Julie Penny OUR TOWN The Sag Harbor Express January 8, 2011
By Julie Penny
“The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either” – Benjamin Franklin
During the holidays I drove to the airport feeling two parts defiance, one part dread, one part anxiety as I had no intention of getting radiated and strip-searched by a body-scanning device. That left me with no alternative but to succumb to a violable, invasive, “enhanced” pat-down. Overriding it all was my overwhelming feeling of disgust and disbelief that this is the America we are forced to live in these days—where we are little more than cattle intentionally prodded by the fear machine—forced into making a false choice between being irradiated by a device that shows graphic images of your naked body under your clothes, or being intimately felt up by a representative of the government. It amounts to governmental sexual harassment of us all; debases and subjugates us on a profound, even existential, level. It’s an assault upon those who are scanned or patted down, and those employed to do it. Albeit in different ways. I’d say the ramifications are akin to the dynamics between jailors and the jailed—it’s a warped relationship—and powerfully unhealthy for society. Our government should not be doing this to its people, it’s abusive, and should cease and desist; simple as that.
Listen, I like being alive, I like my children and grandchildren being alive, but being subjected to pornographic images of ourselves made by full-body scanners that penetrate our clothes, or to be violated instead with gropings by a stranger should you reject being scanned, will not deliver us from death’s door. Our government, in the form of Janet Napolitano, our latest head of Homeland Security, admitted as much on TV in December. It’s all for show, folks, supposedly to scare off so-called would-be terrorists, and to give us a false sense of security that these over-the-top security measures they force upon us keeps us from harm. The government’s own audits of this security process has shown that it’s 70 percent ineffectual—These measures just don’t work. We also submit to these degradations to our health, privacy, and personal boundaries thinking it’s a trade-off —that these scanners are designed to “detect explosives.” Wrong. They only detect images that shouldn’t belong on your body. So, those who have breast prostheses, back braces, colostomy bags, ileotomy bags, get violated and humiliated and worse like the bladder cancer survivor who ended up with the clothes he was wearing soaked in his own urine during a traumatic TSA pat down that broke the seal on his urostomy bag. They’re robbing us of dignity — our humanity — in the name of security. And, by design to keep us docile. This invasion of our person is unconstitutional. “Amendment IV” of the Constitution says: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…”
The flip side is the double-standard in security arrangements you can drive a truck through. As the airline pilot from San Francisco recently showed on YouTube — airport security is an illusion, it’s a crock. While on one hand we stand in line like bleating sheep moving along to be scanned like a can of tomatoes, the pilot revealed in an ABC News interview “that all those people you see outside, the ground personnel, all the caterers, all the airline cleaners, they get virtually nothing.” Yessiree, they go through no security screening. What’s wrong with this picture? Where’s the sense in that? Of course, the TSA who’s tolerated this sloppy security since 2001 wants to punish the pilot for daring to show these breaches on YouTube rather than having corrected this problem in the first.
I ask you, who profits by the acquiescing masses that allow their rights to be breached and trampled upon by unreasonable searches? The right to be free of unreasonable search is guaranteed under the Constitution. No longer, says the TSA. And just think, we get the privilege of paying for the indignity of being scanned with skin-cancer causing radiation or felt up by strangers—including our genitalia—with our very own money, our taxpayer dollars. Sick. Talk about “gross” domestic product.
In November, Michael Chertoff, the former Homeland Security Secretary under George W. Bush, and the founder of the Chertoff Group, a security consulting firm whose clients include manufacturers of full-body scanners, was out there cheerleading this technology to the media. Yet, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post only identified Chertoff as a former head of Homeland Security. Why? This is an egregious but all too common and convenient omission of a fact by mainstream media that would’ve indicated Chertoff’s conflict of interest in a technology that stands to reap billions of dollars. It was only Campbell Brown who got Chertoff to admit that he is paid by a manufacturer of such devices on her news show.
