When Will Full Body Scans Become Mandatory?

We're probably just one big scare away from mandatory full-body scans.

Christopher Elliott speculates on how we’re probably one security scare away from making full body scans mandatory:

No matter who you are, though, the happenings of the last two weeks, which include the Transportation Security Administration’s imposition of new enhanced pat-down procedures for passengers who refuse the full-body scans, the terrorism scare, and a pilot who refused to undergo the TSA’s new screening, all lead to the same question: When will the government force us to go through these new machines?

Probably a lot sooner than we think.

I don’t see how full-body scans are constitutional, myself, but I’ve no doubt that the courts will uphold them. Elliott thinks that they’ll be mandatory in less than 12 months. I wish I could disagree with that, but I don’t.

For the time being, I plan on opting out of full body scans until I can’t. And when I can’t — I’m going to stop flying. Period. End of story. No exceptions. I don’t care how inconvenient it is. Security at airports is already to the point that I hate to fly. It’s stupid and pointless to take off my shoes and not carry a latte into the terminal with me. Hell, I can barely tolerate metal detectors and I resent like hell the fact that my bags get X-rayed.

A free people shouldn’t have to put up with this bullshit.

FILED UNDER: Bureaucracy, Crime, US Politics
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I take no responsibility for the mental health or well-being of the TSA rep who has to check a full body scan of me.

  2. Brett says:

    For the time being, I plan on opting out of full body scans until I can’t. And when I can’t — I’m going to stop flying. Period. End of story.

    What’s the big deal? It’s not like it shows an anatomically detailed version of you naked on the screen – it’s just a depiction of your body in general proportions.

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    @Brett –

    Check out the pictures at the link. Those are typical pictures produced by the full body scanner.

    And I imagine that the technology will move in the direction of MORE detail, not less.

  4. Brett says:

    That’s still not particularly revealing, certainly not enough to justify the hysterics.

    But then, I don’t really care if some TSA agent gets a full body scan look at me for a very short period of time.

  5. Drew says:

    I don’t know what your problem is, Alex. I’m moving to LA and volunteering to do full hand pat downs of female movie stars.

    Safety first, you know.

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    Here is a question, since the pictures are…pretty much nude wouldn’t such pictures of children constitute production of child pornography? If such images are ever saved and possibly sent couldn’t that be seen as distribution?

  7. Steve Verdon says:

    Drew,

    Damn….you’ve convinced me. Where do I sign up to do extensive pat downs, and dibs on Halle Berry.

  8. Alex Knapp says:

    @Brett,

    The full body scans are unnecessary (there have been several successful attempts by journalists to smuggle weapons through them), invasive (they are revealing enough that TSA employees have been recorded referring to them as “dick-measurers), and more than just a “very short period of time” — each scan is RECORDED. (And TSA employees have been caught copying scans of women and disseminating them).

    Given the tech, a FBS easily qualifies as a search of one’s person, a search that is performed by law enforcement without probable cause.

  9. matt says:

    Contrary to what some people say some of the scanners have been proven to save images so that’s actually a valid question..

  10. matt says:

    Alex’s post wasn’t up when I hit “post comment” 🙁

    Interestingly last night I was reading about the latest reporter to make it through the scanner with liquid “explosives” without being detected. I definitely do not have a lot of confidence in these scanners or the people operating them.

    In the end I fear that the failure rate of the devices will result in a push to increase the picture quality and thus worsen the privacy issues..

  11. Generation Yer says:

    As long as it keeps me from having to take off my damned shoes, I’ll be happy!

    I think the response is more our cultural view on nudity more than it is a privacy issue. The technology is already advanced enough to show the detail, but the software has been created to ‘blur’ them. How exactly is a body scan showing a Barbie/Ken doll view of my body an invasion of privacy?

    Also, how is this an issue of freedom? I am still free to choose whether I fly or not. Flying is not a constitutional right, it is a good. Now if the government forced you to fly, and then forced you to be scanned, I can see the point. These sound like similar arguments against helmet/seat belt laws.

  12. matt says:

    Oh I’m sure you’ll still have to take off your shoes…

  13. John Burgess says:

    I’m trying to figure out what’s unconstitutional about it. It’s not a criminal search, so there’s no 4th Amendment issue. It’s portrayed as–and the courts will certainly accept that it is–a security search, maybe a little more descriptive than the one you need to go into a courthouse.

    As has been noted above, there’s no right being violated here. If you don’t like the security measures, you’re not required to fly. There’s no right to air travel, only a privilege if one follows the rules.

