New TSA Body Scans

Thursday, November 18, 2010

James Fallows, national correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly, on the planned "opt-out" day to decline to be screened by the new full body scans at airports.

Are you comfortable with body scans at airports? How do you balance security and privacy when travelling? Let us know!


James Fallows

Comments [58]

erik from NY

I guess Dorothy from Manhattan got that email too.

Nov. 24 2010 03:34 PM
bill from nj

I'm a big fan of Mr. Fallows. I think he's wrong on this one.

Nov. 24 2010 08:48 AM
frequentflyer from PA

I preface my comment wih the fact that I fly several times a week (not my option but as a condition of my employment) and I also lost 6 friends on September 11th. I have been touched more by that day than many of you reading this I can assure you - so grant standing on your principles won't sway me. The fact of the matter that hundreds of millions of dollars is spent on this technology and the record of success (Zero attcks thwarted) is none. The real issue with our security is who impliments it - to work as in TSA on the front line the qualifications are Highschool diploma, GED, or a year working security. We use the McDonalds philosophy of using more high technology and less skilled workers. Why don't we spend the money in a way that works. Check out El Al stats - no fancy body scanners there. While I can't pretent to know if these scanners would have kept my friends alive I know that the people who did attack us got what they wanted. We are now more scared and giving up freedom willingly in te hopes of prevention.

Nov. 19 2010 10:40 AM
dboy from nyc

Dorothy from Manhattan... is on to something!

Nov. 19 2010 07:50 AM
Jeff Joseph from Long Island

As I heard the statistic about car accident deaths versus terrorist related deaths, it strikes me that we are driven to achieve the illusion of security and control over our fate.
We accept the high accident levels when driving because we are behind the wheel, and feel we have some measure of control over our vehicles. But when we are in flight on airplane, we literally place our lives in someone else's hands. And that is more frightening, despite the objective data that it is many times safer than driving.

Nov. 18 2010 02:14 PM
Dorothy from Manhattan

Received today in an email:
Here's the solution to all the controversy over full-body scanners at the airports:

Have a booth that you can step into that will not x-ray you, but will
detonate any explosive device you may have on your body. It would be a win-win for everyone, and there would be none of this crap about racial profiling. And this method would eliminate a long and expensive trial.

Justice would be quick and swift.

This is so simple. I can see it now.

You're in the airport terminal and you hear a muffled explosion.
Shortly thereafter an announcement comes over the PA system,

"Attention standby passengers.
We now have a seat available on flight number 4665 ....

Paging maintenance shop ---- "Vac needed in booth number 4."

Nov. 18 2010 01:20 PM
dboy from nyc


They already do!

Ibrahim Asiri, the dude that built the recent "printer cartridge" bombs, planted a rectum bomb in his 23 yo, younger brother's butt in a botched attempt to assassinate Prince Mohamed bin Naif, Saudi Arabia’s deputy interior minister for security affairs. The bomb ripped a new hole in this younger brother and promptly killed him. Prince Mohamed bin Naif walked away.

Perhaps there's a capacity limitation...

Get in shape - start doing you toe-touchers, now!

Nov. 18 2010 12:30 PM

What do we do when terrorists start putting explosives INSIDE their bodies? It's the logical next step. Drug smugglers have been doing it for years. Then what TSA? How far will we go for "security?"

Nov. 18 2010 12:04 PM

If I thought any of these anti-terrorist measures would be truly effective in preventing another attack, I would be more willing to submit. But since these layers of intrusion have been added only after a near-attack has taken place, I think the TSA and Homeland Security have no idea what they're doing. We should look to Israel for effective ways to screen passengers. And as for assurances that the full body scanners are safe -- HAH!

Nov. 18 2010 12:01 PM
The Truth from Becky

OMG I hope I don't miss my flight next week due to all of these theatrics! I am NOT doing a body scan and I am NOT being fondled or groped by some chick without protest!

Nov. 18 2010 11:57 AM
dboy from nyc

Is someone gunna try to convince me that TSA guys are NOT gunna "cherry" pick those "random" screenees???

Submit to the explicit picture machine or the intrusive fondling... sounds like a sex offender's dream job!

Nov. 18 2010 11:48 AM
Jerome Kerner

Mr. fallows was incorrect in stating that USA security was most stringent. Just transferred plans in Schiphol and they are using full body scanner. In addition once you are at the gate you are not permitted to leave enclosed room.

