X-Ray, Invasive Patdown or old status quo?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by KnightWriter, Nov 16, 2010.

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  1. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/11/15/20101115airport-security-complaints.html

    I think there are going to be some major problems this holiday season as a lot of people fly for the first time since more invasive procedures took effect. There are reports of young children essentially being groped by the pat-down procedure, which I think is a far-ranging problem in its own right, as children who have been told that they should never let themselves be touched in that area are touched by people in an authority position not likely discussed by any parent. Parents must also contend with being forced to allow it to happen, or face x-ray machines that have yet to be fully evaluated and understood with regard to health risks.

    I think that some people who would nominally be in favor of invasive procedures will find their minds changed if they go through a pat-down, or know that they are being x-rayed and examined in full anatomic detail. Patrick Smith wrote a terrific column here about past terrorism and our saner responses in times gone by, and another one here about the security procedures he's had to deal with as a pilot. He's previously written about accidentally tripping an airport security system by walking through the wrong door out of fatigue. He wrote that a security guard walked over, reset it, and nothing else happened. Nowadays, airports get shut down for less.

    What is the point where Americans collectively say, "enough!"? I think we may be approaching that point soon.

    Story about boy being invasively patted down.

    Jeffrey Goldberg column on the new policy, based on firsthand experience.

    Letter of concern about x-ray machines.
  2. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    I'd say he's entirely right. We've abandoned all perspective from 2001 up to now. For example, realistically speaking, a plane will not be hijacked with a box cutter again. Confiscating nail clippers isn't needed when a plane won't get taken down by a box cutter, let alone nail clippers.
    Not to mention that the next step, with a terrorism precedent, is cavity searches at random after instances like this where bombs have been inside the body cavity.

    There's a difference between addressing obvious loopholes and creating a system where everyone has to go through embarrassing or unhealthy situations over the risk of terrorism, even though that's not a large risk. I think this absolutely is one of those "the terrorists win" sorts of situations when we restrict our freedoms out of fear. It wasn't justified when it was the Patriot Act taking overarching moves, and it's not justified here.

    I don't like that my phone calls have been monitored, I don't like that I get treated like I've done something wrong nearly every time I've gone to the airport in the last three years.
  3. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    Remember, more Americans died from dog bites in 2009 than from terrorism. Infectious diseases acquired from hospital stays kill tens of thousands of people a year, and auto accidents do the same. Not remotely the same resources being directed to those problems.
  4. yankee8255 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 6
    this is the thing that always gets me about the response to 9/11 -- if the security measures already in place at the time had actually been followed (ie airport security personnel had actually done their jobs!), the whole thing wouldn't have happened.

    I remember flying to Rhodes in 2003, all baggage, both checked and carry on, had to be put through a scanner upon entering the airport. great, except that the security guy was carrying on a conversation with an attractive co-worker the entire time rather than looking at the frakkin' monitor.

    To put it another way, you can search my body cabities all you want, if you aren't actually looking at what you're searching, you are going to find anything.
  5. JediSmuggler Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 5, 1999
    star 5
    There is just one other factor to consider:
    Can we find a better way to stop a terrorist from getting on a plane? We already know that a terrorist is willing to hide a bomb in his underwear (we know they have tried that at least once now, and the only reason 288 innocents on board weren't killed on Flight 253 was because the bomb didn't work), and we also know that if at first they do not succeed, they will try again. Will they try to sneak someone with PETN in their underwear again? It's a pretty safe bet,

    There is a reasonable case to be made for improving the scanning technology. The scanners are perfectly legitimate. It's a bad situation, but someone sneaking a bomb through and blowing a plane out of the sky is a lot worse than these scanners. As long as the images are deleted after someone is cleared to board, I do not see an issue.

    That said, I think patting down nuns or blue-haired grandmothers or anyone is not reasonable, unless the scanner finds something.
  6. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    Smuggler: It is highly possible that the scanners are not safe. You are also not considering that the scanners are a virtual strip search, and that the images have been saved, despite previous assurances that this would not be the case.

    What happens if it turns out, as indicated by the scientists above, that the scanners are harmful and millions of people have been exposed to destructive radiation? Who compensates them/us?

    Life is not without risk, and at some point we need to accept some of that risk as part of traveling and living.
  7. DarthIktomi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2009
    star 4
    Worst of all, the X-ray would likely not even have found the underwear bomber's bomb. Seriously?
  8. firesaber Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 5, 2006
    star 3
    This will always be a double edged sword. There are two main points which drive this fiasco and they are this:

    1. The average american does not want to be slowed down or inconvienced or have to pay any more than they have to for anything, especially security and safety.

