Body scanners at airports may just be the beginning, but who knows where it will end?

Posted on November 24, 2010

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With the public outcry over the body scanners and  enhanced pat-downs that some passengers are receiving at the airports, you might think that the Department of Homeland Security and the White House would be backing off such invasive measures.  But that’s not the case. Claiming the new procedures are meant to protect us from threats such as the “Fruit of Ka-boom” bomber, the gropings will continue.   It doesn’t matter that neither the scanners nor the pat-downs could detect any explosives hidden internally in a body cavity.  No, if you decline the scanner, you’re going to get groped.  Just how long will this go on?  Unfortunately, it looks as if it  may be the beginning of a new normal. 

We’ve already been  told that these security enhancements are not going away in the short-term. In fact, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security says that as the security measures tighten in the aviation industry, terrorists might just try targeting other means of public transportation such as buses or trains.  Therefore, not only will the scanners (and pat-downs) remain  at the airport, their role may be expanded to include other modes of transportation:

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says terrorists will continue to look for U.S. vulnerabilities, making tighter security standards necessary.

“[Terrorists] are going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through,” Napolitano said in an interview that aired Monday night on “Charlie Rose.”

“I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime. So, what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?”

The secretary has defended the new screening methods, which include advanced imaging systems and pat-downs, as necessary to stopping terrorists. During the interview with Rose, Napolitano said her agency is now looking into ways to make other popular means of travel safer for passengers and commuters. 

But do these scans and pat-downs really make us safer?  Not according to some experts.   These methods can’t detect a bomb hidden in a person’s body cavity, nor do they apply to a person who gets on a plane in another country and flies to the U.S.   And let’s not forget that while these passengers are being scanned and groped, we’re still not scanning every package that rides along in the cargo holds of the very same airplanes as the screened passengers.   How illogical is that?  It’s crazy when you consider that the most recent airline bombing attempts have been via cargo packages and not strapped to a would-be bomber. 

But instead of working smarter by adopting similar tactics that the Israeli’s use, profiling (yes, I said profiling), and even employing low-tech bomb-sniffing dogs, the American public will be forced to surrender its privacy in greater and greater frequency through this technology.  My suspicion is that it won’t just be at our airports, bus terminals or ferries.

If you follow this train of thinking, you could ask, “Just how widely applied will these security measures become?”  What about all the other public places where people gather which may be targeted besides modes of transportation?  What about sports arenas, libraries, movie theaters, music concerts, or even your local high school auditorium on graduation day?  If you follow Secretary Napolitano’s logic that tightening security in one area will force terrorists to target other, softer areas, it seems that there is almost no end to the potential targets we might have to be screened to have access for entry.  Just how far will these security measures be taken in order to “protect us?” 

Just as relevant is the question, “What more will the government do to invade our privacy?”  What if the terrorists try to take a bombing to the next step as an Al-Qaeda bomber did when he hid a bomb in his rectum and blew himself up in attempts to kill a Saudi prince?  What will our government do then?  Just how invasive will our government become in order to “protect us?” 

Posted in: Politics, Terrorism