Nov. 18 2010 11:46 AM
Amy from Manhattan

While I was on hold w/my questions, Mr. Fallows mentioned that the radiation limits in the software are programmed into the software. This reminded me of an x-ray-based medical technology (don't remember what it was now, but I think it was for treatment, not diagnosis) that ended up killing several people because the programming that was supposed to keep the dose from being set beyond the safety limit didn't. The machines were changed so the limit was in the hardware instead of the software, making it physically impossible to set it too high.

Nov. 18 2010 11:46 AM
GO from office

You can't win either way - either people will throw up their hands and complain about having extra security (whether it's a body scan or something else) or those same people will point fingers claiming poor security if there's a plane related terrorist attack.
Either way, eventually the terrorists will find a way around the enhanced security - they always do. They're like cancer.

Nov. 18 2010 11:45 AM

Is there anything the American people will sacrifice for this country? We fight two wars with tax cuts, we want non stop entitlements but don't want to pitch in anything. Now we can't sacrifice a minor change for safety. We would never win WWII with the type of citzens we have today. We are all just silly.

Nov. 18 2010 11:45 AM
Elizabeth from Scarsdale

I had a full-body scan and was appalled to watch my teenager and 2 young children be pat down by a stranger. What message is that to our kids? Also, where is FREEDOM? The terrorists just sit back and laugh as we, like trained dogs, subject ourselves to these tricks that really don't do anything.

Nov. 18 2010 11:44 AM

To those of you who think the answer is a smug 'don't fly', not all of us fly once a year for vacation. Many of us fly constantly as a condition of our employment. No flying = unemployment line.

Nov. 18 2010 11:44 AM
Carl Ian Schwartz from Paterson, New Jersey

News Hour reporter Warner asked the pertinent question of TSA's Pistole: will the new scanners detect explosives carried in a person's body cavities (genital or digestive tract). His answer was honest--"No."

Nov. 18 2010 11:43 AM

I'm not surprised that those who want to "protest" this policy also consider wearing a kilt to be an "edgy" act.

Nov. 18 2010 11:43 AM

... c'mon!

Who doesn't enjoy having their sweet bits caressed by total strangers!!!

Nov. 18 2010 11:42 AM
Bethany from Brooklyn

I'm traveling with a small child - ad neither option sounds good. Stranger seeing/recording my baby naked or stranger groping her?

Nov. 18 2010 11:42 AM

Totally invasive procedure foisted on us because the military never caught bin Laden and the CIA and FBI have let his wannabes slip through their analyses. Pathetic! Not only that but the body scan results are recorded and saved for what? Someone’s viewing pleasure a la our troops’ conversations with their wives and loved ones? Perhaps sold to the highest corporate bidder? The very rich and corporate VIPS, as usual, have escaped this as they board their private jets.

Nov. 18 2010 11:42 AM
Andrea from Rockland County

If all cargo is not checked on passenger planes, any type of human scanning is a moot point.

Nov. 18 2010 11:42 AM
Anna from Munich

I'm sorry, but your guest doesn't know what he's talking about. Shoe removal is NOT "unique" to the US. I have to remove my shoes regularly in Europe and we are checked twice before getting on flights to the US. Women are patted down here by women, men by men. What's the problem???!!!!

Nov. 18 2010 11:41 AM

The Israelis, the most terrorist-threatened population in the world, don't do this stuff, and their airline security record is second to none. Why are we not doing it like them? Because the US is a STUPID COUNTRY. STUPID. S-T-U-P-I-D.

Not to mention the fact that Michael Chertoff is a majority stockholder in the company who makes the back-scatter machines. Machines that I wouldn't trust touching with a barge pole.

Nov. 18 2010 11:41 AM
Edward from NJ

I don't think these screening measures are particularly effective, but the government is really in a no win situation at this point. Now that they've started down this road, it's really hard to stop. If they halt these screening methods and something gets through that might have been caught, the political backlash would be ridiculous.

Nov. 18 2010 11:40 AM
BK from NJ

Why are we spending time and money patting down kids and old ladies? How can it be that we are doing this while not profiling our flyers? Yes I said profile. Basic investigation should have caught the underwear bomber. He is Muslim single young man who bought a one way ticket with cash?!?! Why not grab guys like this for extra screening. And my wifesTurkish Muslim family feels the same so don't cry racism.

Nov. 18 2010 11:40 AM
Unheard from NYC

What happened to America the brave?

I'd prefer to take my chances without all the security theater. The TSA is just trying to look like it's doing something.

