Liberty versus security
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TSA makes power play against citizens
The initiation of new policies by the Transportation Security Administration spurned a snowballing public outcry in a relatively short period of time.
The cause of this outcry is the intrusive nature of the security procedures that many airline passengers must now endure in order to board their flights.
News sources from both sides of the political spectrum have provided ample coverage of the unfolding events, and public figures including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced either concern or reassurance to the American public.
The seemingly divisive issue has attracted both supporters and naysayers, although the latter have grabbed most of the media coverage.
One thing is for sure: The Department of Homeland Security will need to make a clear decision about the fate of the new security measures, and that decision should be to eliminate them.
The new procedures include two options for travelers: the X-ray scanner or the full-body pat-down.
Although many passengers are simply passed through the more familiar security checkpoints (metal detectors and bag scanners), many airports have begun to choose passengers at random to submit to a more thorough inspection.
The default procedure for this inspection is the X-ray scanner, which emits X-rays and detects reflections off the surface of the scanned object to develop an image.
Two primary concerns have been raised over the use of the scanners. The first is that the scanner virtually removes clothes and the resulting image gives a quite detailed view of travelers’ anatomies.
Many have raised an eyebrow at the thought of the government essentially cataloguing our naked bodies or have reviled at the notion that a TSA worker could redistribute the image via the Internet.
Even while the TSA attempted to quell public resistance to the scanners by assuring us that the images are deleted after viewing, it was reported that U.S. Marshals retained images from similar machines.
Already we can see that the potential for abuse is significant.
The other concern is for the safety of the backscatter technology used in the scanners. Despite the Food and Drug Administration’s approval (the FDA has already approved enough dangerous items to render its judgment untrustworthy), several university professors and researchers have questioned the reported safety of the devices.
Peter Rez, a physics professor from Arizona State University, determined through back-calculations that the dose is likely about 10 times greater than the TSA-reported amount.
For pilots and frequent fliers, this significantly increases the chance of developing cancer in response to the regular doses of radiation.
Although the X-rays only penetrate the first few millimeters of skin during the scan, skin and unshielded organs such as testicles are subject to the radiation.
With safety and privacy concerns over the X-ray technology use, the TSA has adopted a secondary “line of defense”— the full-body pat-down.
Passengers may “opt-out” of the scan, but the end of the line is the “enhanced” pat-down procedure that puts TSA workers in embarrassingly close contact with fliers.
Travelers opting for this procedure have the option of a private or public session, but the procedure remains the same: The TSA worker must essentially touch every part of the traveler’s body with their hands, at a certain point working their way up the inner thighs to the genitals.
Women are subject to even more unpleasantness, as they have multiple sensitive areas that must be “handled.”
So under the TSA’s new regulations, many travelers will be subject to two options: irradiation and “virtual strip-search” or molestation by a TSA worker.
For many, this may simply result in a longer wait and slightly unsavory experience as they submit themselves to the process.
For others, however, it becomes embarrassing and traumatic.
Either way, it is an invasive and unnecessary violation of our privacy and our dignity.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
By allowing the TSA to operate under these new regulations, we have already started down the slippery slope to this unfathomable trade.
Although the X-ray scanners ignited some of the outrage, the backlash against the enhanced pat-downs leads the charge against the TSA.
As travelers are chosen at random, young children, grandmothers and disabled folks find themselves (literally) in the hands of TSA workers.
A sampling of the recent horror stories include a YouTube video of a young boy essentially being strip-searched and an article detailing the utter embarrassment of an elderly man whose urostomy bag was dislodged during a pat-down, leaving him crying and soaked in his own urine.
Events such as these are as outrageous as media outlets portray them to be.
But as much as our rage appears to be directed at the TSA workers, it needs to be focused on the director of this travesty — United States Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.
Napolitano, who justly earned the moniker “Big Sis,” keeps trying to drop the hammer on the American people by essentially demanding that we submit to the procedures or discontinue flying.
So our options are to submit to your “authority” or essentially discontinue productive lives in a global society? Great plan, Big Sis.
The problem now is that, with terrorism as a looming threat, we have been sacrificing liberty for security.
At this point, the trade-off comes with severely diminishing returns — for every inch of ground we gain in security, we have to give up five miles of freedom.
Terrorists have already proven that they will adapt to our security measures and find new ways to overcome them.
As the current security measures are supposedly designed to protect us from threats such as the failed “underwear bomber,” what’s the next security measure if a terrorist boards a plane with explosives stuffed up his rectum?
Should we then submit ourselves to body cavity searches?
Some measures are necessary to maintain a reasonable level of security.
We can’t let people walk onto airplanes with grenade launchers and machetes.
However, the previous security measures, with metal detectors, bag scanners and the various regulations requiring travelers to remove shoes, laptops and liquids, were reasonably thorough procedures that didn’t stomp all over our rights and our dignity.
The snowball of discontent is gathering momentum, and National “Opt-Out” Day (a protest designed to clog up security checkpoints) is right around the corner.
At the core of this snowball are informed citizens such as John Tyner, practicing civil disobedience by refusing to submit to the procedures while simultaneously broadcasting his now famous line, “If you touch my junk, I’m gonna have you arrested.”
A movement such as this lies at the heart of the American spirit, and it is crucial that we maintain our opposition to abuses of power such as this TSA overreach.
Don’t tread on me.