privacy, perceived near sexual assault and radiation exposure. Even mild-mannered Captain Sullenberger commented on the absurd practice of x-raying and searching pilots. For God’s sake, if a pilot wanted to make mischief, she wouldn’t need to put C4 in her bra. She could fly the damn thing into a building herself.

My problem with all of this is that the government seems to have an endless reservoir of bad ideas, starting with the thankfully now obsolete question, “Did anyone else pack your bags?” Did they really expect someone to say, “Well, a man named Ahmed knocked on my door this morning and offered to help me pack, so I let him.” And we always seem to be reactive rather than proactive. A guy hides explosives in his shoe in 2001 and to this day, we all have to take off our shoes at the airport. Unless this shoe removal is taking place everywhere else in the world, it seems to me that asking grandma to put her flip-flops on the scanner is unlikely to stop a terrorist. Last year another guy hides explosives in his underwear, and now we need to scan everyone’s underwear and frisk 3-year-olds. Are these procedures really thought to be effective or are they simply window dressing to reassure the public that stern measures are being taken?

Memo to the TSA: they’re going to try something other than a bomb in a shoe or Jockey shorts next time. Good intelligence such as the discovery of the plot to send explosives via cargo planes last month will do far more than all of the airport screening measures.

The public is fighting back. Just Google “TSA boycott” and see that a number of people are calling for a boycott of air travel altogether. Over 5000 people “Like” a Facebook page suggesting that all passengers opt out of the full body scan on 11/24 (the day before Thanksgiving), although I am not sure just how that will hurt the TSA. And there are courageous individuals like John Tyner ("If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested.") refusing to play the game at all. But of course, he did not get to take his trip either.

For me, the terrorists have already won. If their goal was to disrupt air travel and cause the American people to lose confidence in their government, they have succeeded.

[TSA logo by Ogel Volk via The Consumerist]

1 comment:

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

Of course, this is absurd. They just retreated from the policy of mandating pilots from being patted down. Most of us realize that the pilots could crash the plane, after passing the pat down and scanning process. This tragedy occurred prior to 9/11 on an Egyptian flight. Can't we learn these lessons from the Israelis who seem to have it right?

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