When, not if, will full-body "naked scans" become mandatory in the USA?

Travel blogger Christopher Elliot has an informed post up about the odd timing of the latest terror scare, and a theory that this might be "just another cleverly-timed event that pushes us toward mandatory full-body scans at the airport," just like the underwear failbomber conveniently ended a lively debate about the privacy issues posed by "strip-search machines."

If you aren’t a conspiracy theorist, then last weekend’s foiled bomb plot will just strike you as an interesting coincidence. Which it certainly is.

No matter who you are, though, the happenings of the last two weeks, which include the Transportation Security Administration’s imposition of new enhanced pat-down procedures for passengers who refuse the full-body scans, the terrorism scare, and a pilot who refused to undergo the TSA’s new screening, all lead to the same question: When will the government force us to go through these new machines?

Probably a lot sooner than we think.

When will full-body scans become mandatory? (elliott.org)


  1. It is distressing that my choice is currently full-body scan or sexual assault by the TSA. I suppose that, in the long run, this will probably end a lot of nudity taboos. I’m reminded of Heinlein’s Puppet Masters.

    1. I voted today for a non-binding ballot measure in MA that asked the local State Rep to being up a bill redefining nudity for women to be the same as for men. Basically, the right to go topless.


  2. I dont know enough about the scanners. But is there an issue with some kind of radiation? because that is what scares me.

    Plus we all know that these scanners dont work, as was shown in a german tv show:

  3. Richard Reid was the “shoe bomber”, not the “underwear bomber”.

    We truly are a nation of 3-year-olds.

  4. This had the opposite effect on me—why does someone need to feel me up if they can’t even screen the cargo right? I mean if a passenger doesn’t show up after their luggage is loaded you can’t even take off, why do we allow random cargo on these things—I know its less expensive for shipping but if things have progressed to the point where humans are getting worse treatment than inanimate objects something needs to change.

  5. Rhetorical Question:

    How is that it is illegal for me to expose my naked self to the public, but entirely legal for TSA to do it for me?

    Are the air samplers, drug and bomb sniffing dogs, and luggage searches truly so ineffective that we need to strip search each and every person who enters an airplane (staff and passenger alike)?

    1. Non-rhetorical reply. If ever required to submit to backscan or get the full-monty treatment, I’ll just strip naked. I can lift my own testicles, thankyouverymuch.

      1. Yes!

        And I would seriously like to know what would happen if you just showed up at the airport in a g-string and flip flops.

  6. “Plus we all know that these scanners dont work, as was shown in a german tv show:

    No, actually, that was a different kind of scanner.

    No technology is perfect, and the invasive nature of naked scanners is a real issues, but if you are going to criticize the scanners please check your facts. The scanner in the video you referenced was a thermal imager, which is not the kind of scanners used in the US.

    1. ah sorry I always thought it was the same scanner.

      so is there any issue with radiation? I dont quit understand the technology.

  7. I’m already wondering if my trip home to TX this month is going to be my last. I’m not too keen on airports anyway, and this is starting to push me over the edge. If I were a terrorist, I’d use two waves, I think. First suicide bomber would set himself off at the security checkpoint. A nice big blast there would not only kill a ton of people patiently waiting to be groped by a TSA employee, but also clear a hole through security for a follow-up wave of my buddies to run in with more guns and bombs.

    …anyway, we’ll see how it goes, but my wife’s going to be mad if I have to tell her I’m not really willing to fly anymore after this trip -.-

    I’m planning to wear a kilt through security, but my wife keeps insisting that I not go commando under it, on the grounds that I might flash the airport during my “enhanced” pat-down. She didn’t really like my response that *I* wouldn’t be flashing anyone – *TSA* would be the one responsible for any indecent exposure :3

  8. A bomb meant to ignite using a phone call. To a SIM card. With no antenna. Yep, sounds like our tax dollars at work, good enough for government work.

  9. Don’t blame a systemic effect on some kind of conspiracy, especially one that would have to be executed by the extraordinarily stupid.

    The people in charge of security have little to no idea how to actually enact such a thing. All that they know how to do is tighten their fist. Thus, every time something gets by them, they tighten their grip. You don’t need to engineer crises for this to happen. They will naturally occur, because a) there are people who are intent on causing asymmetrical damage to the West; b) the people in charge of preventing such things are fools; c) it is impossible to completely stop a distributed, determined opponent with a completely centralized defense structure.

  10. This will be mandatory until a copy of a techno-nude scan of a member of congress or one of their staffers is released to the internets.* Then this will become an outrageous violation of our civil rights.

    *I’m not advocating that someone do this as soon as possible. I’m absolutely not advocating that anyone do anything like that in the interests of the American people. Nope. Not me.

    1. That’s not how it works.
      When a nude photo of a member of Congress leaks, a law will be passed that members of Congress are exempt from the scanner. Similar to how political robo-dialers are exempt from the DO-NOT-CALL list.

