I just passed through TSA security at Logan Airport, terminal C, in Boston.
There has been much hullabaloo about the backscatter X-ray machines now being widely deployed, including right here at Logan. There are multiple reasons to be concerned. If you have seen the images that result then you know they effectively show you naked (albeit with your junk squashed by your clothing). Despite reassurances from the TSA, there is no doubt that these images can be saved, nor any doubt that they will be shared at some point.
Furthermore, there is a fundamental difference between the old metal detectors (magnetometers) and this new technology, which uses ionizing radiation. In other words you are now getting a small dose of something that is quite clearly adding to your risk of cancer.
Various people have estimated the risk and of course the TSA says they are safe. However the amount, it cannot be debated that they do add risk. Physicists I trust estimate its about the same as the chance of being hit by lightning. Here’s the thing…that’s also the same as the chance of being killed in a terrorist attack. So we are not doing anything at all to increase overall safety; at best we’re shifting risk.
We can be absolutely certain that people WILL die as a result of X-rays from these devices. “So what?”, you may think. As you may be aware, you have the choice to opt out.
That is what I just did minutes ago.
I was sexually assaulted by a TSA agent.
I am not being hyperbolic. My scrotum was, four times, touched very vigorously by another man against my will.
It was explained beforehand to me that my upper thigh and everywhere else on my body would be touched. I expected what I have experienced dozens, perhaps hundred of other times, when I have been searched before, at airports and concert venues and elsewhere.
This was something altogether different. This was repeated strong touching of my groin and other areas that have been explored by no other person in my life… at least without at least dinner and a movie beforehand.
In any other context, I kid you not, this would definitely be classified as sexually assault.
The supporters of this security theater will say I had a choice, but I did not in any real way. I am traveling for work. I could choose not to work, but isn’t that like saying I could choose not to eat? I could chose not to feed my family?
I could choose to let them photograph me naked while subjecting myself to cancer risk…
..or I can be sexually assaulted.
This is no choice at all.
It it clear to me after experiencing it that this “pat down” procedure is meant to be punitive. They want to make damn sure if you opt out once, you will never do it again.
Just as I give my two year old son the false choice between “walking up by yourself to go to bed” or “having daddy help you”, the TSA is giving us the choice between naked cancer pictures and full-on sexually assault.
The government thinks we are stupid, and frankly, they are right if we keep accepting this along with the rest of the idiocy (like shoe removal) that seems to have been completely accepted by the flying public.
If I were planning to blow up an airplane then I would simply pack a bunch of explosives up my pooper and it would be undetectable by backscatter X-rays, metal detectors, and vigorous pat-downs. What will the TSA procedure be once the first terrorist does this?
This is all such obvious security theater and we all seem to know it yet we all seem to accept it.
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
He was right. We deserve neither.
Edit: This is an excellent summary of the various articles and information about the situation as it sits now from security guru Bruce Schneier:
Edit 2: This is an article from a molecular biologist how the risks could be much, much worse than the TSA is saying:
Edit 3: On the constitutionality of the scanners, and enhanced searches for those opting out: