I think all Americans will spend some amount of today reflecting on the events of September 11, 2001. For me, as a frequent traveler, I seem to do this every time I go through a TSA body scanner. I was in Washington, DC at the time of the 9/11 attacks and remember them quite well but not knowing anyone, personally, who was killed that day, the TSA security procedures act as my reminder. Each time I go through a TSA checkpoint, I am shocked and dismayed that I am the only visible person opting out of the TSA body scanner. My reasons for doing so are many, and it is frustrating to see so many pass through these machines without stopping to think about what they are doing.
There are many arguments against these TSA body scanners with most being a matter of privacy (they take a naked photo of your body) or safety (they blast your body with radiation). I think I was able to get past both of these issues until I watched the below video, taken from my home airport. The author of the video currently has a case pending in U.S. court system but he makes it quite clear that these machines raise some serious questions, but do little to enhance our safety.
The response of the TSA to this video, was quite telling in my opinion. More telling than this is the change of heart TSA officials have had since leaving the agency. A former director of the TSA now calls for a complete reversal of many of the TSA’s current practices because they do not add significantly to our security yet continue to raise privacy and safety concerns.
Basically, for me, it comes down to a few basic factors:
- I am a law-abiding citizen and do not deserve to be submitted to inspection as though I am a criminal. Although the ‘nudo-scope’ machines are not currently in use, they may return to use.
- We really don’t know the long term affects of this radiation but there is significant research out there suggesting that these are not as safe as the government might have us believe.
- TSA body scanners are very expensive and I don’t like paying for it with my tax dollars.
- As the video above showed, TSA’s body scanners don’t really help to make us more secure but are just one piece of the ‘security theatre’ currently employed.
- Many of the TSA agents I’ve spoken to, one agent each time I opt out, agree with my decision to opt out and tell me their reasons for doing the same.
I recently came across an article in the New York Times in which the author was very critical of the entire program. Although I am also critical of the program, I have to disagree with nearly everything this author wrote in his piece. Ever since I’ve educated myself on the program and decided to opt out I have repeatedly found TSA agents to be both friendly and understanding of my choice. Generally, they work to get me through security with minimal delay and usual confess they tell their friends and family to do as I am doing. One in Detroit recently told me their standard office joke is that there will be commercials in 30 years asking: “Did you or someone you know work for the TSA before the year 2020 who might be suffering from fill in the blank radiation disease, if so, call this number!”
I do generally believe that most people in government are in their chosen career because they have a desire to serve their country, hence my personal experiences with TSA agents are generally quite pleasant. This doesn’t mean that lobby dollars aren’t in play (feel free to do your own research on the staggering amounts spent to get these machines in airports) nor does it mean that anyone on either side of the debate truly knows the long-term health impact of these machines. For my money and time, I view it in my interest to opt out and I wish others would do more of the same. I have always assumed that opt out statistics are tracked by the TSA (I’ve actually seen daily counts) and the more people opt out, the sooner TSA PreCheck will be available to everyone.
image credit – NYTimes.com