  11. What really got me wondering about this latest scare is that firstly, all the politicians are rushing to the conclusion that this was designed to go off in mid-air, before we know anything at all about the detonator type. Seems to me that if the parcels were sent to synagogues from a muslim country then that would appear to be the obvious target. A timer wouldn’t work as there would be no way of detonation at a preconceived point. It would be random. It’s highly unlikely that a phone call could have detonated it either considering the height these aircraft travel at.
    Secondly. How did this information come to light? A grass told Saudi intelligence apparently. Very handy.
    This whole story smelled very fishy the first whiff I got of it.

  12. Well i guess it’s not long ’till BodyScannerChicksDotCom, cause i’m pretty sure some of these pictures will turn up on the net.

  13. I will glady submit to the scanner if, posted at the entrance to the TSA’s porno machines, are backscattered nude photos of the president, TSA Administrator John S. Pistole, and the slob monitoring the porn machine. If they get to see me, I get to see them.

  14. I’d rather live in a society with minimum security where an airplane explodes once in a while due to terrorism than to live in this paranoid big brother state (where an airplane will explode nonetheless once in a while :P).

    Terrorism is not new. It was probably more dangerous to board a plane in the 70’s.

    1. Yeah, I hate how the the government can arbitrarily make up rules that affect all airlines. I really wish there was an airliner called “I’ll take my chances” air with minimal screening, I can get onto a train with way more people for a longer trip without even flashing an ID, but somehow airplanes are special.

  15. Can we also work towards adopting the official Metafilter terminology: If we can get the terms “pornoscan” and “preflightfondler” into the general lexicon that’d be a good start.

    1. The TSA can and has operated on buses and trains. They can also do ferries, roads and bridges. They have been at sporting events and political rallies.

  16. If I ever need to fly to that rogue police state that the US is fast becoming, I’m going to equip myself (erm, in the front) with the hugest dildo I can buy, and walk mighty through the scanner ;-)

  17. I had to go through one of these a few weeks ago and almost made a scene when I realized what they were doing. I was “randomly selected” to use the full-body scanner. No notification that this was unusual or that I was the subject of a random selection occurred until after I’d been sent through the machine, and realized my fiance wasn’t forced to.

    Somebody from the TSA walked up and insisted on frisking me. I refused and asked why my fiance was allowed to go through the metal detector but I was directed to the scanner. The TSA flunkie seemed kind of surprised by this and brought over a supervisor.

    I asked the supervisor the same question. He says I was randomly selected. I looked back to the bored-looking lady who directed me to the alternate line to begin with, and asked him how the random selection was made.

    He asks what I mean.

    I restate, what methodology did you use to select me? What makes it random?

    He is obviously baffled by this question. I stand there for a few seconds, look at the time and realize I don’t have enough of it to make a scene, so tell him to do the pat down so I can get out of here. They proceed to do so, though obviously are a bit miffed.

    The next time I fly, if I have to go through one of these things again, I’m going to ask more questions, and I warned my fiance about that as we were walking away. Since then I’ve been thinking on this on and off, and am wondering if this is the better idea: Ask for a refund.

    The only thing that’s going to cause action here is if it financially hurts the industry. On top of that, bluntly, this offends me enough that I seriously wonder if I would rather take a bus or train. Getting my money back and rescheduling is a fairly attractive option, and one that I think they’d potentially actually notice if people did it. Is this any better or worse than any other approach?

  18. … and there is no cogent reliable medical research on whether these scanners have any long term health impact. hysteria trumps safe practise yay!

  19. Finding myself having a lot of anxiety about this “choice” I really can’t not visit my family on the other side of the country and don’t have the luxury of sailing around the horn or whatever but radiation/naked scan or squeezing my junk so that I can get on the plan is really not ok. Plus there are legitimate medical science questions about the safety of at least the backscatter xray machines (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126833083) and as a recent recipient of radiation therapy for cancer I feel like any unnecessary radiation is just not ok with me. Hello? – civil rights and public health disaster.

  20. For all those who dislike the idea of increased searches, here is some background one the one things the Yemen mail-bombs and the Umar Farouk incidents have in common Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri

    There are people who want to get a bomb past whatever security we put in place. I am not sure how this can be made any more obvious by this most recent incident. You may not like it or acknowledge it but yes there are people out there who are actively attempting to kill Americans.

    1. Maybe it’s because there are American invaders actively killing the “terrorists'” families over in the middle east.

      Call it a hunch.

      1. Pinehead, I tend to agree, although I do so with certain reservations, I’ve been over there and done that, and I can’t say I enjoyed it that much. You lose perspective if you forget about the original Trade Center bombing in 1993, and Pan Am 103. It runs a little deeper then just our invasion of the middle east. All our mis-adventures there have raised the stakes on a problem that has been around for a while now.

        nemofazer, try telling that to the victims of Pan Am 103. The stakes are much higher with an airliner. How would you like it if you were in that percentile that happened to live through that? Let me rephrase, why should we not seek to do everything possible to prevent domestic attacks on airlines? Especially after a couple of attempts have already been made.

