I won’t be flying home for Thanksgiving and I feel sorry for anyone who is. The furor over full-body X-ray scanners could come to a boiling point if enough protesters observe National Opt-Out Day on Wednesday, a day when fliers are encouraged to decline the X-ray scan in favor of a pat-down.
The idea is to create a major headache for the Transportation Security Administration on one of America’s busiest travel days. In other words, “Screw everyone who’s indifferent about the X-ray scans — I’m going to bring the security checkpoint to a grinding halt to make a difference, even if it means you’re eating cold turkey Thursday night.”
Where I come from, that’s terrorism.
Not surprisingly, the Opt-Out’s official website is littered with heavy handed prose to illustrate the X-ray scanners as a sure threat to our liberty, freedom, privacy and any other manner of buzzword. From the site:
“[Wednesday is] the day ordinary citizens stand up for their rights, stand up for liberty, and protest the federal government’s desire to virtually strip us naked or submit to an “enhanced pat down” that touches people’s breasts and genitals in an aggressive manner. You should never have to explain to your children, “Remember that no stranger can touch or see your private area, unless it’s a government employee, then it’s OK.”
The “aggressive manner” seems a bit vague. I might’ve went with “rummaged.” People pay to be handled in an aggressive manner. No one appreciates being rummaged.
I haven’t experienced the wonderment of the full-body scan, but I have been a 13-year-old boy. Nearly every boy in America has considered the development, purchase or use of X-ray glasses as a means to secretly scan the female form. About the time I started writing clumsy poems for girls, I wanted to save up to buy a pair X-ray glasses I’d seen in the back of Mad Magazine. Eventually, reason led me to believe that X-ray glasses would allow me to see not only through cotton, but likely through flesh. I wasn’t about to spend $19.99 and the better part of my puberty staring at skeletal systems.
We do know that the scanners used in airports are a little more detailed than the X-ray you’d get at a hospital. To that end, I get the fear. No one should have to worry about nude photos of him/herself being spread across the Internet. The images could be a little less, oh, crisp?
This all comes back to safety. I’m a staunch supporter of the ACLU and I despise the USA PATRIOT Act and I think airport security checkpoints are often a bungled series of gaffes not because of the technology they use, but the people they employee. Come on, paranoid passengers, and say it: I don’t trust TSA employees. That’s much different than distrusting a technology, isn’t it?
Let’s not blame this technology. The technology is not the problem. The problem, if one was to arise, would stem from an employee of the TSA distributing an image to anywhere beyond the checkpoint. That would be a major privacy punishable — I would imagine — as a federal offense. It should be easy enough to ensure every scan is encrypted with data to identify every TSA employee who administered and/or laid eyes on the image.
The discussion over these full-body X-ray scans will continue on, and I can’t think of anything less productive to the debate or less considerate to other passengers than trying to slow security checkpoints on the eve of Thanksgiving. That’s not “our way of life.” Opt-out of the opt-out and take the time saved to write your congressional leaders a letter.
National Opt-Out Day isn’t a protest — it’s a massive inconvenience.