God and Sex, Part 2

January 7, 2010

There has been much discussion recently about the use of full-body scanners at airports. These scanners will reveal what's under a traveler's clothes --including a rough outline of the person's genitals, as shown here .

Some have argued use of these scanners constitutes an unnecessary invasion of privacy and oppose use of such scanners. The government has tried to reassure the public by saying alternative methods may be used for those who object, such as a pat-down or sniffer dogs, and by emphasizing that the person reading the scan will be in a separate room, and the scan will obscure the traveler's face. A few government officials have even suggested that we should have male and female lines to provide travelers the assurance that their image will be viewed only by members of the same sex.

First: isn't all this prudery a bit misplaced? We're talking about methods to prevent mass murder, for goodness sake.

Second: since we're focused on prudery, why don't we think strategically and use the bizarre fixations and phobias some Islamic extremists have to our advantage? Recall many of these fanatics abhor women, think them dirty, and don't want them anywhere near their "pure" bodies. For example, Mohammad Atta's last will specified that he did not want any women anywhere near his grave. The thought that some infidel woman would see their willy would give these creeps the willies.

So I say far from downplaying the intrusiveness of these scanners, we should emphasize the accuracy and clarity of their images, and broadcast to the Islamic world that we intend to use predominantly female security personnel to view the images. Who knows? Perhaps fear of having their body viewed by a woman may cause at least a few of these would-be terrorists to come up short -- so to speak.


#1 darshialoo (Guest) on Thursday January 07, 2010 at 8:20pm

This is the best comment on national security issues I have ever seen.  Why didn’t they think of that?

Willie she see it or not?  This does not give me the willies!

#2 Guest (Guest) on Thursday January 07, 2010 at 9:42pm

...Some of us have good reason to hide our genitals, and aren’t comfortable with being put into a ‘gender’ line. Transgender and intersexed individuals have to deal with enough stigma without being forced to be exposed to someone (and possibly separated out for not having the ‘correct’ parts for the line they get in).

#3 Randy on Friday January 08, 2010 at 12:11am

The second part of your post is intriguing, I admit.  But the first part bothered me.

“First: isn’t all this prudery a bit misplaced? We’re talking about methods to prevent mass murder, for goodness sake.”

No, actually, we’re not.  We’re talking about methods to _appear_ to _perfectly_ prevent mass murder, so paranoid people can fly pleasantly on their plane. 

If this is implemented, the determined terrorist will find ways to simply transport the explosive inside their own body, where it won’t be seen on backscatter, and blow themselves up that way.

Next, consider that in order to blur an image, you need to have an original.  That original exists, somewhere at some point in time, and can be taken, duplicated, and published.  You use the internet, so you should know how good computers are at copying, and how poor they are at erasing.

Last, how many explosions have happened on flights?  It’s a remarkably rare occurrence, which is why it makes the news when it is even attempted.

Let’s accept the risk, just like we do when we get on the highway, and take the government unpleasantness out of the experience.

#4 abandoning eden1 (Guest) on Friday January 08, 2010 at 6:29am

considering the actual risk of terrorism on a plane vs. how many people will be scanned, pretty sure this is unconstitutional under that whole “unreasonable search and seizure” part of the bill of rights. When was the last time a plane was successfully attacked (has anything happened since 9/11 that’s been successful)? This is just people overreacting to what is actually a really small risk, and then other people trying to build up the illusion of safety. As far as I’m concerned, the continuous erosion of our constitutional rights as a reaction to terrorism (and not even a successful attempt!) means that they are winning.

#5 SimonSays on Friday January 08, 2010 at 9:32am

Personally I’m getting sick and tired of high-level elected officials and the media generating a ridiculous frenzy every time we have any kind of similar incident. What adds insult to injury is that the proposed solution almost always involves making life even more miserable for everyday flyers.

As far as these machines are concerned there are two points I’d like to make:

1) The technology seems to be fairly new and their effectiveness is far from proven. Certainly not enough to warrant a ridiculously expensive nationwide adoption. We saw a similar rush to adopt a new and unproven technology with “puffer” machines, the result being that we spent $30 million on purchasing them and they are now not even in use: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/01/airport-scanner-scam

2) The motives of those calling for these seemingly miraculous machines are in serious question. Two very high-profile advocates are Michael Chertoff (see articles above) and Richard Clarke (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_A._Clarke), both former high-level intelligence officials, and both currently on the payroll of private companies that stand to make millions off any kind of TSA increased spending on new technologies. Disclosure of these relationships next to their statements by the media would go some ways to diluting the loud calls for wide adoption.

To the broader issue of deterring further attacks, I highly doubt that having female screeners will do anything. If someone is willing to die and kill for their cause, I think they’ll endure that last indignity. Additionally, many female TSA employees may rightfully object.

Anyhow, there are much bigger policy discussions that need to take place if we truly want to reduce terror, and airport scanning technologies are at best a miniscule portion of that.

#6 Strubie on Friday January 08, 2010 at 7:27pm

What a great idea!  They’re all short given their propensity for overcompensating.

#7 Kathy Orlinsky on Saturday January 09, 2010 at 8:05pm

Would children be required to go through the scanner?  If you feel fine about adults going through it, how about teenaged girls or young boys?  If not, how long until al qaeda recruits kids?

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.