Help Stop Virtual Strip-search Legislation

By:  Ann Shibler

altOh yes, those legislative busybody scanners are at it again, mandating that full-body imaging x-ray devices be installed in every airport in the nation by 2013, under the illusory premise of increasing safety.

This is another unconstitutional tactic that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to, but that doesn’t bother Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) who introduced S. 3536, the Securing Aircraft From Explosives Responsibly: Advanced Imaging Recognition Act of 2010, (SAFER AIR Act). “To enhance aviation security and protect personal privacy, and for other purposes,” is the leading line of the SAFER AIR bill text.

The goal of the bill must be “for other purposes,” because there will be no personal privacy when more and more travelers, both adults and children, are singled out for an extra security check that is in reality a revealing sneak peek at their anatomy, minus their clothes. Spending millions and millions of taxpayer dollars on more machines will do little to “enhance aviation security,” either, as it as already been established that the Detroit bomber’s explosives would not have been detected by such a machine, and even firecrackers have been missed.

The facts remain the same: Having a complete stranger view your almost-naked body is a violation of your privacy and civil rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. Adult and child images have been saved on these machines, even though DHS policy already forbids such practices. A weak reiteration of this policy in new legislation will have zero effect in curbing existing abuses and securing these images that are recorded and stored in the machines -- machines that also have the ability to transfer those images at the click of a button. And transfer them they will, between themselves, as it says in the text of the bill:

An image produced using advanced imaging technology that shows personal or nonstandardized images shall be transferred using a secure connection to a location that enables an employee of the Department of Homeland Security to view the image without risking the exposure of the image to the public.

There is also the question of health concerns over the radiation exposure, especially for frequent fliers, or anyone with medical problems, prostheses, etc.

Oh sure, the bill contains pathetic attempts to include privacy clauses. One section forbids TSA personnel from having cameras near the machinery, but they really wouldn’t need this precaution because apparently the screeners are adept at saving and transferring nude images generated by these devices, having practiced on 35,000 of them already. Passengers specially picked for extra attention can always opt out of the machine scanning and instead choose the ever popular personal groping session by a person of the same sex, if one is available.

Now how much will all this cost?  Well it seems there is no set amount being appropriated for a practice that will visit more and more indignities on the flying public, and make further inroads upon the once-sacred civil liberties of the people: “There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out this Act and the amendments made by this Act,” are the final words of the bill.

A CNET News article, "Senators rebuke Marshals Service on full-body scans," August 19, 2010, provided this updated information about this issue:

Six U.S. senators delivered a sharp rebuke to the U.S. Marshals Service on Thursday, saying that they were "disturbed" to learn that thousands of images produced by full-body scanners at security checkpoints were surreptitiously recorded....

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, recently obtained a letter (PDF) from the Marshals Service admitting to storing images through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

"I really think the body scanner program is in trouble," EPIC Director Marc Rotenberg told CNET on Thursday. "It was never very well thought out. It's easy to defeat — through explosives in body cavities — and the privacy and health risks are real."

Best thing to do with this legislation is contact your senators and tell them to throw out S. 3536 when it comes before them for the sake of real privacy, health, safety, and freedom.

Currently S. 3536 sits in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Urging these committee members to drop the legislation now would save a lot of time and trouble down the road.

Democratic members of the committee are Senators Rockefeller, W.V.; Inouye, Hawaii; Kerry, Mass.; Dorgan, N.D.; Boxer, Calif.; Nelson, Fla.; Cantwell, Wash.; Lautenberg, N.J.; Pryor, Ar.; McCaskill, Mo.; Klobuchar, Minn.; Udall, N.M.; Warner, Va.; and Begich, Alaska.  The Republican senators who sit on the committee are: Hutchison, Texas; Snowe, Maine; Ensign, N.V.; DeMint, S.C.; Thune, S.D.; Wicker, Miss.; LeMieux, Fla.; Isakson, Ga.; Vitter, La.; Brownback, Kansas; and Johanns, Neb.

Click here to send an email to both of your senators in opposition to S. 3536, the SAFER AIR Act.

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