        Your position is predicated on the fact that none of these newer attempts have been successful. You can’t keep counting on that. Your percentages game is an arrogant, and egalitarian, these people aren’t dumb just because they aren’t American. Yet every single person who opposes these new measures always makes hay of the fact no attempt has been successful yet, this arrogant supposition doesn’t change the fact that they are still trying.

        1. They are still trying… begs the question: “why?” An obvious answer might be that the government we pay for continuously diddles about with heavy weapons on the other side of the planet, ruining peoples’ day and sometimes making them just that angry. Could it be religious fanaticism as the dominant factor instead? Who fanned those flames during the cold war? Who supported their jihad against those “godless commies?”

          That said, even if our government stopped instigating problems right this minute, people are already pissed, and we don’t want those people to blow up or otherwise ruin our day on an airplane. Does Scope or Grope stop them? Does the 3oz liquid nonsense stop them? How about little baseball bats in the hands of every flight attendant… hell, every passenger who isn’t drinking? I think that would stop them a lot more effectively.

          But the manufacturers of little baseball bats couldn’t buy enough congress people versus the manufacturers of backscatter x-ray machines. The baseball bat plan wouldn’t employ a bunch of people in every sizable district in the nation and increase bureaucratic spending to even more nightmarish levels. The little baseball bats would have been a one time solution with minimal extra yearly spending… The alternatives have kept generating* money for interested parties for a decade now!

          *By generating, I mean taking money from anyone who works, in terms of taxation, or in terms of devaluing the dollar by just printing more.

          Absolutely *nothing* can guarantee perfect safety. Even with 9/11, more people died in automotive accidents that year. Determined people could cause airline deaths *even* with my prognosticated future regime of mandatory hospital gowns and general anesthesia for all passengers.

          There’s a false dichotomy being presented at every turn: die in a terrible terrorist attack, or submit to any and all demeaning nonsense the government wants to administer (at your cost).

          I think we can increase security while maintaining dignity. Locking cockpit doors went a *long* way toward this already. But that doesn’t bring in the votes, and that doesn’t pay interested parties more than once. There is something morally and mentally wrong with those who try to attack us… and there is something morally and mentally wrong with our government as well. In a sense, they’re working together, much like rabbits and wolves sustain each other, and die catastrophically without each other. Unfortunately, we are victims of both.

          1. You have turned this discussion into one that deals with broad perceptions government, as so many people unfortunately do here. By doing so you have lost sight of what you were originally complaining about. You have become a standard politician who opposes something for his own reasons and then in the same breath refuses to either acknowledge the source of that problem, or offer possible alternatives to that issue you so criticize.

            The way I see it right now, if you’re rich enough to afford to fly right now, then you are rich enough to deal with a little indignity in the name of your and, more importantly, others’ safety. Lets face it, in this economy the former “middle class” are the new rich. I doubt they think that, but at these job holders of today have the dignity of their job and the currency that goes with it. These workers don’t have to rely on the indignity of others (in my case the local government) for their daily bread. If you can afford to fly then you can afford to be screened. Share some of your dignity and some of your concern for the safety of those flying with you.

          2. The way I see it right now, if you’re rich enough to afford to fly right now, then you are rich enough to deal with a little indignity in the name of your and, more importantly, others’ safety. Lets face it, in this economy the former “middle class” are the new rich.

            So, travel is a privilege not a right, because it’s already been taken out of the hands of the working poor. Rather than try and repair their situation, we should use it as an excuse to justify indignities on the middle class. The actual rich owning 95% of the wealth can of course take their private jets.

            I think this line of reasoning is where communism went wrong.

          3. You call me a politician who doesn’t want to consider causes… check my first paragraph… and that I don’t propose solutions… did you see the thing about baseball bats?? I said it a lot. Makes me wonder: Which three letter agency do you get your paycheck from?

            In all of your urging me to consider my fellow passenger’s sense of safety, you fail to realize that none of this nonsense actually helps… Not one of these measures does anything to make us safer. It just conditions us to roll over to authority, which by your tone, seems to be something you desire. What I discussed at the beginning of my comment, in reference to causes of the current batch of people wanting to kill US flight passengers… that’s about a long term solution to ending this threat. Otherwise, we’re in an arms race that makes everyone lose, especially the passenger who wants to get from point A to point B without being sexually assaulted.

            Whether you classify someone who has the money to fly as “middle class” or “rich” or “poor” has *nothing* to do with whether they should be treated demeaningly by the government we pay for. As another poster suggested, if “Opt Out Airline” got started, with none of the security theater, quite a few of us would line up, and market forces would let it survive just fine… with passengers all over the financial spectrum buying tickets. Give us little baseball bats as we board, and we’d be happy to care about each others’ safety, while retaining our dignity. With the current situation, I can care about my fellow passengers with all my might, and having been Scoped or Groped doesn’t make one single difference when the next wannabe mass murder makes his or her move, except for guaranteeing I can only use my bare hands to oppose the terrorist.

