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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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TSA’s new measures safe, but for whom?

I am never flying again. Not after the TSA has implemented their new procedures for airport security.

The new procedures require passengers to be subjected to either a full-body scan, or, if they opt out, a pat down conducted by a TSA agent. I don’t know about other people, but neither of those options sound particularly fun. At first glance, I would choose the body scan. Supposedly, only the agents at the gate can see the image, and the scans aren’t stored. This would be great, but the TSA hasn’t done anything to actually assure us that they’re not storing the images. Add to this the risk that regular exposure to even this small amount of unnecessary radiation, and it seems like you’d obviously choose to get a pat-down. Oh, wait, that’s worse.

Even ignoring the fact that you’re going to get touched by some stranger in the middle of an airport, it’s obvious that the TSA hasn’t actually thought through the whole process. There have been stories of people with prostheses or medical equipment who have chosen to get the pat-down, only to see that the agents haven’t been properly trained to deal with any special situations. One woman was forced to show the TSA agent her prosthetic breast, while another man ended up with his own urine all over him after the TSA agent patting him down ignored his request to be careful with his ostomy bag. In fact, a report released by the Department of Homeland Security suggests that TSA agents don’t have adequate training to deal with any situation. That’s really comforting when the procedures could involve TSA agents touching passengers.

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To me, these new procedures represent one of my biggest fears: our government is going to use the supposed threat of terrorist attacks to strip us of our rights. Until now, I never had a problem with airport security. Putting all my liquids into three ounce containers, taking my shoes off and going through metal detectors all represent inconveniences for the sake of safety. The new scanners and pat-downs represent violations of privacy for the sake of safety. I’m no scholar in constitutional law, but I’m pretty sure that I do have a reasonable expectation of privacy when I fly. The American Civil Liberties Union has called the new procedures an invasion of privacy, and I agree. Sure, airports are public places, which is why I have no problem with the now-standard security measures. But the new scanners are going further, essentially exposing passengers’ entire bodies, and for most people, based on no evidence that they’re doing anything wrong.

When asked about the new procedures, President Obama said they’re frustrating, but they’re the “only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat that we saw in the Christmas Day bombing.” Really? The TSA can’t think of any other way to ensure our safety but to virtually strip search every passenger? The only frustrating thing to me is that Obama will never actually see any of these procedures, and neither will any other congressman. They all fly privately.

These scanners aren’t everywhere just yet, but if you’re planning on flying out of the Midwest, expect to run into them. There are scanners at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, O’Hare Airport in Chicago, and Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. Midway Airport in Chicago is getting scanners soon, and Dane County Regional Airport is on the TSA’s short list to get scanners next year. Chances are, even if you fly out of one of these airports, you won’t be required to go through the scanners. But if you do, you’ve got the fun choice of a virtual strip search or an invasive pat-down from a stranger. Me, I’m driving.

Madhuri Setaluri ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in genetics.

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