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AIRPORT SCANNERS: INVASION OF PRIVACY RIGHTS

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In the days and weeks following the attempted Christmas day bombing of Northwest Flight 253, there was a rush by public officials to put further security precautions in place at our nation's airports with few policy makers or security experts asking whether these new measures were effective or a gross invasion of the personal privacy of our nation's public. The most grievous affront to personal privacy in these new security policies comes in the form of an invasive new airport scanner that takes advantage of millimeter wave imaging technology to reveal the actual physical contours of a passenger's body. Thankfully, a growing number of civil liberties groups and concerned citizens are voicing their concerns that these new scanners are in direct violation of the rights to personal privacy that are guaranteed to every American citizen.

Unlike traditional airport body scanners, these devices produce an actual three dimensional image of a passenger's body, revealing how a person appears in the nude and exposing any prosthetic devices or other private conditions that a passenger may happen to have. At the time of the attack, there were roughly forty of these scanners in use in the United States, and a further 150 full body scanners have been approved for installation this year and another 400 scanners to come in the following year.

In addition to violating the personal privacy of our citizens, the full body airport scanners that use millimeter wave imaging technology do not appear to offer any substantial increase in the real security of our skies. The explosive materials that the Christmas bomber had managed to bring aboard his plane last Christmas would not have even been detected by these new scanners, and today's terrorist organizations have proved many times in recent years that they know how to beat these scanners in other attempted attacks around the world. Instead, the implementation of these scanners appears to be more geared toward what it is known in the industry as security theater. Security theater is the use of extremely sophisticated but essentially useless forms of technology and elaborate forms of procedures that are designed to simply give the public a sense that all possible security precautions have been taken.

The problem with these new full body airport scanners is that they cross the line to invading the actual privacy rights that are guaranteed by the constitution while offering nothing more than ineffectual security theater. All that rushing to put these apparatuses in place in our nation's airports does is keep the policy makers at the United States Transportation Security Administration in office while allowing the billion dollar airport security industry to make record profits. All the while, transportation security officers are able to see the most private parts of a passenger’s body and medical condition due to a new policy that seems to offer absolutely no significant advantage in increasing aircraft safety or security.

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