        2. What I’m saying is life has risks and resources should be allocated according to their relative importance. Terrorism is not, relatively speaking, important.

          “Try tell that to relatives” is simply not a rational argument.

          1. I agree with the proper allocation of resources, I just don’t think you are acknowledging the fact that the threat is real. It worries me that you can ignore blatant attempts like the Yemen bombings and then turn around and tell me that this isn’t likely to happen. The same man has attempted twice this year to place and detonate explosives on planes. You ignore that at your own risk. The only reason you can claim terrorism is a non-issue is thanks to the covert work of the CIA, which I am sure you oppose on principle. You can’t have it both ways.

            I wasn’t making an argument to reason, but as you well know the human animal isn’t inherently disposed towards his/her reasonable facility, we are emotional creatures and to ignore that is simply not rational either.

          2. I absolutely agree its a threat. Its just a very small threat compared to all the other threats out there.

            Maybe some background would help here. I’m old enough to have lived through the IRA bombing campaign in mainland Britain in the 70’s where bombs and bomb threats where frequent but the UK did not have the panic, knee jerk response it now demonstrates (as does the US). An over reaction to a real but still statistically negligible threat was rejected in favour of the attitude that we weren’t going to let it ruin our way of life.

            “The only reason you can claim terrorism is a non-issue is thanks to the covert work of the CIA” – I’m not sure anyone can know that. I’m not saying its not true but I’m highly skeptical.

            And finally, yes, of course we are emotional, not entirely rational creatures but its important to exclude emotion from policy decisions.

            You said earlier “You can’t keep counting on that. Your percentages game is an arrogant, and egalitarian, these people aren’t dumb just because they aren’t American.” I don’t understand. I’m not American and I certainly wouldn’t argue that the whole world outside the US is dumb. If anything I’m arguing America, or at least its policy makers, are, if not dumb, then creating dumb policies. Statical analysis is a sensible way of deciding where to expend your resources efficiently. That’s all.

  21. My protest is going to be to ride Amtrak/BoltBus whenever possible and send the secretary of DHS the ticket stubs.

  22. You do realize that all of the measures imposed by TSA since 9/11 have not done anything to deter the real attacks, right? a full body scan would not have caught what happened last weekend. To many people are willing to throw away all their rights in the interest of security without even thinking about the costs and the ineffectines of it all.

  23. The naked scanner is indecent and unacceptable. No one should be able to look at or touch my body without my permission. If that means I can’t travel by airplane anymore, then so be it. This is not a matter I am willing to discuss; you can’t convince me to allow you to molest me. When did Uncle Sam become the creepy uncle who wants to put his hands down everybody’s pants? How did we let this happen? How long are you going to stand there and LET it happen?

    More and more, the US reminds me of what I learned about Soviet Russia in the 80’s. We’re on our way to something like that, you know. As long as the government is allowed to strip away our rights one by one like this, we’re on our way. The US is a sinking ship.

  24. Regarding the coincidence/conspiracy:

    Funny how the cargo happened to come flying through the UK, the week after the people in charge of UK airports and airlines said they no longer thought Britain should be doing whatever the USA says.

    And funny how it happened just after cuts to intelligence spending were announced in Britain.

    Just saying.

  25. This opens the door for a premium service where prescreened business travelers can stroll right through if they are wearing a tight fitting bathing suit.

    I’ll call it the speed-O-line.

    1. Oh heck yes. The only reason I wouldn’t really want to be in that line is because it’d cold as the dickens in most airports.

      Optionally: make the speed-O-line mandatory for “frequent travellers”. I’m in favor of public officials automatically getting routed to that line, too: “Because it’s the fastest line, sir.”

  26. It’s already mandatory to have your checked luggage unlocked and looted, and now we are being conditioned to getting groped/peeped as standard procedure. The physical beatings are still just for those who cause a fuss…but what is the government doing to combat fussiness?

    I look forward to a future where passengers will get a preemptive kick in the ribs to protect us all from the threat of potential dissent. Then the entire process of being beaten, robbed, and sexually assaulted by our protectors will flow much more smoothly and no one will have to be late for Thanksgiving dinner at grandma’s.

  27. According to my wife, they were mandatory at Pittsburgh IA this past Sunday (Oct 31). Not sure if it is forever or just that one day.

  28. Just out of curiosity here, anyone planning to do a letter writing campaign to their congressional rep? I’m happy to start it out, if everyone who reads the comments section will ask everyone they know to sign on.

  29. I’ve been promoting the soundbite-able meme, “Scope or Grope.” Oh, and I’ve avoided flying as much as possible since The Liquids of Terrorz nonsense. Not sure what else there is to do. :-(

  30. I took my mother to the airport yesterday. She’s an 82 year-old woman, and her mobility isn’t what it used to be, so I requested a wheelchair and an “Accompany Pass” (which allowed me to accompany her to the gate).

    In security she set off the metal detector (she always does, as she’s had a plate in her leg since she was in her 20’s, and recently had a hip replacement).

