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Some Thoughts: Full Body Scanners

posted Apr 21, 2011, 6:35 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Apr 21, 2011, 7:37 PM ]
By Christian Romo
 
4/21/2011

The TSA received the go-ahead to install full-body scanners at security checkpoints in American airports after last year’s attempted Christmas Day underwear bombing in Detroit. The American public, already subjected to tighter security techniques after 9/11, immediately took sides on the issue. Some people applauded the move as a necessary step to fix some of the holes left by the Transport Security Administration in their practice. Some worried about the health hazard the radiation from the machine poses and the ability of the machine to figuratively undress a person in the image it creates.

I, for one, don’t like the full-body scanners. For the record, the radiation produced equals the same amount of radiation the average person is exposed to in seventeen minutes of their life. As small as that may be, I don’t like the idea of adding extra radiation to my body every time I pass through an airport terminal.

This past Monday was the first time I was to be on a flight since the machines were installed. Only some security checkpoints at LAX are fitted with the machines, and I happened to pass through late at night when there wasn’t enough staff to man the security line and run the machine simultaneously. My trip back through Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C., however, was a different story.

 If you’re like me and don’t like the idea of passing through another X-ray, you have the right to opt out, and with enough time and curiosity on my hands, I decided to do just that, simply stating that I’d rather not go through the machine. Immediately a chain of command began, starting with the security guard manning the machine saying “Opt-out!”. At least four other TSA agents said the same thing, and I was motioned to the side where a designated agent was preparing for my arrival. I was directed to pass through the classic metal detectors (that produce no radiation) before I was instructed to stand on a carpet in between the two rows of tables passengers use to collect their items that pass through security.

A middle-aged male agent instructed me of my rights, most notably the right to request a private screening (I figured it would be too time consuming and suspicious and settled for a public showing). He snapped on a pair of blue latex gloves and told me where he would frisk me and how his hand would be positioned, paying special attention to how he would handle my groin area. I tried to remain collected, but I could sense that my parents, and perhaps a few curious travelers, were watching the process unfold.

The agent did not delve from his description of what he would do to me, of which I commend him. I was discomforted, however, by his running of his hands on the inside belt area of my jeans. Too embarrassed to show my face at the time, I put my head down and began to sweat. He made one more warning before frisking my inner thigh and groin area, and once I was cleared I began to approach my things. He instructed me to hold my position and went to write something down on a clipboard. I was then allowed to gather my belongings and return to my parents, who were curious as to why I would subject myself to such a display.

To put it simply, I was curious as to what exercising my rights entailed. The pat-down itself was professional and the agent tried his best to make it as comfortable as possible while maintaining his standard of operation. After being subjected to this type of security, I have little doubt in my mind that security at major airports has increased, but at what cost?

I’m still not a fan of the full body scanners, but simply put, the pat-down I received was an embarrassing inconvenience. The scanners are supposed to make airline travel more secure, but they have been implemented at the expense of the personal security of travelers. The coming months will tell if it is a worthy sacrifice, but the next time I will go through a security check, I am going to think twice before exercising my rights as a free individual.

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