TSA Backlash Grows Over Leaked Body Scans, Many Other Scandals

Open-hand groping, suing a passenger who refused a pat-down, more

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It's difficult to catalog all of the myriad controversies besieging the Transportation Security Administration this week, but the biggest seems to be the new policy forcing select passengers to choose between an open-palm, very invasive pat-down or a full-body scan that produces a very detailed image of your most private regions. There's also the 35,000 full-body-scan images that some officials in Florida kept despite rules requiring the images be immediately deleted, the threatened $11,000 lawsuit against a man who refused to have his groin patted down, the insistence on applying both the basically-nude scans and the invasive pat-downs to children, and the call for boycotting TSA body-scans by the 11,000-strong pilots union. In other words, it's bad. Here are the jokes and, mostly, the outrage.

  • Leaked Images Belie Our Implicit Pact with TSA  Gizmodo's Joel Johnson writes, "At the heart of the controversy over 'body scanners' is a promise: The images of our naked bodies will never be public." But the Florida marshals who saved 35,000 of those images, suggesting that promise may be a lie. "That we can see these images today almost guarantees that others will be seeing similar images in the future. If you're lucky, it might even be a picture of you or your family."
  • Are These Scanners Really Safe?  Liberal blogger John Aravosis finds reason in the leaked body-scan images to wonder about the scanners' potential health impact. "I did notice something weird. Why does the scanner seem to be scanning people who aren't even in it?  Note how the device is recording the image of people standing in line to get into the scanner in the photos below. They're not in the scanner, but it's picking them up. It even picked up the security guy with his wand. ... I'm sure there's no radiation leakage from a device that can pick you up from ten feet away."
  • TSA Backlash Reaches Congress, National Groups  Wired's Kim Zetter writes, "a growing movement among pilot associations and traveler rights groups suggests the TSA is under increasing pressure to reconsider [its policies]. Several groups have called for a National Opt-Out day on Nov. 24, traditionally the busiest travel day of the year, to protest the TSA’s attempt to force passengers to undergo invasive scans or face an intrusive pat-down. The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is also holding a hearing on Wednesday to discuss TSA oversight. Privacy groups such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center are seeking a court order to halt the use of invasive scanners, saying the scanners are illegal and violate passenger privacy."
  • This Isn't TSA's Fault  The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, leading the charge against TSA practices perhaps more than any other journalist, takes the broad view. "Yes, it's true -- it's not the TSA's fault, all of this airport security craziness. The TSA is a government bureaucracy within a larger government bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security, and both organizations have as their mission the protection of American citizens from terrorism. They are going to do whatever they believe it will take, and is legal, to keep Americans safe. That is their bureaucratic imperative. But it is the mission of the President, and of the Congress, to supervise and monitor these bureaucracies, to hold them back when their mission comes into conflict with other missions, such as the protection of the privacy of American citizens."
  • Is Flying Still Worth It?  Outside the Beltway's Steven Tyler wonders, "The more I hear and read about the options being presented to air travelers:  allow a full body scan that shows all the intimate details of one’s anatomy or allowing a stranger in a a uniform to grope my nether regions, the angrier it makes me, to be honest.  Thankfully I usually only fly maybe once or twice a year.  Quite frankly it is all enough to make me rethink whether flying at all is worth it."
  • This Is Not Good Counterterrorism  The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg discussed these practices on The Colbert Report, noting, "If you're fighting terrorism at the airport gate, it's too late." In other words, formal counterterrorism agencies from the FBI to the CIA and beyond are going to be much more effective at detecting and stopping a terrorist plot than these TSA procedures.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.