Police State USA: Building Public Acceptance for Airport Body Scanners
Schumer’s scanner bill is an effort to make Americans “more comfortable” with being controlled
by Kéllia Ramares
December 9, 2010
Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) has introduced legislation criminalizing the distribution or recording of revealing images taken by airport full-body scanners. Violators would be subject to penalties of up to a year in prison and fines up to $100,000, or both. Although the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has said that images cannot be stored, transmitted, or printed and are deleted after being reviewed, it did admit in a February 2010 letter to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) that the machines have some capability to store, print, record and export images “for testing, training, and evaluation” that is done at facilities away from airports.
Further, the US Marshall’s Service admitted last summer in a letter to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, that it had saved over 35,000 images recorded with a Brijot Gen 2 scanner at a security checkpoint of an Orlando, Florida courthouse. The letter also stated that “the USMS also tested a Millivision machine in the Federal Courthouse in the District of Columbia. However, that courthouse is no longer using the machine, which has been returned to Millivision; any images that may have been stored on that machine are therefore no longer under the agency’s control.” (emphasis added).
Senator Schumer’s bill is yet another attempt by the government to assure people that this invasion of privacy is really not that serious and is outweighed by the need for greater security at airports. But the legislation misses many important points in the public’s objection to “naked” scanners.