November 24, 2010

TSA gone wild and National Opt Out Day spur heated public debate

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg in cheeseland @ 4:01 pm

Author’s note: The National Opt Out Day appears to be causing no problems, which may say something about the docility of Americans. In fact, the only reason this issue may be getting media attention is because of a lot of media employees travel frequently and a few have been subjected to the searches. The article contains a video that is a compilation of media stories about the worst of the TSA abuses. I encourage you to check it out before you decide which side of this issue you are on.

The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) newly-implemented enhanced search procedure is making headlines on the busiest travel day of the year and has spurred a national debate. Accounts of air travelers who have felt humiliated by airport screeners have been reported by mainstream media and have gone viral on the internet (see video).

On one side of the debate are those who feel that it is necessary to tolerate a “minor inconvenience” for safety and security. On the other hand, there are those who feel that the procedures are a health risk, an invasion of privacy, and an infringement of civil liberties that have little or no benefit in terms of flight security.

Officials say the procedures are necessary to ward off terror attacks like the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound plane last Christmas by a Nigerian man who stashed explosives in his underwear. The TSA says the scans emit very low radiation and aren’t a health risk. “It’s all about security,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said. “It’s all about everybody recognizing their role.”

Many who oppose the new procedures say that security is not the issue. Scientists and physicians have warned that the scanners may cause cancer. A group of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) raised concerns about the “potential serious health risks” from the scanners in a letter sent to the White House Office of Science and Technology in April. “While the dose would be safe if it were distributed throughout the volume of the entire body, the dose to the skin may be dangerously high,” they wrote. Dr Michael Love, who runs an X-ray lab at the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at Johns Hopkins University school of medicine, said to Agence France Presse that “they say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays.” Ironically, those most at risk are TSA employees, since they are repeatedly exposed to the radiation emitted from the use of these machines.

Kate Hanni, the founder of, argues that the scanners and pat downs are a violation of all Americans 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search. Hanni also told the Huffington Post that former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff ‘s security consulting firm, The Chertoff Group, benefits from the sale of the scanners because they have helped Rapiscan – the manufacturer of the machines, navigate the government procurement process.

Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Ted Poe (R-TX) seem to agree with Hanni’s assessment. Both introduced legislation and blasted Chertoff and the TSA on the House floor last week. “Michael Chertoff!” Paul exclaimed, “I mean, here’s the guy who was the head of the TSA, selling the equipment. And the equipment’s questionable. We don’t even know if it works, and it may well be dangerous to our health.” Rep. Poe claimed that Chertoff gave interviews touting the scanners while “getting paid” to sell them. “There is no evidence these new body scanners make us more secure. But there is evidence that former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff made money hawking these full body scanners.”

Some go as far as to argue that the scanners are ineffective and actually make air travelers less secure. Rafi Sela, a leading Israeli airport security expert, told the Canadian Parliament, “I don’t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747. That’s why we haven’t put them in our airport,” Sela said, referring to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, which has some of the toughest security in the world.

According to the UK Daily Mail, Tory MP Ben Wallace, who worked on the scanners at defense research organization QinetiQ before entering Parliament in 2005, said the machines would not have detected the type of explosives that “underwear” bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab used in trying to mount his attack on Christmas Day. Alert passengers stopped the underwear bomber, the shoe bomber and stopped an airplane from striking the white house on September 11. If air travelers are lulled into a false sense of security, it can be argued that they may be less alert.

Read more, get links and video here: Orlando Independent Examiner

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