By Wesley Clark, MD
Airline travelers are now standing in security lines around the country for the opportunity to pose nude for the Department of Homeland Security. "Naked body scanners" are just the latest development in the field of Man-Caused Disaster prevention, a part of the Overseas Contingency Operations (War on Terror) in which the actions of a handful of suicidal terrorists, almost exclusively of a certain religious persuasion, have led to a massive government assault on the freedoms of all Americans. Since 9/11, the declared objective of al-Qaeda to destroy our society and our way of life has been implemented mainly by our own ruling class.
Stupefying amounts of our money -- hundreds of billions of dollars of our collective wealth -- continue to pour into the ever-expanding bureaucracy and government-run programs to listen to our phone calls, read our mail, collect our personal data, and particularly to intrusively inconvenience every citizen who travels by air. With each new, inexpensive, and creative exploit by al-Qaeda, the depth and breadth of invasive searches has progressively increased -- from emptying our pockets at first, confiscating nail files, then removing our shoes, our belts, wallets, jewelry, watches, confiscating toiletries, followed by random searches and pat-downs, and now nude body scans.
The Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution states:
The right of the people to be secure...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 place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Under the Patriot Act, our private communications may be eavesdropped on, and personal transactions can be secretly scrutinized with self-written warrants (National Security Letters written by a federal agent) that prohibit your banker, librarian, or others served from notifying you of the search (you can't even legally contest the warrant if you find out about it yourself, because if you complain to your lawyer or a court about it, you commit a felony by divulging that it exists). This act was originally justified by the War on Terror, but it has since been employed hundreds of thousands of times, often against innocent citizens swept up by innocent associations with alleged intelligence targets. The Obama administration is seeking to broaden the act still more.
TSA searches are now gutting the few remaining Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure. Essentially, our government, supported by the courts, has defined a "Constitution-Free Zone" incorporating all airports and the area of the United States within one hundred miles of a border or the coast (termed the "functional equivalent of the
border, or extended border"), in which constitutional protections under the Fourth Amendment are deemed not applicable, and are routinely flouted by the Department of Homeland Security.
The Department of Homeland Security has the authority to stop, search, and detain anyone and anything (including the contents of your computer), for any reason, within a "Constitution-Free Zone," resident or traveler, without a warrant and without even having probable cause -- only a reasonable suspicion, which by DHS rules and case law can include even ethnic indicators. Two-thirds of Americans live within this Constitution-Free Zone, especially the "liberal" residents of coastal cities in the "blue states."
Ostensibly, your decision to travel by airline implies your choice to abandon your rights to privacy in order to serve the cause of collective security. If you don't like it, just travel by car or bus instead -- but don't venture within one hundred miles of the border or the coast, or you may be subject to warrantless search without probable cause by other TSA agents with the Border Patrol or the Immigration and Customs Enforcement divisions.
The newly infamous body scanners are of two types. Millimeter wave scanners generate high-frequency photons, in the "terahertz" radiation band from 30 to 300 gigahertz frequency, that are able to penetrate clothing to strike the body -- but penetrating much less than x-rays, that have a higher frequency and energy levels.
Backscatter scanners generate low-energy x-rays, which readily penetrate clothing, while some portion are reflected (backscattered) from the surface of the skin, detected, and used by the scanner to generate the detailed image. X-rays are ionizing radiation and are judged to have no minimum safe threshold exposure. Exposure is cumulative over one's lifetime. This has potential implications for frequent fliers and flight personnel, who also accumulate increased lifetime exposure from cosmic ray exposures at altitude.
Consequently, serious concerns have been raised regarding unrecognized radiation effects of the body scanners. Exposure to high-energy photons of terahertz frequencies may be damaging to the DNA of our cells, conceivably a risk for cancer or other illness. This effect has been reported to occur when the DNA molecule resonates with certain frequencies, causing the bonds of the double helix to be disrupted, like shattering glass with a musical tone. Officially, or officiously, the TSA and the FDA assure us that this radiation is harmless -- at least until proven otherwise by a future catastrophe. To be fair, it is impossible to scientifically prove a negative, but there is a paucity of any actual research into the effects this type of radiation on the human body or human tissue.
Of more immediate concern, the media, the internet, and the blogosphere are filled with accounts here, ranging from inconvenience to intrusions on passengers' privacy, assault on a co-worker by a TSA agent, opposite-sex sexual molestation by TSA agents, arrest and detainment for opting out, and just dumb and ham-fisted TSA behavior such as hollering "opt out" to embarrass persons refusing scans. Once again, a mixture of bureaucratic organizational expertise and human stupidity appears to combine synergistically to magnify the chaos.
