Today, it just so happened that I got to speak to an ex FBI agent who is now working with the TSA, and who also happens to be a old family friend for whom I had not seen since I was seven. I recognized him almost immediately because when I knew him he was in college and hasn't really changed much except for a few dozen pounds.
Anyway, I said hi, he remembered me and couldn't believe that little girl he played barbies with was now in front of him making him feel really old. We chit chatted and when he revealed that he worked for the FBI/TSA, I couldn't help myself and joked that he was the one to blame for the new naked body scanners at the airport. He said yes and went on to explain that they weren't nude scanners, and didn't really reveal much detail. We went on to discuss:
Me, "well, I'll never be scanned."
TSA friend, "Why?"
Me, "Well, for one I don't like the idea of some low paid goon seeing mine or my kid's whozits and whatzits on what I consider to be detailed, nude images. And second, I don't want to be exposed to massive amounts of radiation. Also, are these scanners a means for collecting biometric images for a government database? I've heard speculation on that."
TSA friend, "I really don't think the scans show much detail, I don't think you should be so worried about that and plus our employees are not interested in a cheap thrill. And yes, radiation can be an issue if you fly a lot, but to avoid that you can just get the pat down then." (no response to biometrics)
Me, "I don't know what a pat down is going to prevent when it comes to someone really wanting to get something on the plane. Without preforming a cavity check you can't really stop them, can you?"
TSA Friend, "No, but I can tell you about a woman we found in Iraq who was hiding a gel explosive next to the underwire in her bra, we saw she had it but she lit it and blew herself up before we could stop her. She killed 4 other people. It was pretty sick. "
Me, "I'll bet. So, like I said, you can's really stop them."
TSA friend, "Well with terrorist like her and the underwear bomber you have to do something to protect us from them. You'd be amazed at the files that I go over every day where we've stopped some terrorist."
Me, "Well, the underwear bomber got on the plane even though the CIA knew he was up to no good long before he even got to the airport.
TSA friend, "You're right, and that just shows how the different agencies have flaws on the lines of communication. You see, the TSA, CIA, FBI and NSA don't know what the other hand is doing."
Me, "Well, shouldn't that be fixed if you really want to protect this country? I mean, if the CIA knows a terrorist is getting on the plane, but doesn't let the TSA know this, how is a scan really going to fix that? Is it true that the scanners don't detect powder?
TSA friend, "Yeah, you're right, we can't see powder, but we're doing really well with behavioral profiling and are finding those that may slip through the scanners undetected. I mean, if someone wants to shove powder or drugs up their you know what, they're going to. And we don't care about the drugs, we're after the terrorist so we believe that these scanners and behavioral profiling are the best weapons against them. The thing is, we can't really do much more because of the Bill of Rights."
YES, he actually said that.
Me, "I'm sorry, but I think that's a good thing. The Bill of Rights is there to protect the citizens of this country from such things. I find it crazy that civilians are loosing their 4th amendment rights in the name of security and yet our borders are wide open. If you're really afraid of the terrorist coming in and blowing us all up or doing some other act of terror, close the borders!
TSA friend, "I agree, the border issue is a mess and that is because the senate is full of jerks that can't get anything done and don't want to spend money on that right now. However, when it comes to rights, there has to be balance for the sake of security. Flying is not your right, it is a privilege so if you choose to fly you have to accept certain things."
Me, "So, arguably since owning my home is also just a privilege, I should accept that it could be searched with out warrant? Where do you draw the line?"
TSA friend, "Well you could just choose not to fly or get a pat down."
The conversation pretty much dead ended there aside form a few pleasantries that were exchanged as we went our separate ways. I'm really, really happy to have bumped into him so that I could get some answers to my questions and affirmations of my concerns straight form the horse's mouth. I found it really amazing that he would argue that the Bill of Rights was in the way of them doing what they'd really like to do and should do. I didn't get into it, but because of Dubaya, we're already having out emails read and phones tapped in the name of security so really tromping on a few more rights, in TSA's mind, is just necessary.
Warning: the below image may not be suitable to children
How's this for detail? When the picture is inverted you can see a near perfect image of a nude body in detail. It is important to stress that this is a low resolution image. Airport screeners will have access to huge high definition images that, once inverted, will allow them to see every minute detail of your body.
Reassurances that airport screeners won’t be able to save the images will provide little comfort to parents who know that the crystal clear image of their naked son or daughter being ogled by a TSA thug can merely be snapped with a handheld camera for their enjoyment later.
My family will NEVER be scanned and I plan to wear a bikini through security on my next flight.