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Attack of the full-body scanners

November 30, 2010 - Mary Ann Heath
It’s like a bad dream. You know, the one where you’ve gone to work, or school, or some other public place naked. Only this time you’re at the airport, walking through a rather large device. You look down and realize that you, in fact, do have clothes on. It’s only a full-body scanner that has produced an “anatomically detailed digital image” for security to ensure you’re not smuggling something dangerous. Oh, and you’re not dreaming. Welcome to the 21st Century; the post 9-11 era, where in the eyes of airport security, we’re all trapped in the naked nightmare.

To be honest, prior to the “don’t touch my junk” incident I hadn’t payed much attention to the new, controversial body scanners installed at airports, or the “aggressive pat-downs” necessary in some situations. I wondered whether the fuss was more of a health issue — which has been debunked — or an invasion of privacy?

It appears it’s both. The true question, however, is how far Americans will go in the name of security? If the trends of the most-recent holiday are any indication — we’ll go pretty darn far to ensure explosives, etc., don’t end up on our airlines once again.

The Food and Drug Administration and the American College of Radiology have both said body scans pose no health risk. They even said a traveler would get more radiation from a short flight than the new scans.

On my most-recent vacation in mid-October, I paid more attention to the time, hunger pains and bathroom stops than to airport security. If I walked through a new scanner, I had no idea. Although now, it does seem a tad embarrassing. Necessary? Perhaps.

I never flew prior to the terrorist attacks. I don’t know what it would have been like to make it all the way to the airport gate without being searched a few times. On my first flight, security rifled through my bags. On my second, I was searched with a handheld metal detector.

Now, of course, we have to carefully weigh our bags and make sure all fluids are properly packed, and less than a few ounces.

Is it a hassle? Yes. Is a necessary hassle? I think most Americans would agree it is. Screening methods are obtrusive, no doubt. But, what are the alternatives? The U.S. put stricter screening methods into place after 9-11, but the “undewear bomber” still made it through last Christmas.

I am probably more sensitive about personal space than the average person, but, I would much rather get on a flight knowing every passenger was subjected to the same screening than wonder whether it was safe at all.


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