USA Today has two opinion columns providing a point-counterpoint debate on privacy, security and airports. In, “Our view on security vs. privacy: Critics bash airport scans, but what’s their alternative?,” the USA Today editorial board writes:
If anyone wondered about the limits of public tolerance for the increasingly unpleasant airport screening experience, the answer is being provided by the reaction to newly installed body scanners and newly aggressive pat-downs offered as an alternative. […]
More broadly, there’s a gaping hole in the critics’ logic: None has offered an effective alternative. The body scanners can detect objects that metal detectors miss, such as plastic firearms, ceramic knives and, yes, possibly explosives hidden in a person’s underwear — the kind carried by the failed Christmas Day bomber last year. The unspoken conclusion of the critics’ thinking is that the government should possess technology that can detect hidden weapons, but not use it because of public squeamishness. Imagine the outcry if a bomber managed to board a plane and bring it down.
In fact, despite the critics’ overwrought charges, they are a vocal minority. In a CBS News poll last week, 81% of those surveyed said airports should use full-body X-ray machines. […]
This is not to say there aren’t valid questions about the machines or that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) can’t improve this process. While the Food and Drug Administration has assured the public that the scanners do not pose a health risk, a few scientists question that assertion and have called for more study. Given the millions of people who will pass through these devices, that’s a good idea.
In “Opposing view on security vs. privacy: Honor basic human dignity,” James Babb and George Donnelly — co-founders of the grassroots group We Won’t Fly write:
We Won’t Fly urges air travelers to say “I opt out” of TSA abuse on Nov. 24. Travelers should opt out of full-body scanners not only to protect their health and privacy, but to protest the Transportation Security Administration’s demeaning new security theater. We can ensure passenger safety without making nude images of our children or groping our grandmas. […]
The TSA and the Homeland Security Department, however, are the irresponsible parties. They have deployed untested technology that biochemist Michael Love says “statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from.”
They did not properly educate the flying public about their new intrusive security regimen. Passengers thrust into these new procedures report cases of trauma, including flashbacks for rape victims and feelings of humiliation. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a political appointee, irresponsibly misled the nation in a USA TODAY Forum piece Monday, saying the scanners were safe and the genital probings were discrete [sic]. They are neither.
Homeland Security has suckered Americans into a false sense of security with scanners of dubious value. It remains to be seen whether they even detect the threat presented by last December’s underwear bomber.
Rafi Sela, a leading Israeli airport security expert, recently told the Canadian government: “I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747.” Is that the security you were expecting, America?