March 9, 2011

American Citizens Treated like Terrorists

Filed under: TSA — publicandprivatespace @ 11:26 am
By:  Andrea Gillis

The security procedures at airlines are among the most invasive out there.  They are thought to be the main cause for America’s recent decrease in domestic flights (flights that occur within America’s borders).  Many of the procedures include profiling, trained dogs, x-ray screening for carryon luggage, metal detectors, pat-downs, and full body scanners according to John Baker.  The most invasive of these procedures would be the pat-downs, of course, which have been replaced, now, by new Advanced Imaging Technology or AIT.  The AIT stirs up a lot of trouble at airports.  This is because these machines act kind of like a giant X-ray because they take images of a person standing inside of one and send them to a monitor in a separate room to be viewed by a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) operator.  Going through the AIT scanners is almost the same as going to see your doctor for a broken bone, except, instead of just scanning one area where the supposed ‘broken bone’ is, the AIT scans your entire body.  The scanners bother American travelers because of their radiation risk and their invasive properties.

It seems that AIT scanners is the TSA’s approach to protecting the American public from terrorist attacks, but the new technology could be doing more harm than good.  The reason for the harmful tendencies of the AIT is that these scanners give off small amounts of radiation when operated according to Daily Mail Reporter.  To get a better idea of the amount of radiation given off in each scan, imagine the amount given off in an X-ray at the doctor’s office.  Now, divide that by 5,000.  That amount of radiation seems to be miniscule in comparison to the X-ray, but even a small dose of radiation could cause health concerns. 

Most people know that radiation is one cause of cancer.  Columbia University’s Dr. Brenner claims that the radiation from the scanners could result in basal cell carcinoma which is a type of cancer that usually occurs in older people (look at previous link).  Cancer is a serious and life threatening issue.  I am sure most people know of at least one person who has suffered through, is currently suffering from, or has died from cancer.  If I were a traveler, I would be very wary of the radiation given off by the AIT scanners. 

In addition to being dangerous, the AIT scanners push the borders of personal privacy.  The fact that they can see every part of a person’s body is very invasive itself.  The images taken by the machines are directly sent to a TSA operator’s monitor.  Even though there are rules in place, such as no cameras or picture taking devices in the operating room, what stops the operators from seeing every part of a person?  Also, how tight is this rule?  Is it possible for one to break it?

The public’s opinion on the privacy issue varies from person to person, but a lot of people tend to think that the scanners invade their personal privacy.  An online law debate shows people’s views about privacy concerns.  One respondent argues that the scanners don’t stop people from using body cavities to smuggle things through security and that the scanners force people to “participate in pornography.”  The AIT scanning does create images of people’s bodies without clothes on, so the scanners are technically pornographic.  Another respondent from the debate believes that airline security “has gone too far” because of the “machine that will scan your body naked.”  Again, this is a concern that has to do with the pornographic tendencies of the full body scanners.  Is it right that these scanners are in place?


  1. I agree with the article as a whole, but I have two things to add: one the pat-downs are not replaced by AITs and still supplement them and two the TSA is introducing new software and eliminating the person view the photos which means they are at least trying to improve AITs as opposed to the pat-downs which John Pistole (the TSA administrator) said he would not change. I guess he later recanted, but the procedure is still the same.

    Comment by Nicholas Burmeister — March 9, 2011 @ 3:20 pm | Reply

  2. In recent years, airline safety has become one of the biggest concerns for the government. Obviously measures have been stepped up and I don’t think that this is unnecessary. The government and the airline industry have the absolute right to protect their customers and their planes. Now although there may be minor repercussions of in terms of X-Rays, I think this is overshadowed by the risk of not thoroughly checking the people. The fact of the matter is that flying is a privilege, not a right so if customers want the luxury of flying, then they have to uphold their responsibility and not endanger the plane and other fliers. One individual’s privacy is not more important than the safety of the everyone on the plane during the flight.

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 9, 2011 @ 3:33 pm | Reply

  3. I agree that the reason domestic flights have decreased is due to airport security. It has become easier, less stressful, and in some cases, cheaper to travel by car to places in the United States rather than by air. I also believe that this type of security is necessary because of how are world is today. Anybody can be a terrorist, they don’t standout, and we need to watch out for one another, and one way to do this is to have very tight security. This is the only way to ensure the security of ourselves so nothing like 9/11 ever happens again. In regards to the full body scanners, I think this is a great piece of technology because it helps speed things up at the airport and gives the operator miniscule doubt that the person has a weapon or bomb hidden on their person. Although it may release radiation and show “seminude” photos of the people who walk through it, the benefits still out-weigh the disadvantages and I believe it is an essential and useful piece of technology.
    -Benjamin Swanson

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 10, 2011 @ 8:18 pm | Reply

  4. -Matt Wyborski
    While these measures may seem horribly invasive, let’s stop and actually think about what they are doing. Starting with the scans, are the pictures produced really that invasive. I would say no. The pictures essentially turn out to be white blobs on the screen, you cannot see any definitive features on the person. The idea of this being considered to be even borderline pornographic is an exaggeration. Speaking to the radiation now, 1/5000 of an x-ray is so miniscule that there will be absolutely no effects. Unless you were scanned 5000 times, then you would have the danger of a single x-ray. Most people receive many x-rays in their lives, and it is still not harmful in the vast majority of cases. Only if someone has received an inordinate amount of x-rays can they loosely point towards that as a cause for any health issues. I think that this argument, and the public opinion is extremely uninformed on this topic. Would you rather take 1/5000 of an x-ray and be shown as a white blob on a screen, or facilitate terrorists entering planes. I’ll take the radiation that you probably get anyways from your cell phone and avoid the hijacking.

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 11, 2011 @ 9:19 am | Reply

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