    2. The average american will go bat **** crazy when something like a terrorist incident happens and will rail against the winds as to why wasn't enough done, why didn't we prevent this.

    A given fact of living in an "open and free" society is that you are going to have holes that any remotely educated and highly motivated individual or group will exploit to meet thier goals of nefariousness. That being said though are some much simpler things that can be done to add security, which yes will cost money but won't violate the constitution.

    First off the average TSA screener makes 13.00 dollars an hour to start. Yes, your front line defense force makes peanuts. Pay them on par for what they are actually worth as the front line defense, and offer bonuses or other incentives when actual contraband, weapons etc are found by them and confisicated.

    Hire enough security personnel, Air Marshals etc to do the job. For the love of God, after 9/11 Coast Guardsmen were filling as Air Marshals. I'm sure it has gotten better since but it still shows that we were excessively lax to begin with and I feel confident that there still are not enough of them.

    Tighten the immigration/visitation measures. I'm currently in Saudi Arabia and this place is pretty much in the stone age in alot of respects but when i got here I was finger printed and had my photo taken by immigration officials and this was on top of the photos/fingerprints used to get my Visa. It was a nice back stop and would go along way to establishing a visa obtained fraudently and if anything illegal were done my vitals are on file and I'd be pretty easy to find.

    I'm not in favor of the scanners or the frisking, but at least it's being done across the board and we are not singling out any one group of people. And to play devils advocate about the pilot who said pilots aren't the threat maybe he is right, and maybe he is not. I'm sure an Army Major stationed at a US Army Base wasn't the threat historically either, but guess what? He was pretty effective in wasting a bunch of good people.

    As for the parent who taught little johnny he shouldn't be touched there, he should maybe educate his son about the Police and what may happen someday if he's stopped by them and why the frisks are done. Maybe the truama would have been less.

    All that being said, we have to stop being reactionary to every tactic thrown against us by those that want to cause us harm. If we are proactive in the first place with the proper amount and type of dilligent personnel and technology we'd be way more ahead of the game than we are now.
  9. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    I'm not in favor of the scanners or the frisking, but at least it's being done across the board and we are not singling out any one group of people

    That's a big problem: As James Fallows wrote, this is unsustainable. You cannot treat hundreds of millions of Americans the same way and as equivalent threats. It just doesn't and will not work.

    As for the parent who taught little johnny he shouldn't be touched there, he should maybe educate his son about the Police and what may happen someday if he's stopped by them and why the frisks are done.

    It clearly is completely unnecessary in the first place, and obviously with the procedures being new, there was no way to discuss it in advance. Also, there are adults who feel sexually assaulted after being heavily patted down, despite knowing what it is for. How can children cope with it while having far less mental and emotional resources in place?

    You can't stop every threat and sometimes, bad people get through and do bad things. That's life.
  10. firesaber Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 5, 2006
    star 3
    You are indeed correct
  11. Espaldapalabras Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2005
    star 5
    That's a big problem: As James Fallows wrote, this is unsustainable. You cannot treat hundreds of millions of Americans the same way and as equivalent threats. It just doesn't and will not work.

    Which is why I am all in favor of common sense profiling. I was listening to NPR and they had some story about an Iraqi born Canadian rap artist from Dubai complaining about the increased scrutiny he received at border crossings and airports in the US. If I grow a beard and start walking around Salt Lake with veiled young women, I hope the police have the guts to force them to take off their face coverings.
  12. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    You support mandatory random cavity searches, then, as terrorists have a track record of having explosives within someone's body?
  13. JediSmuggler Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 5, 1999
    star 5
    If you had actually read the post, I said the scanners were OK. I do NOT support the random pat-downs.

    And, if you and KW are so determined to criticize the status quo, then maybe you DO need to come up with an alternative.

    I'll trade away the scanners, but the only alternative I see would be profiling.
  14. Quixotic-Sith Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2001
    star 6
    I don't see any added benefit to the scanners. Densometers and magnetometers are perfectly fine, so I don't see why full-body scanners are needed or more effective (I have yet to see any numbers demonstrating their effectiveness or necessity relative to existing, less-invasive technology). I will always find less-invasive methods preferable to more invasive. Pilots and passengers need to know whether I am carrying weapons - that is a legitimate social interest and essential for a safe flight. What I look like naked, on the other hand, is not.
  15. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I'm not going to be satisfied until everyone gets an edoscopy and colonoscopy right at the security checkpoint. It's the only way to be sure.
  16. JediSmuggler Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 5, 1999
    star 5
    PETN, the explosive used in not just the attempt to bomb Flight 253, but also the recent cargo bomb plot, is not exactly detected by the metal detectors. Other plastic explosives will also be hard to detect with a metal detector. All that would be needed would be for some plastic explosive to "fall off the truck" and get sold to a jihadist.

