Don't Touch My Junk, Man.


So I don't normally follow the news but this latest "topic" popped it's way onto the forum I frequent and in my personal life as well. If you don't know what all the hub-bub is, bub, let me tell you.

The TSA, that wonderful organization created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, recently introduced two new security procedures: the back scatter x-ray which takes radiation based photos of your skin, and intensive pat downs. Some people cannot--or choose not to-- go through the machines for various reasons. Maybe they don't like the ideas of invasive scans; maybe they don't know how bad the radiation dose is (here's a thought: no one but the TSA does), or they're a cancer survivor; there could be any number of reasons. For me, other than not knowing how much radiation goes into the skin, the scans don't bother me much.

What does bother me is the new policy for "pat-downs."

If you're randomly selected for, or fail the AIT scan, or opt out of the scan, you get to be groped by a TSO. Horror stories abound online of the rough treatment: the cancer survivors that are forced to reveal their prosthetics, have their urostomy bags ruptured on themselves. It's filled with stories of victims of sexual assaults reliving their worst nightmares as their genitals are poked and prodded. The question becomes:

Is all of this necessary?

The public seems split. A recent poll suggests the average American appreciates the extra security. However, tweets and blog reports suggest that the flying public might have a different opinion. last Wednesday, one of the biggest travel days of the year was selected as national "Opt Out Day". People were encouraged to opt out of the AIT scans if selected as protest. Most people reported that the scanners weren't in use. Why? Are they not necessary for safety, in which case why use them? Or did the TSA not want to slow the day down any more?, Why not scan everybody all the time, if they are really that necessary?

What it comes down to, for me, is that I'm generally okay with the security theater at the airport. I know that every restriction the TSA operates is based on a reaction to something someone else has already failed to do: Someone tried to bring in chemicals for a bomb, now you can't have more than 3.4 oz. Someone tried to light their shoe on fire, now you have to take off your shoes and have them scanned. All of these "provisions" were fairly unintrusive, so complying with them didn't bother me.

These new scans are intrusive. I am not a terrorist, nor are 99.9% of the people who fly daily. These new procedures humiliate and burden us. Can you even say it's worth it?

There's no evidence so far that these new measures have stopped anything. Maybe they're deterrents, but are they really worth it? 9/11 won't ever happen on a plane again. Remember, although the terrorists threatened the passengers with bombs, they didn't have any. Prior to that event, standard procedure was to cooperate with them and do what they say. 9/11 removed that "good will," that currency, that hijackers had with the passengers. Now the prevalent thought is that any hijacker wants to use the plane as a weapon, and since they're going to die anyways, might as well fight them.

Which is kind of immaterial, seeing as how the correct response to 9/11 was to reinforce and lock the pilot's cabin and have armed air marshals on most flights.

But even if the new pat downs are catching things, is that even worth it? How much does the fictional feeling of safety have to cost us before we say enough? I'm not even going to bother with spacious oversimplifications: when another man puts his hands on my wife's genitals "for security," it's gone too far.

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