Earlier this year, I asked “How Much More Are We Willing to Bear From the TSA?” Given the recent controversy over the use of body scanner machines, this headline has taken on a whole new meaning. For the past several days, the media has shown controversial images of the intimate physical details these machines seem to reveal, and has shared stories of intensified pat-downs gone wrong.
The popular backlash against increased security measures has even prompted some entrepreneurs to develop scanner-proof underwear. However, the worst is yet to come. National Opt-out-Day, a popular protest to the new TSA procedures is scheduled for this Wednesday, one of the biggest flight days in America. The Washington Post warns:
For thousands of Thanksgiving airline passengers, Wednesday’s National Opt-Out Day, an organized protest that began online a little more than two weeks ago, could be a traveling headache leading to long delays at airport checkpoints. Its organizers say they simply want to focus growing anger against the Transportation Security Administration’s enhanced security procedures, which were instituted following a failed terrorist plot late last month to blow up cargo planes en route to the United States.
How many people will actually opt-out is questionable, since the alternative to just accepting the scan is a more intensive pat-down that delays passengers who just want to go on to get on their flight, so they can reunite with their family for Thanksgiving. Many might decide it’s not worth the hassle and just get the scan over with.
Should the opt-out protest catch on though, this could cause severe flight delays. The site attracted over 600,000 visitors within the past two weeks and the numbers are increasing as the date approaches.
With regard to the scanners’ being instituted after the failed terrorist plot, the decision to initiate the scanners then might have been in part the TSA taking advantage of a situation that would increase the potential justification for such invasive security procedures. Talk of instituting the scanners has been circulating for much longer.
Back in February, I reported that the widespread use of the controversial body scanners as a replacement for old-fashioned metal detectors was being tested at Tulsa International Airport, with other airports scheduled to follow at the time. A USA Today article suggests that instituting the nude scanners on American airports is result of intense lobbying and revolving door politics that has been going on for the past 5 years:
The companies with multimillion-dollar contracts to supply American airports with body-scanning machines more than doubled their spending on lobbying in the past five years and hired several high-profile former government officials to advance their causes in Washington, government records show.
Having this intense public discussion about the tensions between increasing airport security and the chipping away of our right to privacy is a good sign. Dr. Goldstein’sgloom analysis last year that we are all just becoming indoctrinated to TSA procedures that we stop questioning them, is not yet true. This public debate about the validity of intrusive security measures is important. It’s time that our representatives get involved.