    They gave her the option of the full body scan or the “pat down.” She chose the full-body scan (although it embarrassed her, she tried to keep her spirits).

    So, she gets the scan, but that’s not enough. For some reason they can’t use the data, so then they take her into the little private room for the touchy-feely humiliation.

    I doubt that she will ever fly again.

    Thanks TSA, for keeping our airways safe!

  31. I took a domestic flight Friday that left from the San Francisco International terminal, it took over an hour to get through the line, which extended far into the terminal. The TSA screening area has been recently renovated such that half of the security lanes led to metal detectors, the other half led to full body scanners. It didn’t much matter which line you chose (I chose one with a metal detector), an agent could “randomly” redirect you to an adjacent lane at the last moment. I was redirected to the scanner, and refused. After 20 minutes of waiting in a cordoned off holding area, I received the new-style pat down. During the time I was waiting, there were no other refusals. My guess is that the metal detectors there will likely be gone within 6 months…

  32. I hope these scanners never become mandatory and that people stand up for their liberties. You shouldn’t have to be strip searched just to travel. Backscatter x-rays are insidious in that they represent such an abstraction from the typical process of a search. They are very convenient, but convenience is the enemy. An easy strip search is still a strip search. Refuse to participate in their use now, and you’ll set a precedent for your liberties to be not infringed later.

  33. First, people would be alarmed if the example backscatter image were shown in the highest resolution the scanning machine records. If people knew how little modesty was preserved, they would object more. If the resolution really is that poor, then these are useless machines.

    Second, taking the train is not much of an option for those living in the more rural parts of the U.S., such as Montana and Wyoming. It’s a four hour drive from a major airport to my parents house in Montana. If I take the train to see them, it’s almost two days by train, and still a four hour drive from the station to their house.

    Third, why are my only options having a voyeur stare at me, or being grope-raped by a security guard?

  34. Someone fails to blow up a plane with water, so we can’t bring water; someone fails to blow up a plane with shoes, so we can’t wear shoes; someone fails to blow up a plane this week with a printer cartridge, so they’re saying they’ll limit those. This is more and more obviously becoming an abusive game played by “our” government against us. God help us the day someone fails to blow up a plane by shoving something up his ass, and they find out about that.

  35. Prediction: hospital gowns required, your clothing checked (for a fee), and general anesthesia administered. Meanwhile, sheeple will yell at anyone who objects, “flying isn’t a right; you can drive if you want; I feel safer and that’s what matters most,” etc…

    Land of the free. Home of the brave.

  36. I like how something like full body naked scans that inconvenience white yuppies must obviously be the work of a nefarious conspiracy, but wars that kill little children in foreign countries? Don’t be ridiculous.

  37. I flew from Chicago (O’Hare) to DIA last night and had to go through the machine, which pissed me off because there were two lines: one for the full-body scanner and one with a normal metal detector. Even though the line was longer I went with the metal detector, because I did not want to go through the scanner. For many many reasons, I did not want to go through the scanner. Apparently that was too bad for me, because I got as far as the metal detector and then was forced to go through the full-body scanner (despite my not even being in that line).

    I decided I’d rather have nude pics of me than be groped/fondled/molested by government officials.

    You know, I was okay with security before the last two years. I mean, I thought it was useless, but I just got really good at taking off my shoes, having a baggie with liquids and my laptop out, and I could go through the whole process really quick. It was annoying, but I didn’t feel like I was humiliating myself.

    But now…I went through the scanner, and had to wait a few seconds to be cleared, and the TSA dude standing there just smirks at me and says “you’re good to go.” I mean, sure I’m reading too much into the smirk, too much into everything. But knowing someone in that airport is inspecting my body and telling this guy I can leave…I mean, strip searches are demeaning but at least they’re honest.

  38. Can’t we increase the depth of the scan and get some medical services done at the same time? The computer could identify potential terrorists and potential tumors. Help socialized medicine AND homeland security.

  39. Bring it on.

    I’ve made this argument before: what freedom is being lost with the deployment of these scanners?

    In the strictest sense: none whatsoever. I’m being examined as I board a plane.

    OK, I get that there are certain ‘freedoms’ enabled by imperfect enforcement. I’m free to smoke weed because no law-enforcement dickhole will ever find out about it. I’m free to go above the posted speed limit because we only have so many highway cops. I’m free to do as I please for the most part, because many of the truly idiotic laws we have on the books can be broken without too much fear of being discovered.

    Certain things are contraband on an airplane, some for no good goddamn reason, but between the requirement to run your bags through the xray and yourself through a metal detector, and the requirement that you take off most clothes that could conceal anything of interest, you don’t have the practical ability to smuggle a water bottle, lighter, nail clipper, razor blade, or bottle of perfume through the screening point anyway. The enforcement was already pretty good: it’s getting only slightly better, while inconveniencing us a whole lot less.

