by Imran H. Khan
When I first heard of the pervasive use of the body scanners or the alternative aggressive body pats it made me cringe as this would make air travel even less attractive than what it currently is, with the many security checks. It seems that the Homeland security has already deployed 400 hundred of x ray back scatter type scanners across over a hundred airports in the US. The choice that is now being offered to a passenger is either get yourself scanned over undergo the humiliation of an aggressive pat down, an euphemism for a stranger touching your private parts. These procedures are now in place in 450 airports and 800 million passengers will experience it over the course of the year.

The TSA confirmed last week that it has told its agents nationwide to start using the new procedure. Here’s its official statement: “TSA is in the process of implementing new pat-down procedures at checkpoints nationwide as one of our many layers of security to keep the traveling public safe. Pat-downs are one important tool to help TSA detect hidden and dangerous items such as explosives. Passengers should continue to expect an unpredictable mix of security layers that include explosives trace detection, advanced imaging technology, canine teams, among others.” That doesn’t tell you much, but according to media reports, persons who have undergone the new pat-downs use much more graphic language to describe them, referring to the inspection with words like “invasive,” “groping,” and even “foreplay.” TSA agents who conduct pat-downs will now reportedly be allowed to use their palms instead of only the backs of their hands to conduct the pat-downs in sensitive areas, and no part of the passenger’s anatomy is off limits.

A week before the Thanksgiving travel crush, some passengers and pilots have complained that the searches -- particularly the pat-downs -- are too invasive.
“I wouldn’t want my wife to be touched in a way that these folks are being touched. I wouldn’t want to be touched that way and I think that we have to be focused on safety, but there’s a balance,” said Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla. “I think we’ve gone to right field.”

But TSA Director  Pistole responded that “my job as administrator is try to find that balance, recognize the invasiveness of it and also recognize that the threats are real, the stakes are high and we must prevail.” He also emphasized that most passengers will continue to go through metal detectors and that only and a far smaller number will be directed to body scanners. A pat-down is ordered only for passengers who refuse the body scan or who trigger an alarm in a metal detector.

Pilots unions also are fighting the additional measures, saying pilots should continue going through metal detectors only. The Allied Pilots Association told its members that the cumulative effect of frequent full body scans could be harmful, given that pilots are already exposed to higher doses of cosmic rays during long flights at altitude.

Studies conducted on the full body scanners by the National Institute of Science and Technology and Johns Hopkins University concluded that radiation from the scans is minimal, Pistole said. The scanners expose a flier to the same amount of radiation as being in the air at 30,000 feet for three minutes, he said.

But after giving it some thought, I think there is a lot of sense in the deployment of these scanners and pat down procedures. Flying is not a right but a privilege. I would much rather have some people offended rather than risk the lives of those who might die as a result of not being able catch a terrorist from boarding a plane. The one billion dollars of tax payers money are well spent as the cost to the society of a successful attack is far greater than either this sum of the inconvenience. The dose currently being used is equivalent of 5000 chest Xrays. This dose is enough for TSA to secure the planes for us without needing to pat down passengers that take time and cause some sensitive souls to protest.  I think passengers should treat the pat downs in the same spirit as a doctor needing to probe the body to secure your body from disease.

What most Americans don’t really get it is that we are at war with an enemy that does not obey any rules of engagement as is willing to resort to all means.  We are always a step behind in responding to the evolving tactics.  First it was the shoe then there are these packages. I think we need to get more aggressive in protecting the homeland rather than try to please all the different sensitivities.  I think we should actually have the strength of these scanner be controlled by trained TSA agents who can increase the dose of Xrays being used depending on the thickness of clothing and the perceived threat level being posed by a passenger in the eyes of the agent.  A swarthy Middle Eastern person wearing flowing thick clothing should be a good candidate for at least one XRay’s worth of dose in a scan so that the agent can see if he or she has something in her intestines that might be dangerous.

If such a person’s behavior is suspicious we should actually have Virtual Colonscopy Machines installed to make 100 percent sure that they are not a threat to the society.  In case they are found to be not dangerous we could, if they so desire ,give them the result of the scan which they could show it to their doctor thus saving them some money in not have a need to get a colonoscopy done. Getting a blood sample and performing a test for drugs prior to a flight should also improve the level of ensuring a safer flight.

We should actually have all the options on the table when it comes to flying in larger planes over longer distances as they have the potential to cause the maximum damage.  In these longer flights I think the passengers should actually  be sedated as this would obviate the need to feed and entertain them. These savings could be passed to the passengers in lower ticket prices.

Just as the investments into X ray machines are now bearing fruit in making us safer, HomeLand Security should increase investments into research towards understanding the brain wave patterns of the criminal mind. Should that technology mature we could offer those passengers that cannot be sedated due to medical reasons to opt to wear the “thought probes” on the heads for the duration of the flights that should be coupled with lethal poison injectors under their seat cushions. The close coupling between such sensor which injects the suppressive poison if the level of objectionable thoughts cross a dangerous threshold would make flying nearly 100 percent safe for the American public to fly.

Once we have all these defense mechanisms in place we would be in a position to take on the terrorists around the world with impunity and they will be running for their lives and the Mission will be finally Accomplished.

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4 Responses to “Probing the Passengers”

  1. Mario Moreira on November 21st, 2010 1:19 pm

    Sounds like an opportunity to blend the homeland security with universal healthcare…

  2. Fatima Khan on November 21st, 2010 11:26 pm

    Seriously, Bro seriously.

    Fatima Khan Reply:

    imran Reply:

    The post is an obvious parody on the new procedures that give the appearance of better security, but in essence can easily be defeated. To guarantee 100 percent security would make travel more like the annual medical check up with the associated ramifications to the travel industry and individual rights.