Nov. 18 2010 11:40 AM

The body scanners horrify me. I have been "randomly" chosen before at JFK to have my bags searched when returning from Europe. TWO TSA officers then proceeded to make passes at me while "searching" my luggage. It's one thing to have my luggage "randomly' searched and quite another to have my body "randomly" searched or scanned. Random is NOT always random.

Nov. 18 2010 11:38 AM
Johnny from NJ

$200billion dollars spent by TSA, 0 attacks thwarted. More fancy machines and crotch patting won't increase security, just increase delays and make air travel less appealing. I hope this brings a resurgence in train infrastructure!

We are punishing the public for the guise of security when there are gaping holes in other transportation security (private planes, trains, mass transit). I don't know at what point we seceded our freedom and privacy for these invasions of privacy. The organization we are protecting ourselves our well organized and funded they will seek out less guarded means if that is there intention.

Cut TSA budget and cold war military spending to ease our deficit.

Nov. 18 2010 11:38 AM
Amy from norwalk, ct

We tell kids that they are not to let strangers touch them.. are these strangers okay? What about "disconnect" by Devra Davis, all radio waves impact DNA, this is not good for kids or anyone!

Nov. 18 2010 11:37 AM
Tamar Haspel from Cape Cod

I have a defibrillator, and I get patted down every time, since I can't go through the detectors.

It's hard to see what all the fuss is about. No intimate parts are touched. My only concern is that, once you've been patted down, you know exactly how you'd conceal something.

Nov. 18 2010 11:37 AM
lozie from NYC

I've been through a few times and I have to wonder, why do I still have to take my shoes off?

Nov. 18 2010 11:36 AM
Ben from Manhattan

(1) This is another example of us American's feeling entitled. Flying is a privilege. If you do not want to follow the new rules, don;t fly.
(2) I would like to hear a scientist comment on the radiation effects of the body scanning machines. So far only journalists have been commenting that they are dangerous and what do they know? Radiation is just a buzz word used to scare people.

Nov. 18 2010 11:36 AM
Chris from New York City

The TSA should look for ways to enlist the help of travelers in thwarting terrorism, rather than treating all passengers and crew as terror suspects. After all, it was the passengers who stopped the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber and the final 9/11 flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. For myself, I will simply not fly.

Nov. 18 2010 11:36 AM

No one is forcing anyone to fly. If you don't want these intrusive scans, find alternate transportation.

Nov. 18 2010 11:36 AM
Bob from Pelham, NY

I understand the point of protest, but picking the day before Thanksgiving is punishing the regular people who have to travel on one of the most busy air travel days of the year. There must be a better way to make the point.

Years ago, the DC-37 tried to make a point by having their bridge operator members open all the draw bridges in the city during morning rush hour. It backfired big-time, losing tons of support for the union from regular working people. Situation seems the same.

Nov. 18 2010 11:36 AM

I chuckle at all the "don't touch my junk" outrage, because now men get to experience what women deal with almost every day. I'd love to see half the energy devoted to street harassment, groping, and all the other "public domain" issues women's bodies are subjected to.

I'm not excited about the radiation, but that is clearly taking a backseat to the "assault on liberty." Also, privatizing the system for each airline would be incredibly inconsistent and I'd certainly not feel quite as safe when the only incentive is profit.

Nov. 18 2010 11:36 AM
The Truth from Becky

Radiation is the least of my concerns about this situation!

Nov. 18 2010 11:35 AM
Peter from Brooklyn

I, frankly do not get what the big deal is about either the scan or the pat-down. While I understand the argument that such measures are reactive and not proactive, the way I see it, if it makes me and my family just a tiny bit safer by making it more difficult for a would-be terrorist to blow up the plane, then so be it. I would rather have a TSA agent look at or touch my crotch, than have the guy in the seat next to me bring the plane down by blowing up his own.

Nov. 18 2010 11:35 AM

Our airport security system isn't particularly reasonable or effective. What we need to do is to profile people, like the Israeli's do. I know it's not PC, but it's the only reasonable way to do things. TSA security procedures did not stop the shoe bomber or the underwear bomber.

BTW, the scanners are just another military industrial complex technology in need of an application. The technology was developed at Battelle at Hanford in the 1990s.

Nov. 18 2010 11:35 AM

so what's the answer. if u get on a plane, it's either or.

Nov. 18 2010 11:35 AM
John from Inwood

If airline passengers (the whiniest consumers in America) are that offended, they should make the switch to passenger rail, where there is virtually no security whatsoever.

