Friday, November 19, 2010

tsa says "shut your pie holes!!!"

The Doctor | If you haven't been keeping up with current events, not too long ago the US Transportation Security Agency (anon.) set in motion a plan in which full body scanners would be deployed in select airports around the country. The idea behind them is that security teams could tell if someone had something concealed beneath their clothing, and as a side effect shows the traveler naked for all intents and purposes, and what's more they archive the images for an undisclosed period of time. For a while various groups and a few US senators were pushing back against this plan but they've started deploying the scanners anyway. There are still health concerns about the x-ray backscatter scanners that are yet unresolved. The Food and Drug Administration is trying its best to reassure people.

There is also the little matter of both types of full body scanners not being able to detect the objects they were put in place to catch, namely, bomb components. In fact, a couple of experts have come right out and said that they're a waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere. Hell, even Max Headroom's evil sister Ann Coulter has spoken out against them. Taking all of these things into consideration it's little wonder that people were opting to be searched by hand in the fashion that my wife was a couple of weeks ago at BWI when she kept setting the metal detector off. Sure it took a little longer and was marginally less humiliating than a random stranger at the airport looking at you naked but it satisfied the security regs, right?

It seems that, due to the fact that travelers are speaking up and refusing to be imaged by devices of questionable accuracy, utility, safety, and ethics the TSA has decided to push back by humiliating people who dare to refuse. The first person to report what happened was a pilot who works for ExpressJet Airlines who found out the hard way. Sometimes refusal to go through a scanner gets written up as an "incident" to go on a permanant record of some kind (what is this, middle school?) Chances are it means being detained for a while, usually until a security detail shows up to inqure why someone had the temerity to say anything. Your limbs will be squeezed to check for anything that might be fastened to them, as will your torso (I wonder what they'd make of an insulin pump?) and neck. Your buttcrack will be spread to see if you've got anything hidden in there. Your legs will be checked in like fashion and your genitals will be fondled to see if you have anything hidden on or near them.

At least you have the option of having it done in a back room; personally, I'd prefer having it done in front of everyone to show the crowd exactly what things have come to. Plus, it might be good to have a few dozen witnesses in case the TSA tries to play a harmless joke on you. However, if you refuse you might roll a botch and wind up in handcuffs without a ticket and get thrown out by a flying wedge of real police officers.

The answer seems cut and dried, doesn't it? Just shut up, swallow your civil rights, and go through the scanner, right? Unless the powers that be decide that the all-but-naked scan wasn't good enough and you have to go under the gloves anyway. Or you might be randomly selected to get felt up. It needs to be said that not everyone is going to take kindly to this, such as survivors of rape and possibly survivors of physical abuse. A number of professional associations for pilots are protesting the measures in a half-hearted fashion, flight attendents are getting upset, and unions are beginning to cry foul. The ACLU is collecting stories from travelers who have undergone this humiliating treatment for no good reason. Or maybe sometimes there is a reason.