I’m not sure the government was prepared for the backlash it’s getting on the new body scanning machines at airports. More specifically, they weren’t prepared for the backlash to the fully-body pat-downs the TSA requires people to undergo if they refuse to submit to the machine.
One passenger, John Tyner, apparently got in trouble for telling a federal Transportation Security Administration worker, “If you touch my junk, I’m gonna have you arrested.”(Read about this and the government’s explanations here.) In Germany, some people recently organized a public disrobing at an airport to protest the machines (I’m not sure I understand the logic).
There are two sides to consider here. The first is that terrorists obviously are still looking for ways to blow up airplanes, and the government has an interest in staying a step ahead of the bad guys.
But the second is that any free society will have to accept certain risks in exchange for freedom. We could have a much lower crime rate if authorities strip-searched everyone on sidewalks at certain intervals, or required everyone to wear ankle bracelets that track their every move. We could station cops outside every bar to test the alcohol levels of anyone who attempts to drive away.
The reasons we don’t do all this may have to do with limited resources, but it also has to do with the idea that we are willing to put up with some risks in return for freedom of movement.
The question is whether the public would put up with greater risks in the air. After all, only a very small percentage of flights has been attacked by terrorists in the history of aviation. A flight from Salt Lake to Denver probably isn’t going to be a target for bombers. And even with the less-effective scanning devices, authorities or alert passengers have managed to thwart every plot in this country since 9/11.
The Constitution protects us against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Do you forfeit that when you decide to fly? Are these searches unreasonable?
My guess is they come awfully close to that. Passengers are clearly uncomfortable with this. There ought to be less intrusive ways to check for bombs.
What do you think?