Nov. 18 2010 11:34 AM
nat from Brooklyn

Why is this the privacy issue people care about?

I am much less concerned that some disintereseted TSA is going to "touch my junk" than I am that the federal government has a complete record of everywhere I fly (in addition to the other mountains of data they've collected on us.)

Furthermore, this sort of thing is only new at the airport; so now its time for people of privilege to react to their privacy being invaded. What about all the young men of color who get their "junk" grabbed by the NYPD on a daily basis. The statistics show that most of those guys are innocent, like mot folks in the airport. This is the same principle. If you aren't against stop and frisk, you can't complain about this.

Nov. 18 2010 11:34 AM
JJ from Newark, NJ

I work for a nonprofit at the airport and, believe me, the pat-downs are MUCH MORE more intrusive.

Nov. 18 2010 11:34 AM
Brad from Moonachie

It has been many years since Israel suffered a terrorist attack on a plane, yet their security doesn't confiscate bottles of water, expose people to radiation, or make people remove their shoes, belts etc. Instead, they rely on short interviews with the passengers by highly skilled security people. Why can't we do the same thing?

Nov. 18 2010 11:34 AM
The Truth from Becky

I feel two ways about this...NO I don't want anyone seeing me naked nor do I want to be physically patted down BUT I do not want to be on a plane with someone who has not been checked.

Nov. 18 2010 11:33 AM
Sandy Binion from West Milford, NJ

Has any potential attacks actually been thwarted by these extreme procedures? It seems that we always hear about the attacks after they've been missed and never when they're prevented.

Nov. 18 2010 11:32 AM
Maggie from Manhattan

Laura from Manhattan—the TSA says "enhanced pat-downs" will not be used with children 12 and under. I'd love to know how they arrived at that age; is the innocence of a 13 year old somehow less deserving of protection?

Nov. 18 2010 11:32 AM
Debbie Ray from Mendham

I have an implanted defibrillator and pacemaker, thus I have had hand screening for the past five years. ALL the TSA workers have handled the procedure with respect and professionalism. I feel the procedure is more difficult for the workers than it has ever been for me. Get over it people --

Nov. 18 2010 11:31 AM
Richard Johnston from Manhattan Upper West Side

Haven't the Israelis found ways to prevent terrorism without being this physically intrusive?

Nov. 18 2010 11:30 AM
Mark from nyc

All the failed airplane bomb attempts (shoe bomber, underware bomber etc..) have come from overseas carriers. NONE of them originated from domestic flights or airports.

This is just more fear based, shut up and do as you're told attacks on our slowly eroding privacy.

Nov. 18 2010 11:26 AM
Katie Kennedy from Huntington, NY

To P from Paterson--The government said the scans are safe. They also said the air was safe in NYC after 9/11. Agent Orange was safe; so was the Dalkon Shield and DES. I'm sure the government is right about the scans. My advice--don't let your kids near them.

Nov. 18 2010 11:17 AM
Laura from Manhattan

I hear there will be random body searches. With the new more invasive search, how will this be implemented when a child, pre-teen or teenager's ticket is picked?

When my oldest was 5 years old, she was randomly chosen under the old rules, and they indeed took her aside and made her take off her shoes, search her with a wand, etc.

There is no way I'd let them take her now she is 12 and body search her with their hands.

Nov. 18 2010 11:15 AM
p from paterson

I am amazingly not comfortable with the full body scans, especially in regards to my children! I'm curious if this will actually affect the safety.

Nov. 18 2010 11:11 AM
Katie Kennedy from Huntington, NY

I am definitely against the body scans and anyone "feeling me up" before I get on a plane. I can't believe how many people want to give up their right to privacy out of fear--we all know what Benjamin Franklin said about that. The wrong people are being subjected to dangerous body scans and groping that which does nothing to stop the terrorism. The Terrorists are laughing hysterically at us tyring to play catch up. I envision them planning the most ridiculous ways to blow up a plane and then planning on the "true believer" to get caught so they can watch the US put US citizens through the hoops--hence we now have to take off our shoes. Have cases of Athletes Foot increased? I have a flight in November and I really don't want to make this trip. It's disgusting and unnecessary. Are they x-raying the cargo yet????

Nov. 18 2010 11:09 AM

how long before these porno tapes show up on line?

Nov. 18 2010 10:34 AM
Tea Party Deactivist

Nov. 18 2010 09:58 AM

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