I looked into this and was astonished and infuriated at what I found. The Transportation Security Administration, which is the federal agency performing security checks at airports since 2001, has obtained and deployed at U.S. airports high-resolution machines that emit radiation over your skin surfaces and use the reflections to provide a highly detailed image of your naked body. They use this to see if there are any “igniters” coming out of your private parts, which would indicate the presence of a body cavity bomb.
If the screener cannot get a clear shot of those parts of you, as is the case with certain types of underwear or feminine hygiene products, you are further manually examined — the screener feels your private parts, and in some cases has gone inside underwear to probe. Women’s breasts are also being screened and imaged for bomb implants, and if anything looks unusual, those are also manually examined for unnatural substances.
Because of lack of training and/or machine problems, a large number of people scanned are also groped.
Those who refuse to be scanned are also groped following the procedures above.
The indecency of this invasion of privacy, of the humiliation of those being examined, is matched only by its illegality. The Fourth Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights in our US Constitution, part of the agreement between the states and the federal government created after the revolutionary war against England. It details what the federal government can and cannot do.
After all, the states had rid themselves of one tyranny and did not want to create another. The Fourth Amendment spells out clearly the limits of federal power over our personal privacy. The Fourth Amendment states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
This explicitly prohibits any federal agency from performing random strip searches, which is what those airport machines are doing, and it explicitly prohibits them from searching your groin, as they are now doing at airports, without any court order or warrant detailing exactly what the probable cause is for the target person to be searched.
TSA claims it can violate the Constitution because these steps are “necessary.” The disturbing thing is that the TSA simply violated the Constitution on its own, via presidential order from President Obama. The authority for this didn’t come from Congress — TSA did not seek any political agreement from the people. If a federal agency can do whatever it wants whenever it wants because of “necessity,” we are all in deep trouble.
The head of the TSA, John Pistole, says these machines and procedures are coming to train stations, subways, buses, sports events and other venues. Mobile vans are already patrolling streets, scanning cars and pedestrians.
The TSA claims “necessity” requires it to violate our Constitutional rights, yet Israeli airports do not have a single one of these machines. There is no terrorist target on Earth more desirable than Israel, yet the Israelis don’t use them because the Israelis say they don’t work — they can be easily defeated.
Now news reports are coming out that lobbyists for the companies that make these nude body scanners have paid huge sums to influence Congress to pay for the machines.
The degree of effectiveness for the strip-search machines? Zero, according to the head of El Al, the Israeli airline. And for this we are to surrender one of our most cherished rights?
And if we allow them to take that crucial one, other rights will also be taken from us, as “needed.”
Please call your congressman, senators and state politicians and tell them to stand up for us and force the TSA to stop violating the U.S. Constitution, our dignity and our privacy.
They will listen and want to hear from you on this issue.
• Doug Anderson is a resident of Tracy.