Uncle Sam, meet Uncle TSA

As if the TSA couldn’t get any creepier, today they announced they’re changing their name to Uncle TSA. – Conan O’Brien via twitter.

Image from yipe of flickr.com

It’s not often that the Tea Party Nation and I can agree on something, so could somebody check to see if hell just froze over?

I’ve been thinking about TSA’s more vigorous security measures and I’ve decided that I have expectations about privacy and guilt vs. innocence that were formed in the 70’s and I’m not going to let go of them just yet. That’s my gut talking. But my head is also saying “You need to have ‘just cause’ to do a strip search “. I wonder about my peers…

Am I out here in left field alone without even two liberals to rub together? The answer is, no.  Look at who put out the following stories. Boing Boing & Gothamist don’t attract Palin fans:

  • A woman is vulva-searched by 2 female TSA agents due to the presence of a menstrual pad that blocked the scanner. Following, she is moved to tears and has what sounds like a flashback to a sexual assault. From Boing Boing
  • Gothamist has several tales including 3 vulva grabs, 1 medical bag broken, and a prosthetic breast removal.
Image from phidauex of flickr.com

Nary an anti-Obama screed in evidence at those sites, unless you count this:  “Mr Obama – step up and remove this silliness!”

You could say quite rightly that there are plenty of people unruffled by having their privates ruffled or scanned.

But, please don’t dismiss the reasons that others object to mandatory TSA body scans or pat downs:

1) Mandatory virtual strip searches are unconstitutional. “In a 2006 opinion for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, then-Judge Samuel Alito stressed that screening procedures must be both “minimally intrusive” and “effective” – in other words, they must be “well-tailored to protect personal privacy,” and they must deliver on their promise of discovering serious threats. Alito upheld the practices at an airport checkpoint where passengers were first screened with walk-through magnetometers and then, if they set off an alarm, with hand-held wands. He wrote that airport searches are reasonable if they escalate “in invasiveness only after a lower level of screening disclose[s] a reason to conduct a more probing search.”

Image from Flywithdignity.org

2)  Neither pat downs or the scanning technology will catch a swallowed explosive and detonator.

3) I simply do not want to experience increased pressure to submit to pat downs or naked imaging to move around the United States.  I can locate no evidence that the U.S. plans to use these same procedures on trains, subways, etc. outside of dubious sources.  However, I don’t want that door to even open.

4) Graft. It does not ease my mind to know that former Head of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff was advocating for the purchase and use of body scanners that were made by a company his security company stood to profit from.

5) Safety questions. U. of California at San Francisco scientists have voiced some concern over use of x-ray scanners since these machines were tested in a John Hopkins Lab and not tested in the field before use and there could be a malfunction that would give a passenger an unusually high dose of radiation. In contrast the “millimeter” infrared machines do not cause any radiation risk to passenger health.

Image from cjbee1012 of flickr.com

6) The ACLU doesn’t like the TSA’s tactics either: “This doesn’t only concern genitals but body size, body shape and other things like evidence of mastectomies, colostomy appliances or catheter tubes. These are very personal things that people have every right to keep private and personal, aside from the modesty consideration of not wanting to be naked.” As of Nov 24th, ACLU had received 900 complaints about TSA’s “enhanced” screenings. They began in October.

And what is our President’s response to the growing unrest on TSA’s tactics?

“Every week I meet with my counterterrorism team and I’m constantly asking them whether … what we’re doing absolutely necessary,” the President went on. “Have we thought it through? Are there other ways of accomplishing it that meet the same objectives?

I think the answer will have to be “yes”.

For more about this issue including a forum, see FlyersRights.org, for a great personal essay, see  Roger Ebert’s blog, and Jeffrey Goldberg recorded a hilarious conversation with a TSA guard along with his conclusions.

3 thoughts on “Uncle Sam, meet Uncle TSA

  1. Great post. Couldn’t agree with you more. It’s so disturbing to hear about the inappropriate searches and how they cause passengers to have flashbacks to sexual assaults. No one should have to be made to feel that way. There has to be a better way.

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