Invasion of the Body Scanners: More Tales of Terror From the Unfriendly Skies
by John W. Whitehead
The outrageous invasion of our privacy rights that is the whole-body scanner (and its equally outrageous counterpart, the full-body pat down) was hurriedly put in place by the government, before Americans could really comprehend what it would mean and whether they were willing to tolerate it. Yet where did the impetus for installing these scanners in our nation’s airports come from? And who’s responsible for this unfolding nightmare being unleashed on the American people?
As Reuters reported on Dec. 30, 2009, “The path toward rolling out wider use of whole-body security scanners in U.S. airports runs through the White House…. U.S. President Barack Obama could expedite such a deployment because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) don’t need legislation from Congress to start using the devices at any of the 560 U.S. airports with scheduled airline service.”
In fact, legislation has been proposed to mandate full-body scanners and make them the primary screening method in all U.S. airports by 2013, but Congress has yet to act on it. So we can thank President Obama for this frontal assault on our Fourth Amendment rights. Mind you, this is the same man who insisted that “we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans.” Yet in the wake of the bumbling underwear bomber’s botched Christmas Day attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound plane, Obama directed the Homeland Security Department “to acquire $1 billion in advanced-technology equipment, including body scanners, for screening passengers at airports.” In fact, Obama’s Stimulus Bill, which committed more than $3 billion for homeland security projects, is funding the installation of the devices in airports across the country.
The Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration have been quick to do the president’s bidding, aided and abetted by corporate lobbyists eager to make a profit at taxpayer expense. The TSA plans to roll out a total of 450 full-body scanners by year’s end, with an additional $88 million included in the 2011 national fiscal budget for 500 more machines. And Congress, which has the power to halt this thing (or at least provide oversight), has done nothing.