TSA scanners not a big deal

Anita Babbitt

On Dec. 24, 2009, a young man tried to blow up a plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit. According to the Los Angeles Times, he had smuggled in a sort of incendiary device by taping it to his leg, and during the flight he tried to ignite it. Luckily, other passengers overpowered the man and the plane landed safely. This incident hastened the TSA’s decision to install full-body scanners to stop people from hiding harmful materials underneath their clothes and to detect objects that metal detectors cannot – such as plastic explosives.
The Transportation Security Administration reports that 78 airports in the United States have added the new scanners, also known as body-imaging X-ray machines. These devices allow airport security to see underneath your clothing. To ensure the privacy of individuals, faces are blanked out and the monitors are not allowed to take pictures of people unless they pose a threat.
The three main arguments against the TSA scanners are that they are violating our privacy; they are giving out a small dose of radiation; and if one refuses to go through, he or she must submit to a very thorough pat down or be kicked out of the airport.
It is understandable that people are protesting against being seen without clothing. Knowing a complete stranger is looking at your naked body is unsettling. But by blanking-out faces and prohibiting photography, the TSA seems to be taking steps to ensure that no one feels violated by this machine and to assure people that this process will help prevent terrorism.
If no one is seeing my face, I don’t think it is such a big deal since they cannot personalize the body they are scanning. The people monitoring the scanner are sitting away from you in a room by themselves so they cannot connect a face to the body. Also, the people put in charge of the monitoring are professionals and are probably not interested in exploiting the privacy of others.
Body-imaging X-ray machines do release a dose of radiation, but the dose is so small, according to the Food and Drug Administration, that a person would have to walk through the scan 1,000 times in a year to get the maximum allowable dose for the public. I do not think anyone is going to go to the airport over 1,000 times in one year. Besides, riding in an aircraft exposes you to more radiation than this machine does.
If you refuse to go through these scanners, airport security will ask you to step aside so they can give you a pat down. This pat down includes touching private areas, says U.S. News & World Report. This seems very invasive, but if you are refusing to go through the TSA scanner, they have to take precautions and make sure that you are not hiding something underneath your clothes. It may seem like either way security is violating passenger privacy, but this is what happens when terrorism hits our airports.
My mother has gone through the machine a few times at the O’Hare airport, and says it is very simple. They ask you to stand with your feet apart and put your hands on your head like reindeer antlers. After a few seconds it is over. I would much rather go through this than be touched in private places by a random person.
I know many people wonder how far the government will go to violate our rights in order to insure our safety, but there is a reason for this madness. They are trying to do everything they can to stop acts of terrorism, and isn’t that what all of us have been asking them to do?
My brother was on the same exact Amsterdam to Detroit flight the day before the attempted terrorist attack happened. If he were on that plane and the man had been successful, I would have been devastated. It eases me to know that the government is doing all it can to keep us safe and prevent our loved ones from getting hurt.