    So somebody gets to see a freakish black and white naked picture of you. I’m a pretty self conscious person and even I don’t give a damn. I’ll be the forty seven thousandth passenger screened in some guy’s long and boring career: he just won’t care at that point. Got some interesting genitals? You and five other people that day. Your bleary-eyed scanner operator won’t care. Fat and self conscious about it? I have news for you: everyone can already tell. Very pretty and afraid you’re going to arouse the aforementioned bleary-eyed scanner operator? Get over yourself.

    Am I trading freedom for security? No, because NO FREEDOM IS BEING LOST. So just get. over. it. already.

    1. I like how you claim that no freedom is being lost but you spend a paragraph depicting a variety of freedoms that are being lost while dismissing people who care about those freedoms as crybabies who should get over themselves.


    2. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

      I am of the opinion that forcing people to be digitally strip searched using a device which has zero reliable data regarding the long term effects of this specific type of radiation in an effort to continue the appearance of security while actually providing little to no real security qualifies as unreasonable.

      1. But having your belongings x-rayed, being forced to take off any clothes in which you could conceal anything of interest, and then going through a metal detector… that’s fine, but a scanner isn’t? My point is that this is only superficially different from, and not really more invasive than, current search protocols. It’s far more convenient and produces more and better information.

        This isn’t a random search on a street. It isn’t a search of your house, your car, your workplace. It isn’t a check into your affiliations, your employment history, your tax records, or your financial transactions.

        You know what’s degrading about a strip search? It’s not the part where you’re seen naked. It’s the part where your clothes are removed (ie, you STRIP) and you’re made to stand around naked while some guy runs his hands all over you. You know why this isn’t a strip search? Because you aren’t stripping. You’re being searched, with EM radiation.

        1. Is the new scanner actually more convenient *for me*? I couldn’t care less about the convenience for the TSA dork. I’d actually applaud the rollout of the backscatter machines (pending an actual analysis of their radiation safety) if it meant I didn’t have to take my jacket/shoes/belts/everything else off before walking through.

          The full combination of mostly stripping + taking shoes off + emptying pockets + pulling out laptops + pulling out liquids is needlessly irritating. I’m mostly objecting to them simply adding more and more crap to the list of shit I have to do to travel. I’m not terribly self-conscious at all (though my wife is). I’d be generally ok with just flashing the scaner tech a smile and thumbs-up while they’re photographing me.

          As it is, I nearly always get pulled aside for a pat down or invasive back check *anyway*, even after going through the metal detector line. What’s the point? Given the option, sure, I’ll go straight to the Groper. From the anecdotes I’ve heard around the ‘net, I’m expecting to have to gripe them out anyway – “hurry up and grope me, I have a plane to catch”.

          With the distances involved, and limited amounts of time off from work, “don’t travel by plane” is, in practice, very nearly the same as “don’t visit your family”. I would *much* rather take a nice road trip, but if I spend 2-3 days each way driving, I don’t actually get to spend any time at my destination before turning around to come home.

          1. “I’d actually applaud the rollout of the backscatter machines (pending an actual analysis of their radiation safety) if it meant I didn’t have to take my jacket/shoes/belts/everything else off before walking through.”

            Well it was my hope that, if these scanners work well enough, we won’t have to strip down to our t-shirts anymore.

            But I guess the TSA never eliminates a requirement, do they?

            *sigh* Classic ratchet effect.

    3. There are lots of other “rights” that are stupid, too. Freedom of speech? Guess what, most people don’t care what you have to say, so get over yourself. Not quartering soldiers? Nobody cares about staying at your house anyways. Right to a jury of your peers? Oh right, because your betters really have nothing to do than spend their time worrying about you. The whole constitution is just whining about entitlement by privileged classes.

      That is what you were getting at, right?

  40. These people coming up with these awful requirements work for us, after all. Let’s give ’em an ultimatum already — “fix the intrusive searches, or get a new job”. For my part, I’d prefer we maintain baggage checks for explosives and the like but ditch other body scans entirely. I’d feel safer if the entire plane was packing heat, than if the guy who smuggled scissors on board could take over.

    1. Syncrotic, so you were being inspected anyway, so no freedom is being lost.

      If things keep going this way, next we will have the “clothes bomber” with a half-assed attempt to blow up a plane with … clothes.

      Then, when you are stripped naked in front of everyone with a full-cavity search being performed on you in excruciating detail for 10 minutes, you can rest assured that you have not lost any freedoms.

      You were being examined anyway, right?

      1. That kind of hyperbole serves no useful purpose in a discussion.

        “If you allow this, cavity searches are next” is as egregious an example of the slippery slope fallacy as I’ve ever seen.

        As for this being an infringement on the constitutionally guaranteed right to be free from unlawful search… maybe, but then so is conventional airport security.

        I’m not saying conventional airport security is great or justified; in fact, it may be unconstitutional depending on how you choose to interpret it. But this backscatter scanner technology is NOT the difference between a constitutional search and an unconstitutional one.

        If it’s between conventional shoes- and jackets- and sweaters-off airport security and backscatter scanners, I’ll take the latter.

        But isn’t that a false dichotomy? Yes, it is; glad you noticed.

