Home > Adversity, assault, Awareness & Prevention, Child abuse, Children, Education, Sexual Assault and Rape > Toss Up: DNA Damage, Body Scans Leaked or Full-Body Grope by TSA, both Invasion of Privacy!

Toss Up: DNA Damage, Body Scans Leaked or Full-Body Grope by TSA, both Invasion of Privacy!

November 16, 2010

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It’s difficult to catalog all of the myriad controversies besieging the Transportation Security Administration this week, but the biggest seems to be the new policy forcing select passengers to choose between an open-palm, very invasive pat-down or a full-body scan that produces a very detailed image of your most private regions. There’s also the 35,000 full-body-scan images that some officials in Florida kept despite rules requiring the images be immediately deleted, the threatened $11,000 lawsuit against a man who refused to have his groin patted down, the insistence on applying both the basically-nude scans and the invasive pat-downs to children, and the call for boycotting TSA body-scans by the 11,000-strong pilots union. In other words, it’s bad.

  • Leaked Images Belie Our Implicit Pact with TSA Gizmodo’s Joel Johnson writes, “At the heart of the controversy over ‘body scanners’ is a promise: The images of our naked bodies will never be public.” But the Florida marshals who saved 35,000 of those images, suggesting that promise may be a lie. “That we can see these images today almost guarantees that others will be seeing similar images in the future. If you’re lucky, it might even be a picture of you or your family.”

Besides health risks, there is the issue of privacy rights. When a government agent looks beneath your clothing with this machine, you are actually being strip searched. A recent article in the San Diego Entertainer on August 31, 2010 stated that “the scans are detailed enough to identify a person’s gender… to identify a passenger’s surgery scars, or to discern whether a woman is on her menstrual cycle or not.”

  • TSA Screener Accosting 3 Year Old Child at Security Checkpoint: I’m not saying that children who fly shouldn’t be subject to security screening, but do they really need to be treated like this?  Ed Morrissey put it best, I think: “If we’re mugging random three-year-olds to provide security to air travel, I’d say we need to rethink our approach.”  This little girl firmly tells the TSA employee “STOP TOUCHING ME!” Children are not exempt from being searched (see video).  If the child goes through the metal detector twice and the alarm is set off twice, they will be searched.  Prepare you child for this trauma if you absolutely must fly.
  • Are These Scanners Really Safe? Liberal blogger John Aravosis finds reason in the leaked body-scan images to wonder about the scanners’ potential health impact. “I did notice something weird. Why does the scanner seem to be scanning people who aren’t even in it?  Note how the device is recording the image of people standing in line to get into the scanner in the photos below. They’re not in the scanner, but it’s picking them up. It even picked up the security guy with his wand. … I’m sure there’s no radiation leakage from a device that can pick you up from ten feet away.”

“Backscatter X-ray uses ionizing radiation, a known cumulative health hazard, to produce images of passengers’ bodies. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with defective DNA repair mechanisms are considered to be especially susceptible to the type of DNA damage caused by ionizing radiation. Also at high risk are those who have had, or currently have, skin cancer. Ionizing radiation’s effects are cumulative, meaning that each time you are exposed you are adding to your risk of developing cancer. Since the dosage of radiation from the backscatter X-ray machines is absorbed almost entirely by the skin and tissue directly under the skin, averaging the dose over the whole body gives an inaccurate picture of the actual harm. In their letter of concern, the UCSF faculty members noted that ‘the dose to the skin could be dangerously high.’ The eyes are particularly susceptible to the effects of radiation, and as one study found allowing the eyes to be exposed to radiation can lead to an increased incidence of cataracts.”

  • TSA Backlash Reaches Congress, National Groups Wired’s Kim Zetter writes, “a growing movement among pilot associations and traveler rights groups suggests the TSA is under increasing pressure to reconsider [its policies]. Several groups have called for a National Opt-Out day on Nov. 24, traditionally the busiest travel day of the year, to protest the TSA’s attempt to force passengers to undergo invasive scans or face an intrusive pat-down. The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is also holding a hearing on Wednesday to discuss TSA oversight. Privacy groups such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center are seeking a court order to halt the use of invasive scanners, saying the scanners are illegal and violate passenger privacy.”

However, if you opt out of the body scan, you are subjected to an intrusive full-body grope. These pat downs are rigorous and include the TSA using their palms to touch your genitals in a manner that could feel like sexual assault. If you feel that you or your child were inappropriately touched during the enhanced pat down, call for a law enforcement officer.

  • This Isn’t TSA’s Fault:   The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, leading the charge against TSA practices perhaps more than any other journalist, takes the broad view. “Yes, it’s true — it’s not the TSA’s fault, all of this airport security craziness. The TSA is a government bureaucracy within a larger government bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security, and both organizations have as their mission the protection of American citizens from terrorism. They are going to do whatever they believe it will take, and is legal, to keep Americans safe. That is their bureaucratic imperative. But it is the mission of the President, and of the Congress, to supervise and monitor these bureaucracies, to hold them back when their mission comes into conflict with other missions, such as the protection of the privacy of American citizens.”
  • Is Flying Still Worth It? Outside the Beltway’s Steven Tyler wonders, “The more I hear and read about the options being presented to air travelers:  allow a full body scan that shows all the intimate details of one’s anatomy or allowing a stranger in a uniform to grope my nether regions, the angrier it makes me, to be honest.  Thankfully I usually only fly maybe once or twice a year.  Quite frankly it is all enough to make me rethink whether flying at all is worth it.”
  • This Is Not Good Counterterrorism: The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg discussed these practices on The Colbert Report, noting, “If you’re fighting terrorism at the airport gate, it’s too late.” In other words, formal counterterrorism agencies from the FBI to the CIA and beyond are going to be much more effective at detecting and stopping a terrorist plot than these TSA procedures.

Contents of posts from Examiner.com and TheAtlanticWire.com

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