January 1st, 2010
02:48 PM ET

Don't let security scanners erase our privacy

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/01/body.scan.image.jpg caption="A passenger's image on a security scan at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport." width=292 height=320]

Rep. Jason Chaffetz
Special to CNN

After a failed Christmas Day terrorist plot on a U.S.-bound international flight, the airline passenger screening process has received heavy scrutiny from the government, the media and the public.

Questions abound about how a Nigerian national who was supposedly on the terrorist "watch list" was able to obtain a visa, fly to the United States and transport explosive materials undetected.

The screening process at U.S. airports has received particular scrutiny in this case - and rightfully so. Whole Body Imaging scanners being tested at many airports have the potential to detect explosives. But these invasive machines perform a virtual strip search, producing detailed images of a passenger's body.

Screeners can literally count the change in a passenger's pocket, see the sweat on his back, and view intimate gender-specific details when looking at the image.

We must carefully consider how to balance safety and security with personal privacy concerns. In the wake of an attempted attack, there is always pressure to surrender more of our liberties in the name of security. It should be our goal to employ technologies that are more effective and less invasive.

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Filed under: Airline Safety • Terrorism • Travel
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Faz Khan

    As long as the image from the body scan isn't in full display to the public I don't see that much wrong with it. This isn't a total recall after all. Besides this is a better option than getting a pat down right?

    January 1, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
  2. Joanne

    I am fervently for the full body scan for the purpose of safety. However, I do have an ostomy and the fact that this would be visually revealed in public is humiliating. Of course, I have to fly, and of course, I believe in extreme measures during this era. I do want you all to know that every year 70,000 people undergo ostomy surgery. We will be exposed to friends and the public most likely everytime we fly.

    January 1, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
  3. Zkwc

    What happens when insurance companies start paying airline companies for screenings of the insured? Because you know they will. And even if you didn't know about a pre-existing condition, they'll just look for the last time you flew on a plane and check to see if it was there. This idea if screening is no good. People just need to be aware like the dutch guy and tackle any would be terrorist if you really value your life. I would be the first one out of my seat to try and stop a terrorist.

    January 1, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
  4. Ellen

    What happened to the idea of retina scanners? They were discussed after 9/11 and not a word lately....

    January 1, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  5. radiation

    My primary concern here is radiation exposure.

    And as we learned recently (including from Anderson 360), there are higher risks of cancer when performing mammograms.

    Now If I am a frequent flier and travel once in 1-2 months, then how much radiation will I soak in per year?

    January 1, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  6. daysoftheweekunderpants

    this is fairly simple: don't fly if you don't like it.
    it isn't an inalienable right. it's a business.
    a business that could kill and the TSA is too incredibly stupid to manage this properly. go to ANY security area (especially at JFK, Orlando or Chicago) thus, bring on the scanners.
    if it means keeping people safe, what's the problem?

    January 1, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  7. Ellen

    Anyone who has a problem with privacy or lack there of should take it up with the terrorists. It is always a few who make life miserable for the majority and they are the ones causing implementation of potentially invasive methods of detection. I, a (may I say) good looking woman, don't care who sees my body at the airport if it means safety.

    I think people are too concerned about others seeing them when in fact nobody else really cares. Who hasn't seen breasts and penises by now? If you are fat and embarrassed do something about it. Stop complaining and get over yourselves!

    January 1, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  8. rajib

    Repost from tweets. We allow doctors to perform very thorough examinations of our sensitive body parts. How is performing these security scans different from that? Isn't the purpose behind both to serve life-saving functions? In my opinion, I'd feel more comfortable if there is some visible practice that convinces everyone in the public domain that professional scanners in the airport screening department will undergo similar ethics training that doctors go through. I don't get the creepies if the doctor looks at my you know what... If it is done by someone who doesn't have as much respect as a professional doctor, then I'd have 2nd thoughts. I am thinking the privacy concern may have something to do with the fear of being exposed to professionals who do not have established ethical guideline or if they do then it is not as transparent in the public domain. Sorry about my rambling. I hope it makes sense.

    January 1, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  9. Pam in Oregon

    Search my bags, pat me down, scan my body, do whatever you want in the name of security. Let's erode the very basic rights to privacy that we all SHOULD enjoy as Americans. Surely I am not the only one who sees the irony here? I am all for safety in the air, but every time we notch up security, determined terrorists get more creative. I just don't think this is the way to win the war on terror.

    January 1, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  10. johnslifeonline

    Strange that our personal liberties are a concern when our right to exist as a free nation is most threatened by those like the criminal arrested on Christmas day. We are damned if too little security is in place and damned when measures are taken to ensure our safety.

    If our safety in contingent on strip searches then so be it. Every measure should be taken to protect us from radicals both politically and religiously.

    Suck it up America, and prepare for your time on the big screen.

    January 1, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  11. Frank

    Why should personal pride be even remotely considered as a debate in potentially saving the lives of hundreds of passengers on each flight? Where's the privacy concerns? Over someone screening them which they'll rarely – if ever – see in their lives again? Its no different then people seeing others at the beach – people don't seem concerned about their privacy then – no matter what their weight is. Its just naive anyone would think that their personal interests are more important than a much greater issue here.

    January 1, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  12. JonDeeAnthony

    I'm all for security. I've been in the army now since 1993 and have done security in over five other countries outside the USA. I hope this invasion of privacy for the sake of security is handle by extreme professionals in an extremely professional manner.

    January 1, 2010 at 4:20 pm |

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