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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Is junk touching the answer?

I must admit that for once, I don't know where I stand on something. It's the new TSA searches and scanners.

On the one hand, we've been demanding better security in our airports. We've complained that it is no safer today than nine years ago. We've criticized DHS for not keeping us safe. And here comes the TSA with new measures to keep us safe and catch the bad guys. They'll be able to see hidden packages like the one carried by the Christmas Day bomber. The new body searches will allow them to detect hidden wires, liquids and I assume weapons and bombs?

On the other hand, they allow them to see everyone's "packages" in all their naked glory. And the pat-downs will allow for a lot of touching that the average person isn't willing to just give away without a marriage proposal, let alone to someone of the same gender.

I really don't know how to feel about this. I want the bad guys caught. I want flying not to include the danger of being in the path of a jihadist's dream death. I want to just worry about taking Valium for my claustrophobia and enjoying my flight reading and doing crossword problems.

I also want my privacy. I don't want some lech looking at my daughters naked. I don't think my husband would willingly allow another guy to touch his genitals without the ability to beat him up in the process. I went through a full body search when we were coming home from Maui earlier this year. I thought it was a little silly but I wasn't particularly bothered. (Stupid me, after a night of no sleep during tsunami warnings I forgot my phone was stashed in my bra and set off the alarms.) Then again, the lady used the back of her hands to touch my breasts and just used a hand held scanner to run over my body and private parts. Not sure how I'd feel about the new methods.

This is getting a lot of publicity this week. Take the case of the Oceanside man who was booted from the San Diego airport after refusing to let the TSA agent "touch his junk". Smart guy turned on his phone and caught the exchange.

Then there is the case of Penn Jillette of the comedy team Penn & Teller and how he, as a libertarian, felt about being searched and touched without his consent. He insisted the police be brought into it and filed a complaint.

Aside from the privacy issues are the health concerns. The scanners, in addition to letting complete strangers view you naked, emit low levels of radiation.
While they insist they are much lower than any hospital x-ray, how wise is this to expose so many to radiation on a regular basis? I know that when I go to the doctor these days they want to diagnose as much as possible without exposing me to an x-ray. I know that the dentist covers me with a lead blanket to x-ray my teeth. I know I have to swear I'm not pregnant to get an x-ray. I know that the technicians leave the room and hide from the radiation because otherwise they'd be exposed daily to what amounts to large levels of radiation.

So what happens to airport personnel in these instances? We know how the pilots feel about this.

And what about people who fly for either pleasure or work at least twice a week? When does their level of exposure to radiation become excessive? What happens when a woman who didn't know she was pregnant sues over birth defects? At what point to we know exactly how much radiation each person had gone through and decide who is safe to be exposed and who is not?

Of course, we could always rely on common sense. We could profile. We could actually refer to the flight risk lists and keep them updated. We could stop randomly pulling octogenarians and elementary school children out of line to be searched. When asked if Muslims were going to be subjected to the same rigors as the rest of the public, the government replies in nonsense syllables that they will be looking into that and seeing how it affects things. Meaning no, they will not be subjected to the same rules as the rest of us. That would be racist and intolerant. But the pilot who is flying your plane must allow himself to undergo this every time he goes to work. Well, that makes plenty of sense, doesn't it? And I can't wait to see the tissy fit the first time an Islamic woman is asked to choose between being seen naked or felt up. Yeah, that's gonna happen.

We could be like Britain and use sniffer dogs. I understand they are at least as effective as the scanners and, you've guessed it, they don't cause cancer OR allow people to see you naked. They don't even harm pregnant women. They can sense fear and panic without being accused of racism. They don't care what someone's religion is or what their ethnicity might be. They won't alert to someone for any reason other than drugs, bombs, fear or anything else they've been trained to detect.

So maybe the libertarian in me wins again. I believe in privacy and while I'm not very shy about my body and touching I don't know that the government has the right to sexually assault people. And as the gentleman from Oceanside pointed out, that's exactly what it would be if it were anyone BUT the government. I hate people asking for the government to protect us and then complaining when they try to do so but there HAS to be a better way. They need to start checking out the people most likely to commit the crime. They need to search further for some method to scan that doesn't put our health at risk. They still need to do their job keeping us safe but settling for the first method isn't really doing the job 100%.

I guess in this area, like every other one, we have to demand more of our government. (No, I don't mean handouts.) We have to ask them to make the hard choices and take the more difficult path. We have to continue to pester them until the do what's right.

I guess I do know where I stand now. Sweet.


Missy Shell said...

I like all of this.
They need to find a better way.

Crayl said...