Searches are performed on airline personnel, even pilots and flight attendants. When an individual is trusted to sit at the controls of an airliner for several hours, and many are certified to carry firearms in the cockpit, what sense does it make to search him before each flight, to ensure that he does not carry a neglected set of nail-clippers?
TSA procedures supposedly require that pat-down searches must be performed by persons of the same sex, and in privacy, although these principles are frequently violated. This basis for this rule is the belief that an intrusive search by a person of the same sex will necessarily be asexual, and therefore less offensive, than one performed by a person of the opposite sex -- an unsupportable presumption. What if the person being searched, or for that matter, the searcher, is homosexual? This is roughly equivalent to being searched by a member of the opposite sex, and for some individuals, it may have significant emotional implications. Having been forced to submit to pat-downs every flight, due to the presence of an artificial metallic hip joint, I can testify that a body search is quite unpleasant, especially when conducted in view of other travelers wondering if you were planning to hijack their flight.
The US Airline Pilots Association, in a letter to members, described an incident where a pilot was disabled emotionally by the pat-down search experience:
One U.S. Airways pilot, after being selected for an enhanced pat-down, experienced a frisking that has left him unable to function as a crew member. The words this pilot used to describe the incident included "sexual molestation," and in the aftermath of trying to recover, this pilot reported that he had literally vomited in his own driveway while contemplating going back to work and facing the possibility of a similar encounter with the TSA. This is a very serious situation, and it represents a crossroads for all U.S. airline pilots.
Might the emotional effects of searching the pilot create a new danger for travelers? USAPA further advises its members to "make sure you are emotionally fit and not stressed in any way by your close encounter with the TSA" before deciding to proceed with their flight.
Who are these guys (and gals) who are screening us? How does the TSA screen its prospective employees for a background of sexual perversion or sex crimes, for whom such a position might carry furtive attractions? Can there be any serious doubt that the prospect of looking at images of nude children, and engaging in the act of "feeling up" adults and children will attract sexual perverts to apply for TSA employment, which permits them to perform the same actions under color of the law that would land them in prison in virtually any other job?
Apparently, the TSA rules for background checks for airport personnel do not even exclude a prior record of sexual crimes, with the exception of rape. According to the U.S. Code, sexual perverts, child molesters, or illegal aliens are still qualified for TSA employment. TSA has also cleared illegal aliens for flight training despite the experience of the 9/11 attacks, although none have made it to the cockpit of an airliner so far. One should never "misunderestimate" the competence of the bureaucracy when it comes to generation of mindless decisions.
Americans should also be concerned about invasion of their privacy by having images of their naked bodies disseminated rudely by TSA personnel. The appearance on the internet of nude body scans of "hot chicks," naked children, and curiously deformed adults is just a matter of time and human nature. The TSA claims that this is impossible, and that the agency will delete the raw images, but there is actually no law or regulation that prevents the agency from saving the original, detailed images, and it has already been done by the U.S. Marshal's service. It is important to understand that the initial image obtained is of much higher quality than those printed in the newspapers, and it may contain recognizable facial features that are only subsequently filtered out by the display algorithm. s it plausible that these filters will never be defeated by an employee and that airport scanner images of children will never be found later on child pornography sites?
CAIR has issued a low-key advisory about the naked screening issue. Muslims object to any "profiling" despite the overwhelming preponderance of Muslims as perpetrators of aviation terrorist incidents. They particularly object to exposure of almost any part of the bodies of Muslim women to the view of other persons, especially males. What is the Muslim reaction, therefore, to naked body scans? Muslims are advised by CAIR to request a pat-down. Will Muslims decline to fly now that these searches, or the equally intrusive pat-downs, are mandatory?
The funniest and most ironic account about airport security I've ever heard was the anecdote that appeared early in the War on Terror, on the bulletin board in the pilot's lounge at the airline where my son flew. It was posted by a bleary-eyed pilot who was checking through security in the early morning hours, when the security personnel themselves were being checked in. A National Guard soldier, assigned as an airport guard, was standing with arms and legs widely spread as he was carefully checked by an agent with a detector wand, presumably for possession of nail-clippers or a pocket-knife, while holding an M-16 rifle in his right hand!
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