    And yeah, as someone who might be flying on a plane, I'd like to know if someone's got a pound of semtex on him. If there is a better way than the full-body scanners to find that out, please let me know.
  17. firesaber Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 5, 2006
    star 3
    [face_thinking] Would that be covered under Obamacare? While we're trouncing on the Constitution we might as well be doing it in the name of a healthy country.
  18. Lady_Sami_J_Kenobi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2002
    star 6
    This is a difficult question. Since I may be flying to Italy next summer, I hope they have conclusive proof that the scanners are not dangerous to the passengers. They might be dangerous to the security people, which is why the X-ray tech at the hospital stands behind the lead shield.

    No to the on-the-spot endoscopy and colonoscopy, tho. Not sure if that post was serious or sarcastic, but having had both at the same time and having woken up in the middle of the procedure, I vote NO!
  19. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    First off, it's rather creepy that there are those who equate security pat downs with child molestation. I'm not sure there is much more that could be said here. It's the same mentality that Kirk Cameron displays when he runs around telling people that everyone are sinners because of their lustful thoughts. It's more a reflection of the messenger than anything else.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't policy dictate that the passenger gets the choice of either one? Either you go through a scanner, or go through a pat down before embarking on international travel. That's why I don't care either way- because the key with anything, including something like international air travel, is education. If one of the requirements is to get patted down, tell your child what to expect. If you have to go through a body scanner, wait until you arrive to put the bombshell bra on. If you are limited to a 100ml travel size bottle of shampoo, don't show up with the 500ml jumbo bottle...and so on.

    And here's an typical body scan image:

    [image=http://www.elsaelsa.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/body-scan.jpg]

    Um, are people actually worried about getting aroused by such an image? Sure, there are slight outlines of genitalia, but not much more. The character of Dr Manhattan had more detail in the Watchmen movie, and I don't recall anyone running screaming from theaters.

    I suppose that some sort of general privacy concern could be levied if the images are stored, but eh...unless a new category of ghost porn or something is created, I think the "leering potential" might be overblown. The EU also adopted body scan procedures, so I'm sure an international standard is not long in being accepted, if it isn't already.
  20. Kimball_Kinnison Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    I've been following this issue a bit lately, for a variety of reasons.

    First of all, the full-body scanners are likely legal and constitutional under current 4th Amendment doctrine. Orin Kerr gives a good summary of the legal basis for that.

    I don't have a big issue with the ability of the scanners to "see" under clothes, and don't really consider that to be intrusive. Having looked at the sort of images that it can provide, I don't expect that many people would use them as a cheap form of pornography. The images don't provide that high of a resolution of the skin. TSA policies also do not allow them to be saved. (The recent incident involving saved pictures was by the US Marshals, not the TSA.)

    I do have some concerns about the health risks of the scans, mostly for the lack of clear data on them. Until I have more reliable data, I'm willing to reserve judgment either way.

    With that said, I have a very big problem with the pat down searches. The are outright excessive, intrusive, and unacceptable. In any other context, a search like that requires either consent or probable cause in order to be allowable under the Constitution. Refusing consent to a body scan isn't a basis for probable cause, any more than refusing consent for a police officer to search your car or bag is probable cause.

    Ideally, I would prefer that a technology like full-body scans be used in a limited capacity, combined with profiling as a secondary line of security rather than a primary one. Only those who fit a profile of a defined threat should be subjected to them.

    The threat from liquid or plastic explosives is a real one, and that risk needs to be addressed. However, I doubt that the current plan is the most effective way to do that while respecting the civil rights of everyone.

    Kimball Kinnison
  21. Quixotic-Sith Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2001
    star 6
    I'm not impressed by what-ifs. Absent concrete examples of this technology being better and preferable, it's unnecessary. And dogs can be trained to sniff explosives (and can do so conveniently, given that passengers are corraled into lines), with even more sensitive sniffers available within a few years. So the full-body scanners still seem to be unnecessary.
  22. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Just a point of law, KK. If you're going to draw a comparison between a pat down at a fixed check point and police contact, be aware that pat downs don't require probable cause. Terry V Ohio set the standard for a pat down at the lowest rung, which is "reasonable suspicion." In fact, in slang terms, such a pat down is called a "Terry Stop." While the exact limits are intentionally and legally undefined, a Terry stop and frisk has to be concrete. It's more than a blind hunch, but it's nowhere near probable cause. It might be something as simple as keeping your hands in your pockets during the contact.

