by the Night Writer
“When just one man says, ‘No, I won’t,’ Rome began to fall.”
I think just about everyone is aware by now that Homeland Security and the T&A — I mean, TSA — has decided that it can look at you naked or aggressively grope you as a prerequisite of flying from one place to another in the land of the free. With the new, so-called “Naked Scanners” TSA agents tell you to “assume the position” with your hands over your head as if you are already guilty of something. Then they irradiate your body from the front and back so they can see under your clothes to determine if you’re packing weapons, explosives or just a little too much of Grandma’s fruitcake.
Sure, you can “opt out” of sharing X-ray-ted imagesof yourself but if you do then the snap of a rubber glove signals that you are now subject to what Big Sister Janet Napolitano calls an “enhanced pat-down”, or what we used to call a “feeling up”. TSA agents used to do these with the backs of their hands but now they get to palm your inner thighs, crotch, butt-crack and breasts because that will really show the terrorists. Seriously, just think about it: we’ve had to go along with taking off our shoes, our belts, chucking our shampoo and deodorant, and now we have to submit to being molested just to fly. No wonder that all the would-be airline suicide bombers since 9/11 have been stopped not by the TSA but by pissed-off passengers. As Napolitano says, “the system works.”
The Christmas Day Knicker-bomber incident (where the nut-job’s father tried to alert the U.S. government of his son’s radical affiliations but was ignored) proved that Homeland Security can’t handle information, so they’ve decided to “handle” everything else, and they’d sure appreciate your cooperation. As Napolitano wrote in an open letter to the people who pay her salary, “We ask the American people to play an important part of our layered defense. We ask for cooperation, patience and a commitment to vigilance in the face of a determined enemy. We also ask that you turn your head and cough.” (Ok, I added a few words at the end.)
Signs are, however, that after years of progressively greater indignities the public is starting to push back. The airline pilots and flight attendants unions are protesting and now passengers are saying “you touch my junk and I’ll have you arrested.” That’s what ticketed passenger John Tyner said in San Diego the other day after “opting-out” of the Nude Scanner and being faced with a government “grip and grin”. He demurred, and also happened to record his experience with his cell-phone:
A supervisor is heard re-explaining the groin check process to Tyner then adding “If you’re not comfortable with that we can escort you back out and you don’t have to fly today.”
Tyner responded “OK, I don’t understand how a sexual assault can be made a condition of my flying.”
“This is not considered a sexual assault,” replied the supervisor, calmly.
“It would be if you were not the government,” said Tyner.
“By buying your ticket you gave up a lot of rights,” countered the TSA supervisor.
“I think the government took them away after 9/11,’ said Tyner.
“OK,” came the reply.
Mr. Tyner didn’t get to make his flight to South Dakota but he was able to upload the 30-minute audio of his encounter to YouTube.
Mr. Tyner’s decision to opt-out of the scanner treatment was based on concerns about radiation exposure. Big Sister assures us, however, that these concerns are unfounded. After all, the government has had hours to test these machines and are confident that there are no short-term or long-term effects. Hey, if you can’t trust your government, who can you trust? Big Sister even says that Johns Hopkins has signed off on the safety of these scanners. Apparently, not everyone at John Hopkins got that memo, as described in this article, Naked Scanners At US Airports May be Dangerous: Scientists:
“They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays,” Dr Michael Love, who runs an X-ray lab at the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at Johns Hopkins University school of medicine, told AFP.
“No exposure to X-ray is considered beneficial. We know X-rays are hazardous but we have a situation at the airports where people are so eager to fly that they will risk their lives in this manner,” he said.
A group of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) raised concerns about the “potential serious health risks” from the scanners in a letter sent to the White House Office of Science and Technology in April.
Biochemist John Sedat and his colleagues said in the letter that most of the energy from the scanners is delivered to the skin and underlying tissue.
“While the dose would be safe if it were distributed throughout the volume of the entire body, the dose to the skin may be dangerously high,” they wrote.
The scientists say the X-rays could pose a risk to everyone from travelers over the age of 65 to pregnant women and their unborn babies, to HIV-positive travelers, cancer patients and men.
“Men’s sexual organs are exposed to the X-rays. The skin is very thin there,” Love explained.
The Office of Science and Technology responded this week to the scientists’ letter, saying the scanners have been “tested extensively” by US government agencies and were found to meet safety standards.
But Sedat told AFP Friday: “We still don’t know the beam intensity or other details of their classified system.”
The high-handed actions of Homeland Security and the TSA have even led to calls by some for a National Opt-Out Day on Wednesday, November 24 where travelers are asked to “opt-out” of the scanner treatment and accept a public groping in order to demonstrate opposition to these unreasonable searches. As the Opt-Out Day website says:
It’s 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 goal of National Opt Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change. We have a right to privacy and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we’re guilty until proven innocent.
If you can’t avoid flying on the 24th or some other time, you might find this video helpful when someone comes up to you and says “I’m from the government and I’m here to grope you.”