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Airport security making us the United States of ‘Afraid’


Courtesy of MCT

I’m tired of living in “Afraid,” America.

The latest manifestation of our corporate fear is in the current debate over pat- downs vs. full body scanning machines at the airport. The Transportation Security Administration recently admitted their newest version of the pat-down is more invasive than the old version. In other words there is a strong probability they will “touch your junk.”

If you get the golden ticket of suspicion at the airport and you opt for the full body scanner, a machine will show everything from love handles on men to cup sizes on women. And there is some probability that a negligent technician might forget to erase your image. They are supposed to erase it, but stories have already hit the news cycle in which, oops, someone forgot.

Granted, the image of you in your birthday suit may not be identifiable to many people. But still, isn’t it creepy to know that your image might be out there somewhere, perhaps traded via cellphone snapshot by some happy-go-lucky TSA employees, and there’s nothing you can do about it? When you submit to a full body scan you basically say, “It’s alright. You can look at me naked in order to prove I am not guilty.”

That’s not patriotism. It’s an invasion of privacy and the Fourth Amendment supposedly protects your privacy.

Do you remember how the United States of Afraid started? Of course you do. We were attacked. It was brutal. The attack deserved a response and we responded. Our troops went into Afghanistan to catch Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. We never found bin Laden, though we were close to capturing him once, but our leaders decided we needed to stay in Afghanistan to eliminate al-Qaeda and keep looking for him. That was going to make us safe, they said. That response was going to make us less afraid.

Then our leaders decided what we really needed to do to make us all safer and less the United States of Afraid was to invade Iraq. How did they talk us into capitulating to this idea? With more talk of things we need to be afraid of; weapons of mass destruction, mushroom clouds, chemical weapons and things buried in the sand. Start a war to prevent a war.

It was not pointed out to us until much later that Iraq did not even have the army, navy or air force equipment to fight us here. And remember, we invaded Iraq, not an al-Qaeda stronghold in Iraq. Not Taliban or al-Qaeda training camps in Iraq, because there were none, but just plain old Iraq; a sovereign nation. A nation whose leaders most of us disagreed with on every level but still, it is a sovereign nation. Most of us also disagree with Kim Jong Il of North Korea on every level but you won’t see anyone in Washington saber-rattling to invade his nation.

Washington not only tells us to be afraid, but chooses who we should be most afraid of this year. It’s not North Korea’s turn.

So, are we less afraid yet? Have these two wars made us feel safer yet? They haven’t made the TSA feel safer yet – that’s obvious.

We have thrown away our right to privacy as a sacrifice on this holy pyre of fear.

Washington didn’t ask us to do anything positive to help fight this war. They didn’t ask us to buy war bonds to help pay off our war debt. Instead they ask us to get naked in the scanner.

Washington didn’t ask us to start growing victory gardens, or install solar panels to save energy so we don’t need to worry about oil from the Middle East anymore, or to write letters to our troops, or to register on a safe-flyer list voluntarily so they can track us all with technology when we travel.

Any and all of those steps would help us in the war on terror. The safe-flyer list especially is a pro-active way to let airlines know who we are, where we’re from, and why we’re safe passengers. Such a list would preserve our right to privacy.

It’s time to rethink and redesign our airport security policies. The government should be able to use its current data about me to confirm who I am, where I travel and why.

Moreover, why can’t TSA simply have an explosives sniffing dog at every airport?

If those dogs can smell cocaine, marijuana, and explosives, wouldn’t every airport want one of them?

Couldn’t an explosive sniffing dog have smelled out the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber before they got on their planes? No machine, and not even some pat-downs, could have found the underwear bomber. But a well-trained dog could.

We’ve had ten years of terror. But mostly it’s been ten years of terrorizing ourselves or having our leaders terrorize us. Ten years, billions of dollars spent, thousands of soldiers killed and wounded, and now TSA tells us they are so very afraid that they must take away our Fourth Amendment rights as the only solution to their fear.

We have been given over to so much fear that we are willing to give up our constitutional rights, the very rights our military fought for and died for over the last two centuries, because our leaders can’t figure out a way to acknowledge that we are innocent until proven guilty, even in an airport.

Karoline Steavenson

I have a life story that probably could be made into a book but since I value my privacy I'm not going to write it. However, as I was living my own unique life story I began to get interested in the stories of others, and that's part of what led me to journalism. In a past life I was a stay-at-home mom caring for my former spouse and our three children. Then I became a single parent and did that for 14 years while earning a BA from CSU Fullerton and a Multiple Subject teaching credential from CSULA. My oldest daughter is in grad school studying Library Science. My second daughter is a college grad and is a manager for Target, Inc. My youngest, my son, is a 2nd year student at a local community college. He also plays a mean guitar in a band and writes concert reviews occasionally for a local blog.

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  1. don't touch my junk Dec 6, 2010

    Dope and bomb detecting dogs are accurate only about 1/3 of the time so that really isn’t an option. Re: the body cavity searches, there probably is some protocol they would follow, but that would be conducted by law enforcement after some lawful arrest.

    The current methods including the enhanced pat-down and body image scanning are equally ineffective. The enhanced pat-down was implemented because the terrorists knew that passengers’ groin/crotch area were not thoroughly checked; thus they sent the so-called “underwear bomber” last Christmas.

    To counter the enhanced pat-down, all the terrorists need to do is send a bomber with a pound or two of C4 shoved up his ****. These **** bombers would easily pass the enhanced pat-down and body image scanner. The only way to detect explosives inside ones’ **** is to use a very expensive scanner where the person enters a chamber and the air inside the chamber is sampled for known explosives. These are already in use in Europe.

  2. Todd H. Eastman Dec 6, 2010

    An excellent and well written article that I fully agree with. A few other things to consider:

    Although I disagree with what wikileaks did, I worry about how our government is responding to it. Will our freedom of speech be next on the block?

    People joke about “body cavity” searches being next. I don’t know the details, but I can guarantee you that somewhere, there already exists documentation that dictates how and when a body cavity search CAN be conducted.

    In my day, people who were willing to sit in dark secluded rooms, looking at naked human bodies – were called perverts. Now we call them government employees, pay them good wages with benefits, and tell us that we are safer.

  3. Anonymous Dec 6, 2010

    Hear, hear! The TSA’s abuses are unconscionable and I for one intend to fight this mass molestation with every weapon I can muster. I will never line up to invite an undereducated goon stare at my body through my clothes or get his hands up between my legs. Fight! Fight! Our bodies are our own!

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