        The other option is to abandon airport security altogether, or put it back where it was ten years ago. Maybe we shouldn’t have to relinquish our liquids and give up everything harder or sharper than an overcooked noodle to board a plane.

        But then we simply can’t deny that airports and airplanes are a special case. Given the fear and fascination that we as a culture seem to have with flying, airplanes make for tempting and highly visible targets. People harbor a great deal of anxiety about flying, so it makes for an especially effective target if your goal is to spread fear. People keep trying to attack air travel, even to the exclusion of other equally viable targets (subways, stadiums, TSA lineups).

        So you have a few choices:

        1. Just accept that some attacks will succeed. They’ll still be rare, everyone will get scared, everyone will get over it.

        2. Screen the things that people try to bring with them. Metal detectors, x-rays, etc.

        3. Screen the people themselves. Secret no fly lists, people too dangerous to fly but not dangerous enough to charge with a crime, racial profiling, machines that try to measure intent, people that try to do the same but, in practice, just end up sending brown people for further interrogation, etc.

        All of the truly evil shit falls under the third option. My view: I don’t care who flies with me as long as the second option is in place.

        There’s always the first option. I might prefer it, actually. Society as a whole won’t accept it though.

        The important thing is to separate the discussion about backscatter x-ray technology from the broader discussion on airport security. If you’re upset by what you consider unconstitutional searches, then this changes nothing. If you think we should just go back to pre-9/11/2001 security screening but with reinforced cockpit doors, OK. But that shouldn’t be your reason for opposing a technology that will make everyone’s lives a whole lot easier.

        1. You’ve skipped one option: airport security based on proven techniques. Why can’t America look at what other countries have done, and seen what works well? This applies to counter-terrorism strategies in general, too.

        2. Even if you pick option 2 or 3, all you get is 1. However with options other than 1 you can always tell yourself after something happens that it couldn’t have happened here in US/Germany/UK/Whatever because we have this or that security policy…

          Of course with options other than 1 you also get used to the idea that the guy in the uniform has to be obeyed without question. If not for your own safety, at least be a man and do it for the safety of others.

  41. I’m not a bit afraid. And in fact, now that I’ve lost 25 pounds working out over the last 4 months, I think I look pretty good. When I go through the scanner I’m going to flex it up!

  42. Not just airports – they’re already manufacturing mobile vans that scan cars and houses (with a considerably higher radiation level than the airport machines – and those were just recently announced to have an effective level about 20 times what we’ve been told previously). And they’re already talking about scanners for malls, stadiums and other major public gathering places.
    And none if has anything to do with actual safety – only with making the public more docile and compliant than the sad state the general population is already in.

    Man, i miss America…

  43. Trains are still a fairly pleasant and less expensive alternative for travel within the continental US.

  44. I won’t submit to either one just like that pilot did. I don’t have a job. I don’t have anything to lose. At age 36 I plan to take one more flight in my life next summer, to Fiji, where I’m building a $10K USD retirement home near the beach and I will never fly, or for that matter drive, again.

  45. I faced them twice last month at the El Paso airport. I saw the attention someone got for opting out, and decided that I wasn’t in the mood to make a moral stand.

    I think we should start distributing a meme about how these security rules are disruptive to competition, and that we need a free market solution that allows passengers to choose whether to take flights that have security theater to get on board, or whether we’d prefer to have the cheaper cost and convenience of a pre-911 airport boarding procedure.

    If nothing else, it’d be fun to watch the cognitive dissonance play out amongst the tea party.

  46. syncretic, please humor me if you’d be so kind. Where would you draw the line? What amount of security would be too much, considering that current “improved” security methods have failed to catch exactly no terrorists beyond the standard obvious lunatics?

    1. Any technique that aims to profile the people boarding an airplane, or otherwise treat different people with different levels of suspicion, crosses a line.

      Other than that, I don’t have a bright-line test for what’s acceptable airport security and what isn’t. Strip search: too far. Sort-of-naked picture: not too far. Police-grade frisking: too far. Explosives tester: not too far. Surrendering your liquids: pointless. Surrendering your knives: ok.

      Decide on a case by case basis.

  47. If you fart during a scan, will your anus show up as expanded and open? Will they let you take a photocopy of it home with you as a souvenir?

  48. I would have thought that no serving polatition would have to be searched or scanned. They would automatically go in the “fast lane” straight to first class and bypass all the security measures.

    1. Yeah, it’s easy. Private aircraft at a private field aren’t subjected to TSA security crap. Get your own plane and pilot/license and you too can be free to travel as you wish.

      My dad works for Intel in Portland, and they have regular commuter flights to other campuses. No security – just show up 10 minutes before departure and get on the damn plane.

  49. Sure convinces *me* to fly…not.

    Between overbearing security and ridiculously small pitch between seats, I have no incentive to fly anywhere, period.

    The last time I flew, there wasn’t even sufficient room to open my laptop to a readable angle.

