Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced last week that they have ordered another 150 whole-body scanners with stimulus money to add to their scanner arsenal that strips passengers naked. If I sound a bit negative about the idea, you are hearing me correctly. There is no need to have passengers march through security naked. The controls already in place are doing their job. Real security is a series of layers — the airport security checkpoint is one of the last.
Back in the early 2000s, after the attack on the 9/11 World Trade Center and the institution of enhanced security checks at airport security posts, my friends and I used to joke about walking through security naked. Today, it clearly is no longer a joke.
The Transportation Security Administration said this week that it plans to expand its controversial “whole body imaging” program, which takes a black-and-white image of people’s naked bodies at airport security checkpoints. Critics have likened it to “digital strip searches.”
TSA spokesman Dwayne Baird said the agency plans to buy an additional 150 such imaging units with stimulus funds …
In fact, these new machines have already been rendered obsolete by terrorists who are packing explosives up their anus. Don’t laugh. This technique has already been tested with lethal effect in the assassination a Saudi prince. The whole-body scanners can not detect that kind of hidden explosive. I only worry about TSA’s coming anus-scanning system. I’m sure it is in the works.
If we must, to temporarily satisfy the insatiable quest for full disclosure, these machines can be used for secondary screening. The U.S. House of Representatives have already sounded off loudly and clearly about their disagreement with TSA when it comes to using these full-body virtual strip machines as the primary screening systems at out nation’s airports.
Earlier this month, TSA arranged for me to see one of these whole-body scanners in operation at Washington-Regan Airport. It was of the millimeter wave type and is in operation at the bank of gates that serves US Airways among other airlines.
There are a series of signs that alert travelers of the pending whole-body scanning operation and a note that allows passengers to opt-out of the full-body scan with the agreement to a physical pat-down search. Otherwise, no flying from that bank of gates.
Other gate areas do not force passengers to choose between being virtually stripped naked or facing a physical pat-down search. At the main American Airlines gates and Delta Air Lines gates normal tried-and-true metal detectors still are the main machinery of security.
I went through the whole-body scan and was later was brought into back room where the TSA officer is watching the scanning results. Honestly, the duty that these “watchers” have seems to be pretty innocuous and boring — watching hundreds of passengers on their screen.
I was interested in just how detailed the image was of passengers passing through these machines. I know that the face of each passenger is obsured, but I had no idea of the detail shown on these scanners.
For my demo, the scanned body image was set to rotate completely about every four or five seconds. Though the model was clearly a woman, I couldn’t really get a good look at any details. So, I asked to have the image stopped in order to examine the detail.
The TSA spokesperson, ironically, said that they would rather not stop the rotating figure in deference to the privacy of the TSA model who was in the scanner.
I suggested that they stop the machine with the figure facing away from me so that the image wouldn’t be stopped in the full-frontal position. The spokesperson agreed and had the image stopped with a rear view.
I got my good look. I saw wrinkles around elbows and her knees. I could see the small clasps on used to fasten the woman’s bra. I could see the stitching along the edge of the bra. Suffice it to say, the images were detailed, very detailed.
The demonstration showed how easily passengers could be convinced to walk through these scanners even though they really had no idea of how explicit the images are rendered. When faced with a physical pat-down or a short stand in the full-body scanner, the scanner seem to be the lesser of two evils. However, most have no idea of the detail revealed by the millimeter wave technology.
Foreign visitors are already subjected to full fingerprinting when visiting the U.S. and the Department of Homeland Security is rumored to be planning to do iris scans as well on visitors. Once we go down this road, there is no limit to the indignities visitors and citizens will be expected to endure.
Using our current airport security mindset, today, it will be walking through security being stripped naked by x-ray technology. Next, we may be bending over and …
That might get U.S. passengers a bit more concerned and lead to louder protests.