    Personally, I don’t care who sees what of mine. I frequent clothing-optional beaches, so I’m not terribly shy to start with. If my image puts a smile on some joker’s face, well, then I’ve just added to the quanta of global happiness.

  14. Generation Yer says:

    Matt – Crush my idealistic, liberal dreams why don’t you!

    John – Agreed… if someone wants to download my scan to fap to… I’d be flattered. I’m also wondering how many on this board would actually have reason to fear that issue.

  15. Brian Knapp says:

    I’m trying to figure out what’s unconstitutional about it.

    This is a strip search. You cannot even perform a strip search on any person in a JAIL after they have been arrested, without a warrant. But you can strip search in prison without a warrant.

    But I don’t want to hold citizens to the same standard as CONVICTED-INCARCERATED FELONS.

    But maybe that’s just me.

  16. Brett says:

    I actually agree with you, Alex, on the fact that they don’t work well. I just said that they don’t bother me, and certainly wouldn’t stop me from flying.

  17. Bill W says:

    I have pretty much refused to fly for about 5 years now. Makes vacations a pain in the rear, but I refuse to partake in security theater. This is just more icing on that cake.

  18. Generation Yer says:

    Brian – How is this even remotely a strip search? Do you take off your clothes? Does the TSA agent see a full-on nude photograph of you?

    From what I’ve seen of the pictures… the answer is no.

  19. Steve Verdon says:

    John – Agreed… if someone wants to download my scan to fap to… I’d be flattered.

    Your young daughter or son?

    John,

    I’m trying to figure out what’s unconstitutional about it. It’s not a criminal search, so there’s no 4th Amendment issue.

    Try such a scan while carrying a gun. I can bet the charges against you will be criminal.

    Brian – How is this even remotely a strip search? Do you take off your clothes? Does the TSA agent see a full-on nude photograph of you?

    A teen girl was forced to remove her outer clothing and was in only her under garments while in high school in an attempt to find some drugs, that was considered a strip search. Since this would be at least as revealing, its a strip search.

  20. Generation Yer says:

    Steve – Obviously, fapping to underage pics would be illegal and repulsive. My comment was in jest, and if you can’t see that, get a sense of humor. The fact is, from what I’ve read the face and the genitalia are blurred, and the person viewing the scan is doing so in a remote room, and does not actually see the person.

    A strip search requires someone removing their clothing. This is NOT a strip search.

  21. Brian Knapp says:

    How is this even remotely a strip search? Do you take off your clothes? Does the TSA agent see a full-on nude photograph of you?

    That people are forced to display portions of the body that they wished to be covered by clothes, makes them strip searches. FBS are commonly referred to as “electronic strip searches”. That they are visual and not also hands-on makes them a little less offensive, but strip searches all the same since they can peer through your clothes.

    That they are performed without probable cause of criminal activity makes them unreasonable and that they are perpetrated by a government actor makes them unconstitutional.

  22. TG Chicago says:

    Steve Verdon makes a disturbing point, but it’s valid. Why wouldn’t a pedophile want to sign up for the TSA now? Aren’t we incentivizing them to go that route?

  23. Generation Yer says:

    Brian – Again, faces and genitalia are blurred in the images and the person viewing it is in a completely different room and never sees the person. This, to me, is less intrusive than a pat down. Calling it an ‘electronic strip search’ means nothing, I could call it an ‘electronic pat down.’ The way we choose to describe it just shows what side of the fence we fall on the issue.

    But your last point is interesting. You state: “they are performed without probable cause of criminal activity makes them unreasonable…”

    The fourth amendment is actually the other way around, it protects from unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause. The issue we have here then is: Is walking through one of these devices considered an unreasonable search?

    TG – As stated before, the faces and genitalia are blurred, there is nothing to get aroused from.

  24. Bob Davis says:

    Hey Alex:

    Walk from California to DC sometime, dummy.

    Flying is not a right; it’s a privilege, just like a driver’s license. Get over it…it’s called the law.

  25. matt says:

    So basically your saying the underwear bomber wouldn’t of been caught either…

  26. Joe R. says:

    Nothing like licking the boot on your throat. Mmmm…tastes good.

    If you’re taking the stance that “flying isn’t a right,” then think about it from a private property standpoint. I bought a ticket to get on that American Airlines flight, and American Airlines agreed to let me on board. Why is the government stopping me from getting on? You wouldn’t let the TSA keep you from getting in your car or into a TGIFriday’s on wing night.

  27. Joe – Because it’s not private property. Airports are built with government funds, so must comply with federal guidelines.