    I find as I get older, I am less and less willing to tolerate bad behavior by others, be they individuals or companies. And once a company pisses me off, I never spend a dime there again. I am a lost customer.

  50. I would be more in favor of tightening security, if more threats were getting through or more terrorists being caught. As it is there is not a long list of successful terrorists nor attempted terrorists foiled since 2001.

  51. “When will the government force us to go through these new machines?”

    Probably right before Americans’ use of commercial flight takes a sharp nosedive.

  52. What happens when bus terminals and trains stations become the target of desire? Back scatter to go to work? Have fun at the theatre, guys!

    Anyone have any idea how these things operate? Any way we can damage/disable them with an em pulse emitter? Cos if it’s possible, we have just discovered what to do. I can’t imagine that these things will last long if they need to be repaired every day. It’s the new-age version of filling the coin slots of parking meters with gum/glue.

  53. I don’t fly often since the attack of stupid that lead to the prohibition of water & nail scissors on planes (and I suspect the airlines lost somewhere in the vicinity of $500K just from my team’s switch to telephone and video conferencing instead of travel.

    BUT, for an enhanced pat down, might I recommend the orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally?

  54. What do you mean “when will they become mandatory?” Like all TSA policies, they’ve *always* been mandatory, even if some airports haven’t rolled them out yet. Just because I’ve been flying since the days that Bill Shatner could carry a gun on the plane to shoot the gremlin out on the wing, that doesn’t mean that they won’t claim to me that some policy that their airport started recently hasn’t *always* been policy, and don’t expect this one to be any different. And telling them “if it were national policy, it’d be on your signs” just confuses the dumb ones.

    I was flying through Kansas City recently, and asked the TSA guard “So you’ve got the naked scanners here too?”, and she unhappily said they wished people wouldn’t call them that. (After all, it’s the Midwest, and they’re still conservative about that sort of thing there.) And after I went through the naked scanner, they groped me anyway, just for fun, but the guy who did that didn’t see my conversation with the first TSA guard.

    I’ve tried to watch to see if the TSA guard operating the scanner indicates whether to send the picture to a male or female screener depending on the gender of the person being screened, and it doesn’t look like it. I tried to ask somebody that at the airports, but the person who was busy swabbing my bags for chemical explosives didn’t know. *That* would be the kind of thing that might embarrass the politicians enough to make the TSA do something about it, now that they’ve gone to all this trouble to put the TSA voyeurs far away from their victims and pretend they can’t save the pictures.

  55. Wow, this is really convincing me to never travel to the U.S. again.

    I really loved NY the last time I was there (1997), but the fact that your government could even contemplate making strip searches (digital or otherwise) a mandatory part of a tourist experience means that your country has become a really really scary place that I don’t want to visit.

    Sounds like what I would expect if I was visiting North Korea really…

  56. They are going at it all wrong. I can think of a design for a machine that is extremely cheap, and completely effective. It’s so simple, I don’t even need a drawing. I can just describe it in words. It will save billions of $$$.

    It’s a box, about 4.5 feet high, 3 feet wide, and 10 feet long. The sides are wooden. The top is a sheet of black rubber, with a hole in the center. There is a long slit from this hole, all the way to the door. You enter through a side door, with your neck in the slit. Your body is below the rubber sheet, your head is above. Then you remove all your clothes. You’re naked in public, but everyone can just see your head.

    Inside the box, there is a TSA agent. He has a light. He can see your body, but he cannot see your head. So he does not know who you are. There is a glass wall separating him from you. If he needs you to lift your testicles, he’ll tell you and you do it yourself. Once he is satisfied telling you to do unspeakable acts to yourself, you dress yourself in an airplane gown (like a hospital gown, but with buttons up front). Your clothes goes into a bag, that goes to the cargo. You pick it up at baggage claims at your destination.

  57. OK. So, we are pissed about this intrusive violation of our rights and dignity. What are we going to do about it?

    I figure that the politicians will never want to back track on safety of the people. And the company who makes the machines is making way too much money on them and probably has lots of clout.

    That leaves it up to:
    – a revolt by the people – every one stop flying.
    – a court case that works establishes a new standard for civil rights.
    – a controversy…

    Or we can collectively close our eyes as we are being violated!

  58. So, by my very rough calculations (would someone like to confirm?), these machines, once mandatory for all flights, will kill one passenger every month (through induced cancer).

    Imagine if someone was being killed each month by a passenger wielding a pen, or a toothpick, or their dental floss. How soon would they ban those things. And yet, deploy them they will.

    I’m just glad I don’t live in the USA, but I’m sure that my country will be leaned on to follow suit.

  59. I see no reports of different sex passengers being directed to male or female scanners — nor any of an agent switching transmission back and forth between (presumably) same sex remote viewers (be “funny” if the agent got one out of step on the switch).

    If only one gender (random gender?) agent views both sexes in any scanner that could be a devastatingly better line for your volunteers at the airport to coax opt outs with. At the very least somebody should tell people. I’ll bet TSA shuts down stripping and enhanced groping for the day.

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