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  • Screaming About Screening

    There is a lesson to be learned in the tempest against TSA: be careful what you ask for. After the underwear bomber tried to take down a Detroit-bound Christmas flight last year Congress and the citizenry lined up to cheer lead for deploying body scanners everywhere. Nobody paused to think if that was a wise response.

    Non-metalic material hidden under clothes has always worried airport screeners. When someone dressed suspiciously there was only one option–an intrusive pat down. The scanner technology offered an option–a less intrusive way to check on the rare occasion when some one was sent to “secondary” screening (the more thorough going over some travelers get after, or instead of, the normal walk through the magnetometer).

    When the decision was made to use the body scanners for primary screening that is when the trouble really started. Now instead of using them for suspicious travelers a wide swath of the traveling public must face the foreboding scanning chamber. Many are opting out of being subjected to the scanners for various reasons. That is their right. But then they have to subject themselves to a pat down and the pat downs are intrusive. So the irony here is that a technology that was developed to require less pat downs is driving up the number.

    Frankly, the threat does not justify the indiscriminate use of body scanners for primary screening. Eliminating the threat of serious liquid bombs by restricting carry-on liquids took that immediate danger of the table. Small bombs strapped to bodies or air mailed are far from guaranteed to bring down a plane. Sure any bomb on a plane might do some damage–but let’s face it you could also just stab people in the neck with sharpened pencils to kill a couple of passengers on a plane. And if you wanted to kill a handful of people with a bomb, you could just blow yourself up at the ticket counter before you got near security.

    That is not to say that sensible primary screening, or more thorough and rare secondary screening, should end. But we should be spending our security buck where it gives us the biggest bang.

    The best security is intelligence and law enforcement that finds and stops the bad people before they get near the plane. Let’s continue to do common sense screening at the airport, but lets stop pretending that is the best line of defense.

    TSA should back off requiring the body scanners for primary screening.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Screaming About Screening

    1. Anthony Iverson, Lex says:

      Involves $175 Million dollar public handout for a technology that even the security savvy Israelis think is a waste. It's pork-barrel spending at it's worst… Your absolutely right by saying that intelligence and law enforcement are the most effective means for combating terrorism. That's where the funds need to be going.

    2. Mark, Arlington WA says:

      Well said. We should follow Israel's example on airplane security tactics.

    3. Hawk Fan says:

      Since when did choosing to fly allow the Government to treat law abiding American citizens as common criminals? So now, if I have to fly for work, I am given a choice- either be exposed unnecessary to radiation or get sexually molested……..what friggin planet am I on? “A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither” Thomas Jefferson

    4. Aaron, Bradley IL says:

      Agreed.. they are far to intrusive to be used as primary screening tools

    5. Pingback: PA Pundits - International

    6. Stacey, So Calif says:

      I can't believe this the extent of Heritage's discussion of this issue… the Federal government is using "administrative doctrine" to encroach further and further on our Fourth Amendment Rights. Why aren't you all screaming about this astonishing trend? We should not have to undergo a virtual strip search or a body search in order to fly, particularly when the travel is entirely domestic. The risk simply does not justify this enormous intrusion. Even if it were, why is it so important to protect travelers on airplanes but not trains, subways, or cruise ships? What about skyscrapers, stadiums and theaters? It's absurd. As a long-time Heritage supporter, I think it's essential that you step up and deal with our concerns.

    7. Oscar Byington says:


      Here's a solution to all the controversy over full-body scanners at the airports:

      All we need to do is develop a booth that you can step into that will not X-ray you, but will detonate any explosive device you may have hidden on or in your body. The explosion will be contained within the sealed booth.

      This would be a win-win for everyone. There would be none of this nonsense about racial profiling and the device would eliminate long and expensive trials.

      This is so simple that it's brilliant. I can see it now: you're in the airport terminal and you hear a muffled explosion. Shortly thereafter an announcement comes over the PA system, "Attention, standby passengers! We now have a seat available on flight number…"

    8. Jan Happ, AZ says:

      I agree with Stacy. The Heritage Foundation should be screaming to high heaven about the violation of our 4th Amendment Rights and filing so many lawsuits to force Congress to reign in TSA and eliminate the whole department and fire Napolitano for incompetency and disregard for the Constitution. Sure, they're going to do a false flag "just to show us" but don't fall for it. Govt always uses the "pincher" movement to create two opposing sides to create conflict so the people demand govt do what govt wanted to do to start with, "because the 'people' wanted it." yea, right!! Anytime you give up Liberty to get Security, you lose both!

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