Saturday, November 20, 2010

Airport Body Scanners

For weeks, I wasn't sure what I thought of those dandy new airport "pornocanners" but then I heard the arguments in favor of them. Mainly on their account, I decided these things should be removed and incinerated. Those arguments are so lame! For instance:

This policy was actually initiated during the Bush administration. Huh? When did Bush become the gold standard of what is just, decent, or even sane?

The alternative to the scanners is a mere back-of-the hand pat-down. Sorry, but according to this article that policy was rescinded by bureaucratic fiat last week. The alternative is now The Grope (Interesting that the photojournalist in this link had to break the law in order to get this evidence of what is actually going on.)

The policy isn't really coercive or unjust, because the alternative is merely to use some other means of transportation. It is simply a condition upon your right to get on the plane. Again, this is factually incorrect. According to the same above-linked article, if you refuse both scanner and "pat-down" you may be fined $11,000 and branded a threat to national security.

Further, even if it were factually correct, this would still be a bad argument. It would be like saying, in the event that the government subjected you to this sort of invasive procedure as a condition of walking anywhere, that you can still go by bicycle, Segue, car, etc., so this isn't coercive or unjust. The big difference between walking and flying is that, because of regulations and other coercive measures, the feds have monopoly power over access to flight. But this does not give them the moral right to do anything, in my opinion. It only gives them sheer, brute power.

But, you might be thinking, there is another difference between walking and flying: Where flying is concerned this is necessary to keep us safe. In the first place, this will not "keep you safe". These scanners will not detect explosive breast implants in women, or material packed inside the rectum (room for plenty of stuff in there!). In fact, according to a comment in this interview, the manufacturers of the scanners have admitted that their machines would not even have caught the Christmas Day underpants bomber. So forget about being "kept safe." It is a mirage. If you give up rights for that reason, you give them up in exchange for nothing.

Further, why is this "necessary"? What disaster has occurred, which these scanners are needed to prevent? Almost a year ago, a guy burned himself with a device hidden in his underpants. And, now because he burned his junk, a faceless bureaucrat can see yours. It just goes to show you, as government responds to problems, every reaction is an over-reaction.

Finally, I see one good reason to take this issue seriously. If it stays in place and becomes "the new normal," this policy could represent a significant change in the sorts of things Americans think government may legitimately do to them. If so, it may well lead to worse things in the future. If it weren't for that, I really wouldn't care about it that much.
Post a Comment