    Now, that's not even a completely accurate comparison, because fixed check points- such as border crossings, entering a military facility, roadside DUI checks, airports, etc.. have much, much more leaway because of the focus. If, for example, you want to drive onto a military base, you may have your entire car searched without probable cause at all. It's your choice to enter the base. If it it easier to think of it in terms of "consent," then that's where your consent falls. If you choose not to have your car searched, then you can simply turn around and drive away. But you can't both enter the base and not have a search. Airports are the same way.

    Someone could certainly consider the pat downs to be more intrusive, as they are. But I'm not sure your Constitutional arguments apply in the same way you're illustrating them.
  23. Kimball_Kinnison Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    I've actually been through a Terry stop. The pat down I received there was nothing like what the reports indicate the TSA pat downs include.

    Specifically, during my Terry stop, while they patted down my thighs, they did not include my genitals. That is a significant line to cross when it comes to privacy.

    Kimball Kinnison

    EDIT: And, you will note, I specifically said that such a search would require either consent or probable cause in any other circumstance.

    And there is a limit to how much you can push and call it consent. If you give someone a choice between an increased chance of cancer and what would be called genital groping in any other circumstance, can you really call it consent?

    To give you an example of how much this is pushing the line for what you can call "consent", my parents (who are far from reactionaries) are looking at taking Amtrak to come visit next year when we have our baby. It's a 56 hour trip by train for them, at over twice the cost to get here, and 60 hours to get back (compared to a 5 hour flight each way). That's ten times the inconvenience, just to avoid these full-body scans.

    Why? Because among other things, my father is a cancer survivor, and is seriously concerned about the health effects of the scans. (He's also very well acquainted with the risks of radiation, having a PhD in physics and taught people to run nuclear reactors.) He also will not consent to an invasive pat down.
  24. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    And if you reread mine, you'll note that I didn't say anything about your support of random pat-downs. I said cavity searches. Because, as you used what terrorists have done as justification, then we should be doing cavity searches based on the same policy as the scans.
  25. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    I've actually been through a Terry stop. The pat down I received there was nothing like what the reports indicate the TSA pat downs include.

    Sure and I agree. But that's also why I included this sentence:

    Now, that's not even a completely accurate comparison, because fixed check points- such as border crossings, entering a military facility, roadside DUI checks, airports, etc.. have much, much more leaway because of the focus.

    There's no straight line that says a Terry stop will always be so and so, and a checkpoint will always be so and so.. and so on. That's the nature of the law by design.

    A factor that that works against the TSA security pat down is that they are more intrusive than normal of this type. However, a factor that supports the pat down is that people have a choice, and check points do have more legal leeway. A passenger could either go through a scanner, choose a physical search, or not fly at that time, which meets the accepted legal standards in similar areas.

    An internal policy change could modify the scope of TSA pat downs, just as a court ruling could. But it's not accurate to say that such searches always require either consent or probable cause.

    EDIT to your EDIT:

    my parents (who are far from reactionaries) are looking at taking Amtrak to come visit next year when we have our baby. It's a 56 hour trip by train for them, at over twice the cost to get here, and 60 hours to get back (compared to a 5 hour flight each way). That's ten times the inconvenience, just to avoid these full-body scans.Why? Because among other things, my father is a cancer survivor, and is seriously concerned about the health effects of the scans. (He's also very well acquainted with the risks of radiation, having a PhD in physics and taught people to run nuclear reactors.) He also will not consent to an invasive pat down.

    Ok, but seriously review what you just posted. How do you create a general policy based on that?

    1)You father is a cancer survivor, so he is concerned about the scanners. Ok, fine. BUT

    2)He will also not consent to a physical search to fly. SO

    3)He's annoyed that he has to take the train....

    Um, ok. No individual can have everything. Every decision in life has a trade off. If he doesn't want to go through the scanner because of valid health concerns, he can do a pat down. But he doesn't want that either, and he doesn't want to be inconvenienced by a train. So which is worth more? Do the 30 second pat down and take the 5 hour flight instead of the 56 hour train. Or what? Get a private pilot's license?

    What if someone has a phobia of trains, but also objects to both the scanners and the pat down? What if someone doesn't like the color blue, and that's the color the TSA wears? See how every single quirk and exception could overwhelm any policy? If everyone just worked together most of this stuff wouldn't be a big deal.



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