Saturday, June 18, 2005

Airport Nudists

Italics and underline mine. Rick

Airport Nudists
Lazlow 06/09/2005 12:11 am
Long Island Press

Whether you like it or not, technology is about to make you a nudist. The Parent Television Council and other like-minded groups assert that there's a slippery slope that begins with acceptance of your body and ends in meth-fueled swinger parties. Actually, nudists and pro-life activists have a lot in common in my mind. Nobody wants to see either naked in the first place. But for those who were forever wounded by seeing a naked breast during the Super Bowl and hope to spread their unique brand of zealous self-loathing and intolerance to others, the Department of Homeland Security is working on a system that will make them blush. Flying is humiliating enough, but it's about to get embarrassing. If you're outraged at seeing Janet Jackson's breast, I can only imagine how you feel about a complete stranger looking at you naked. A couple of years ago I broke a story about backscatter X-ray machines being tested. London's Heathrow Airport already has a few in use. Basically, it's an X-ray machine that sees through your clothes. And it sees everything.

"It shows nipples. It shows the clear outline of genitals," privacy advocate Bill Scannell recently told The New York Times.

Back then, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) danced around the issue, saying they weren't really sure about the technology and shucks, don't worry. I predicted they would be hitting airports within two to three years.

I was right. The TSA is ramping up to begin testing the "I can see you naked" machine in airports nationwide. Folks, we've got to fight terrorism, and that involves your underwear.

The problem is, the new machines don't penetrate the skin, so a fat terrorist simply hides weapons in his blubber rolls. Or do as the drug smugglers do—there are many, ahem, places that can hold weapons. What do we do when terrorist training camps are nothing more than a jihad version of the Coney Island hot dog eating contest, except with machine guns? Or they start using grenades like suppositories? Serious questions, indeed.

There is considerable debate about whether the American public will agree to being electronically strip-searched each time they fly. The Department of Homeland Security says electronic strip searches are what we need for the "next-level" of security. And the Republican-led Congress recently included provisions in the Real ID Act that would give some Department of Homeland Security projects complete and total immunity from the courts. This drive by Republicans to make the government answerable to nobody and immune from prosecution in the name of fighting terrorism should be a wake up call. Sadly, for many, it's a rallying cry, as the terrified beg the government to take their rights away, and even strip search them so they can feel safe.

The issue of electronic strip searches is one that the administration had been working to keep under the radar. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff recently told a Senate subcommittee it's time to put the machines in airports and he doesn't want an "endless debate" over privacy issues.

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