Representative Ron Paul of Texas recently introduced H.R. 6416, the “American Traveler Dignity Act.” In light of recent policies enacted by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, I would encourage you to support H.R. 6416. Specifically, as a citizen of the United States of America and as one of your constituents, I oppose the T.S.A.'s recent policies of requiring screening through either the “Advanced Imaging Technology” (AIT, or “X-ray backscatter”) scanners or the “enhanced pat-downs” on the following grounds:
- that such searches are demeaning to the traveling public,
- that they are ineffective,
- that the AIT scanners are potentially harmful, and
- most importantly, that they are likely a violation of our 4th Amendment rights prohibiting unreasonable searches without due cause.
The AIT scanners produce graphic depictions of travelers bodies, in violation of common standards of decency. Many travelers, myself included, are disturbed by the thought of government agents viewing what are essentially nude images of our bodies and those of our families as a precondition to boarding a commercial airliner. Fears that images taken with the AIT scanners may not be as secure as the TSA has promised are neither unreasonable nor unfounded.1
While the technology used in the AIT scanners may be useful for detecting objects hidden in clothing or on the surface of the skin, the AIT scanners cannot penetrate more than a fraction of a millimeter into the skin. As a result, while the AIT scanners may detect objects stored in clothing or on the surface of the skin, they cannot detect items carried in bodily cavities or surgically implanted inside one's body. Therefore, the AIT scanners do not actually provide much – if any – additional security over traditional screening methods.
The AIT scanners use potentially dangerous ionizing radiation (X-rays) to search for contraband. TSA maintains that the radiation exposure to each passenger being scanned is well within the thresholds of safety, but some scientists disagree.2
Finally, I maintain that the scanners are a violation of citizens' 4th Amendment rights. The 4th Amendment states:
“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, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the places to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.”
While one may argue that AIT scans or enhanced pat-downs are not “unreasonable” given the terrorist threat that exists after 9/11, I respectfully disagree, due in part to a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Ek.3 Consequently, I believe that there exists little doubt that the widespread use of X-ray imaging upon innocent travelers, with no probable cause as grounds for a more intrusive search, is well beyond what the Framers of the Constitution envisioned as a “reasonable” search.
I understand that there is a need to balance the safety of airline passengers and the non-flying public on the ground with privacy, but I believe that the AIT scanners and enhanced pat-downs recently implemented by the TSA are well beyond what can realistically be expected of the public in a free society. Consequently, I urge you to support H.R. 6416 and/or introduce your own legislation to prohibit the TSA from continuing with these invasive searches.
1 TSA has claimed the scanners used at the airport are incapable of storing, printing or retransmitting such images, but later confirmed in a letter to Rep. Bennie G. Thompson that the machines are capable of doing so (see http://info-wars.org/2010/04/04/tsa-letter-confirms-naked-body-scanners-transmit-images/). Furthermore, the U.S. Marshall Service stored some 35,000 images from a similar device used at a Florida courthouse (http://gizmodo.com/5690749/these-are-the-first-100-leaked-body-scans), and later released those images to the public in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Clearly, it is reasonable to be concerned that TSA may do likewise.
2 See http://www.npr.org/assets/news/2010/05/17/concern.pdf and http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ucsf-jph-letter.pdf.
3 “To conduct a strip-search, the authorities must have a 'real suspicion' that the person is smuggling contraband. Real suspicion is 'subjective suspicion, supported by objective, articulable facts.' (quoting United States v. Rodriguez, 592 F.2d 553, 556, 9th Cir. 1979)” and “We hold that the stricter standard required for a body-cavity search also applies to an X-ray search. An X-ray search, although not perhaps as humiliating as a strip search, nevertheless is more intrusive since the search is potentially harmful to the health of the suspect...We think that the use of such medical procedures should be restricted to situations where there is a clear indication that the suspect is concealing contraband within his body.” [emphasis mine]
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Petition Your Senators and Representatives!
Perhaps I am a little naive, but I still believe that we Americans can effect change in our country by letting our elected officials know what we think about the issues they are voting on. To that end, I drafted the following letter and e-mailed it to my senators and congressman. If you, like me, are opposed to overly intrusive screening in exchange for flying on a commercial airliner, I encourage you to write your senators and congressmen or congresswomen as well. Please feel free to copy and edit the letter I have included below, if you like. If you need to know how to reach your elected representatives, you can search Write Your Representative, U.S. Senators or Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives.