TSA's Full-Body Scanners Cause Continuing Controversy

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The widespread implementation of new scanning equipment in airports across the country has both passengers and pilots in uproar this holiday season.

The new backscatter scanner device uses several different types of waves including x-rays to create an image portraying the subject essentially nude, with any concealed weapon revealed, CNN.com reported. Passengers or pilots concerned about privacy or health who choose to opt out of the service are subjected to an "enhanced pat-down" including the use of fingers and open hands to feel objector's chests and groins, Wired News reports.

David Brenner, a professor of radiation biophysics, has told CNN that the risk of backscatter scans hurting subjects is very low, but that's not enough to satiate those who fly most frequently - pilots. Two separate pilot unions have sent out letters to all of their members advising them to decline the full-body scans, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Concerned passengers plan to stand up against such invasive practices with a 'National Opt Out day' to take place on the busiest day of air travel in the United States, November 24th. Brian Sodegren, creator of the event, told Wired "You should never have to explain to your children, 'Remember that no stranger can touch or see your private area, unless it's a government employee, then it's OK.'"

Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano met with industry officials on Friday to reinforce the commitment to allowing passengers their privacy while maintaining strict security in airports, CNN reported. The officials said that the meeting was informative, but the department's activities have left a lot up in the air.

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(C) COPYRIGHT, November 19, 2010
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) head, John Pistole, has become known by many Americans this week because of his hard-line, inflexible stance that aggressive patdowns of airport passengers will not be modified. As incredulous, although we live in a Democracy, Pistole has implied wrongdoing on the part of the media for airing stories about the aggressive patdowns that are akin to molestation.

Passengers can choose between body scanners, which enable screeners to see them naked or opt out for the new aggressive patdowns that many airport travelers have described as molestation. A passenger’s refusal to allow either can cause the passenger to be arrested. Worse, Pistole has announced that some passengers will be singled out for the aggressive patdown that extends to all private areas of a person’s body.

Yes, Pistole has an obligation to keep travelers safe; however, Pistole also has an obligation to guard children from being groped by TSA employees. Pistole has an obligation to allow men and women to be free from exploitation by TSA workers. Since we are country characterized by Democracy, Pistole has an obligation to do what the people ask when the request is reasonable. This obligation extends to all of our federal elected officials. Let us commend the specific elected officials who ordered Pistole to Capital Hill this week to explain why law abiding American citizens are robbed of their dignity through “the” degrading, invasive patdown searches.

What is so bothersome is Pistol’s unwillingness to compromise. But wait, perhaps Pistole will compromise. Early this morning, he capitulated to pilots’ unions, which sounded like they were on the verge of striking if Pistole did not heed their concerns that they should not be subjected to groping or the radiation of the scanners.

The unyielding and defiant Pistole was called to the Senate floor. Pistole stated among things that new search procedures would not be changed and then he categorically held that children under age 12 are exempted from pat-downs. His integrity must be questioned, since a video clip posted to YouTube six days ago tells a different story.
Pistole’s beliefs contradict the U.S. Constitution and the freedoms that we as Americans enjoy.

TSA agents interact with the public. This means that TSA screeners must have a toolbox full of interpersonal conflict resolution skills. Their leader, Pistole, should lead by example. It seems to me that the best person to head the TSA is a seasoned street cop who knows the value of negotiation and the U.S. Constitution.

DR. Christopher C. Cooper is a New York City native, a former Washington D.C. (Metropolitan) Police Officer and United States Marine Sergeant (2nd Reconnaissance Battalion and Iraq War veteran). Presently, he is a Civil Rights Attorney & Ph.D. based in Chicago. A Graduate of the City University of New York (John Jay College) Dispute Resolution Program, he is author of approximately 36 publications including books and peer-reviewed journal articles, most concerning Police Training, Use of Force and Conflict Resolution Processes. In 2009, he was a Post Doctoral Fulbright at the University of Akureyri, Iceland in the Faculty of Law & Social Science. In 1996, he was awarded and served as a Post Doctoral Fulbright Lecturer and Researcher at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and did lecture and study Police Conflict Resolution Processes. Dr. Cooper has taught at police academies and was an enlisted instructor of Urban Combat at the U.S. Marine "Basic School", Quantico, VA. He has been featured as a consultant on and by MSNBC, CNN, BBC, NPR, CBC and other media regarding Police Work and as representative of the National Black Police Association.

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This page contains a single entry by Chris Cooper published on November 12, 2010 8:21 PM.

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