Pressure on full body scanners mounting in US
Our intrepid author actually experienced a full body scanner for the first time about ten days ago, at London Heathrow. Selection of passengers for body scanning is supposedly carried out on a random basis in the UK, although we feel bound to note that there did seem to be a certain inevitability in the subjection of someone who writes about civil liberties should be subjected to the process.
The experience itself was not unpleasant, and the staff were generally friendly. None of which invalidates concerns about the safety and intrusive nature of the scans. In the US, where the use of scanners is more highly controversial, and far more a matter of public debate, than in the UK, witnesses have recently testified before a house subcommittee that scanners are ‘ineffective, invasive, unconstitutional, and possibly unhealthy’.
A groundswell of distaste and revulsion towards the use of full body scanners seems to be taking place, with witnesses at the hearing including a state legislator and a professor. Fred H. Cate, the professor and director of the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University, seems particularly blessed with a mine of pithy comments illustrating the worthlessness of the scanners.
They frequently detect his insulin pump as ‘an anomaly’, causing him to be subjected to a full-body — including his genitals — pat down. Despite this unsought intimate connection with TSA officers, his main complaint is that the supposedly enhanced security measures contribute so little to actual security. Cate testified that, after an agent from the TSA examines his insulin pump, he “has no better idea than he did at the beginning whether the pump is loaded with insulin or high-tech explosives.”
The full body scanner backlash is growing in strength — perhaps especially so in the US because passing through a scanner or undergoing an extremely thorough patdown is compulsory for all travellers. We’ll keep you updated as the story unfolds.