Body scan contortions

It is amusing to hear right-wing media hosts rail about TSA’s body scans as an extension of the Obama socialist agenda and as an environmental health hazard.  It was of course the Bush Administration and its supporters in neo-con think tanks that hyped the idea that the U.S. is under civilizational threat from Islamic terrorism and that created the bureaucracies whose primary function is to respond to the Islamic menace, which therefore can never be deemed to have been exagerrated.  Maybe a Bush Administration adoption of body scans would have provoked the same resistance from the right, but I doubt it.  Nevertheless, any push-back against the idea that we need ever more stringent security measures is welcome.  (I haven’t heard what the right-wing media is offering as an alternative to the body scans, but I would guess that they are calling again for profiling the hell out of Islamic passengers.  That’s a logical idea in theory, the problem is that it is nearly unworkable in practice.)  As for myself, I have yet to encounter an intrusion that breaches my privacy threshold and couldn’t care less about these scans from a privacy perspective.  But I object to the burdens on commerce that they impose and to the “Be Afraid” message that they send out.  It would be nice if the right wing stood up for rationality and true risk assessment.  There have been scores of deaths in American workplaces over the last year from psychopaths and zero deaths anywhere in the U.S. from Islamic terrorists.   Ditto in every of the preceding 9 years.  As for auto fatalities, don’t get me started.  If we went back to pre-9/11 airport security measures, my guess is that flying would still be far safer than driving.

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13 Responses to Body scan contortions

  1. John says:

    I, for one, am extremely angry at TSA, and yes, I would still have been mad if Bush were president. Apparently, locking up terrorists in Gitmo is wrong, tapping people’s phones is wrong, looking up people’s library records is wrong, but by all means, let’s force people to either have government take naked pictures of us, or get felt up by a government agent.

    Is profiling unworkable in practice? Well, I’d be willing to give it a try. I’d much rather try that than explain to my kids that they are going to sexually assaulted by a stranger because otherwise they will be photographed naked. But the pictures will all be deleted. Sure, they will.

  2. kurt9 says:

    The TSA is the creation of Bush and his neo-con administration. Do remember that Obama, the leftist, was elected because we were all sick of the neo-cons and their horse-pucky. The tea party certainly remembers this fact.

    Is the TSA necessary? Probably. As long as the threat of terrorism on the airlines exists, some form of air travel security will be necessary. What no one seems to get is that countries like Japan and Taiwan do not have this terrorist problem. That’s because they do not involve themselves politically in the middle-east like we do. Neither does China. China does have an internal Islamic problem (with the Uighurs ethnic group in the far west part of China). However, they do not have a global terrorism problem like we do. The East Asian countries do not have a terrorism problem because they do not have an interventionist foreign policy.

    The possibility that our interventionist foreign policy is a cause of many of our problems has been obvious to me for a long time. This has never been seriously debated in congress. It is just assumed that an interventionist foreign policy is beneficial for the American taxpayer. I disagree with this assumption.

  3. Bob_R says:

    The only good thing about the whole mess is that it has a chance of making people more realistic about the morality of profiling. If this whole process is too demeaning for the general population why should it be acceptable for a smaller (but still enormous) segment of the the population (e.g. all Islamic passengers) almost none of whom are terrorists?

  4. Rational risk assessment would be nice. Might want to start with another look at the risk of air travel. The airline industry likes to use the per passenger mile statistic because the number of miles between takeoff and landing make it look really good. The insurance industry uses the per passenger journey statistic because the latter is a much more accurate predictor of the number of fatalities a company can expect to have to pay off on.

  5. GWCraw says:

    Hey, don’t worry about this violation of your person, It is pretty minor

    Hey, just boilin’ the frog, man

  6. Chip Smith says:

    I’m not especially concerned about “privacy” as long as air travel isn’t compulsory. But I do wonder if the increased security measures — or the public perception of same — will lead to a net increase in travel-related fatalities. I think it was Milton Friedman who argued against (seemingly rational) policies mandating safety seats for infants on commercial flights because the resulting increase in ticket prices would compel a certain constant number of travelers to eschew planes in favor of travel by car, thereby increasing the overall risk of a fatal accidents. If public concerns over inconvenience and privacy have a similar disincentive effect (to the marginal increases in ticket price), then there’s probably a statistical body-count somewhere in the mix. I suppose defenders of the TSA would argue that the negative externalities of unpopular security protocols would be offset by the aversion of even one act of terrorism, but that line will always apply to the unknown unknown.

  7. Cephus says:

    You have to remember that the TSA has never caught a single terrorist with their methods. Ever. And in the case of terrorist plots that were caught later, there are serious questions whether or not their scanners could catch them if they walked right through one. In the case of the underwear bomber, it’s almost certain that the scanners would miss it entirely. Anything under heavy clothing, in a body cavity, or even under more than 1/10th of an inch of flesh is entirely invisible to the scanner. An overweight person could put just about anything under a roll of fat and walk straight through and come up clean.

    I believe Ben Franklin said it best when he said those who would give up freedom for security deserve neither. Isn’t that exactly what we’re doing?

  8. Elroy says:

    I was against the Patriot act and I remember emailing my congressman protesting against it. I think the threat of terrorism is being vastly overstated and used for dramatically increasing government control and power. Now there are discussions about implementing full body scanners at court houses. Where is the 4th amendment? If there really is the threat being alleged, why aren’t these terrorists who are being thwarted by airline security measures going to softer targets? If all this security were removed tomorrow you would not see a tremendous increase in terrorism on airplanes. Without any security at all flying would still not be the most dangerous thing that the average person does in a day.

  9. Elroy says:

    Just one additional thing, the scanning at airports may be permissible because flying can be considered a privilege and not a right. If these scanners are implemented at courthouses will jurors be forced through them? Can one refuse to serve based on this?

  10. Mike H says:

    Two things

    1) It’s a little disheartening to see the word “right-wing” used as something approaching a slur on a site called “SecularRight”. Has Heather gone completely native?

    2) Bob_R: Profiling wouldn’t concern most Muslim travelers, only those fitting a specific profile based on many factors beyond their country of origin. Also your remarks seem rather strange given that if anything this whole thing has made many people ask for profiling instead of this pervert scanning/patdown business.

    3) I wouldn’t mind the new scans etc. so much if I didn’t think the average TSA employee was about as competent and reliable as the average Walmart employee, in other words, not much at all.

  11. Mike H says:

    That’s technically three things of course, this needs an edit your post function.

  12. Kolya says:

    We, as a society, should learn how to tolerate risk in a less hysterical fashion. And, if talking of actually reducing risk, there must be more effective and less intrusive ways of accomplishing it. In my experience, most of the time things go smoothly with TSA, but in one occasion when I was traveling with my mother (who is somewhat frail and in her late-eighties), I watched as she underwent an unnecessarily detailed and rude pat down because, having a pacemaker, she refuses to go through scanners. Despite that, it’s dishonest rhetoric to liken such pat downs to sexual assaults (we might as well categorize medical digital prostate exams as rape.)

    I also think that the privacy concerns raised by the new body scanning machines are overblown. I’m surprised, though, that the increased exposure to radiation is not as much as an issue. Are the risks of such exposure as small as the TSA claims? On balance, is the risk of dying of cancer because of TSA radiation exposure considerably smaller than the risk of foregoing the scanners and dying in an airplane terrorist attack?

  13. panglos says:

    Flying was far more enjoyable under the fascist Nixon.

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