Saturday, November 20, 2010

Naked Body Scanners

So unless you haven't flown on an airplane over the last several years, you are probably aware of new scanning devices that air travelers are subjected to. These devices pummel your body with X-rays which allows an image of your body to be shown to a TSA screener. Critics have likened it to a "virtual strip search" because high resolution images of your most intimate details are exposed. However, I am even highly suspicious of the quality of the images hand released to the press. Usually they provide a tiny 2 inch square on your screen with key zones blurred out. I am quite sure that the resolution is much higher on the TSA's screen.

If one is not comfortable with the naked body scanner, one can opt out for a hand screening instead. Previously, they would pat you down and only touch your buttocks with the back of their hand. The TSA, however, under a guise of "increased security" and instituted an "enhanced pat down" which is a little more invasive and demeaning. Now they use their palms and fingers on the buttocks and groin. Of course, the real reason for this "enhanced" procedure is to make the hand pat down alternative to the naked body scanner much less pleasant. They want travelers to acquiesce to the naked body scan. The TSA claims that only 1% opt out of the scanner, but I am highly suspicious of this number and think they are understating it. They are invoking network effect thinking where if they can convince the public that "everybody else is fine with it" then the rest of the public will accept it as well. The government wants make this scanning device acceptable over time and eventually make it mandatory where one does not have an opt out option.

So whats wrong with the naked body scanners? Aside from the discomfort of knowing that someone is looking at a picture of your naked body and that it may be stored for later viewing, and because TSA screeners are so professional that they will taunt a coworker about the size of his penis after he submitted to scan, or laugh about exposing a traveler's breasts to the entire screening area, there's also the issue of having x-rays beamed at your body. Now of course, the TSA and some research puppets have claimed that it is super safe and that you would have to get 1000 dental x-rays to get the same amount of radiation. Really? It would be more effective to use a more believeable number of say 10 dental x-rays, because I am not buying the 1000 number. And of course, what else are they going to say? Dr. Brenner, head of Columbia University’s Centre for Radiological Research, says that the radiation dose is actually 20 times higher than the official estimate. Other radiological scientists have also called for an independent review because they are concerned with the safety of these machines. They also mention that because the 'safe level' metric that the government uses involves the volume of the entire body as opposed to just the skin, the radiation safety level is understated. Either way, all it takes is a single X-ray to damage DNA which has the potential to cause cancer many years later, and you are having a machine blast your entire body with them.

And this is an early stage device. Time and time again history is looked back upon and mistakes of was considered harmless or good for you which later turned out to be harmful
(remember when smoking was claimed to be good for you? Or drugs that have been given FDA approval, but later were found to cause problems, such as Vioxx). One scientist has estimated that you end up with the same risk of dying of cancer from one of these machines as getting killed by a terrorist.

Then there's the issue that some variants of these machines, like the millimeter-wave scanner, might not even be that effective at exposing certain types of threats. "Material [that] is low density, such as powder, liquid or thin plastic – as well as the passenger's clothing – the millimetre waves pass through and the object is not shown on screen."

The sheeple and naysayers will quip, "Well, if you have nothing to hide..." But this is always a superbly weak argument as it is equivalent to the Ad Ignorantiam logical fallacy. And these scanners encroach on an individual's privacy and freedom to not be seen naked or be subjected to an experience they consider humiliating. Let's not forget how Ben Franklin stated (paraphrasing here) that those willing to sacrifice liberty in exchange for security deserve neither and will lose both.

These devices only give an illusion of additional security, as the naysayers are certainly missing one critical fact: If a terrorist is willing to kill himself to kill others, what is to stop him from placing a stick of dynamite up his ass? What will be next, proctology exams before boarding flights?

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