So, here we have full-body scanning devices that (a) are ineffectual 70 percent of the time; (b) take creepy, graphic, pornographic images of ourselves from head to toe which we now find have frequently been kept rather than deleted after going through security (kept indefinitely in many instances); (c) deliver radiation to our bodies as indicated by scientists and doctors; (d) acclimates us to this steady, incremental erosion of our rights (f) acclimates us into being submissive to everything the government demands of us—even to its unconstitutional demands. Isn’t it nuts that we are expected to relinquish our freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to the TSA and DHS upon entering an airport? Freedom doesn’t mean being forced to stand by as your little kid has a stranger rub his or her hands all over him or her.
Must we watch impotently as our spouses, our children, our toddlers, our parents, our grandparents are subjected to the whims of, and molested by some poorly trained TSA agents, some of whom are on power trips? But that’s the point isn’t it? Make us malleable. Make us afraid to dissent. Make us afraid to speak up to question authority. All the while making us complicit—not only in cooperating in our very own violation—but as we watch our own family, friends, and fellow-travelers being violated and robbed of their privacy, dignity, and rights guaranteed by our Constitution. Placing us in the position where we can’t resist the government’s power over us, benefits whom? Surely it does the manufacturers and lobbyists out to make money from the Homeland Security gravy train which, to date, has doled out billions on dubious and boondoggle projects. It’s not only the TSA and DHS spreading the cash—it’s the constant revolving door that exits between Congress, government agencies and commercial enterprises with their well-paid lobbyists that include big drug, heath insurance, oil, coal, gas industry, the banks, Wall Street, the defense industry. They constantly scratch each other’s back at the cost of the public’s pocketbook, health and welfare…and, it’s costing us the very fabric of our democracy. Ours is a government that serves crony capitalism, not the people, and where the same players are continually moving back and forth from the government sector to the private and back again in a never ending musical chairs of money.
Shouldn’t we be saying: “Get your hands off me?” “Get your hands off my kid, my mother, my wife, my husband, my sister, my brother, my grandmother?” “Keep your hands off my crotch, my breasts?” “We demand you take your freaky pornographic body-scanners and toss them?”
Psychologists are sounding the alarm—airport pat-downs are playing into the hands of child sexual predators. Here we have, on the one hand, parents telling their kid not to allow anyone—let alone strangers—touch them, while on the other, TSA agents are intimately groping them—acclimating them to a situation that they should be running from. An expert in the fight against child sex abuse says the TSA is reportedly getting kids to cooperate with these frisks by telling them it’s a “game”—the very gambit sex predators use to molest a child: telling the child that what they are engaging in is a “game.”
Those who have defied the TSA, as did the man from San Diego who refused going through a body scanner and who warned a TSA agent euphemistically, “Don’t touch my junk,” if he got patted down, now face the ire of the TSA. Rather than submit to being de-humanized and his rights robbed he left the airport. Leaving, it turns out, is against the law once you’ve gotten into a security line. The TSA is investigating him, wants to fine him $11,000. Is this vindictive insult to injury not a clear warning to us all not to resist? A girl and a guy who—in unrelated incidences—stripped down to their skivvies in defiance of scanners and pat-downs also faced the TSA’s ire. God bless their resistance. As the airport I departed from (JFK) and the one I flew home from didn’t use the body-scanners yet—only the metal detectors—I was spared from these Draconian methods for the moment.
Forget this tyrannical insanity. This unconstitutional power-play. Keep the trained bomb-sniffing dogs, stick with the metal detectors that these body scanners are supposed to replace, and dump the body scanners. Skip these invasive pat-downs.
Lastly, scientists and doctors around the country and around the world are warning about the cancer risks posed to us by these body scanners, especially to pregnant women, children, the immune compromised. With these devices, the first two epidermal layers of skin receive the greatest dose of radiation. Also, it seems the dose of radiation could be “20 times higher than first estimated.” Of course, any dangers are down-played by our government. Yet, there has been no independent testing of these machines. Worse, no real oversight on how they’re handled in the field.
“There’s no use depending on TSA ‘research’ that denies or minimizes the risk because those results have been bought and paid for.” – David J. Brenner, Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research.