Thursday, November 18, 2010

Heightened concern over body scans before busy travel holiday

With the busiest air travel day of the year approaching, there is much talk about the 385 full-body scanners installed in 68 U.S. airports. The Transportation Security Administration hopes to install approximately 500 additional units by the end of the year.

People traveling by airplanes are going to have to make a decision between going through the body scanner, undergoing a manual pat down or agreeing to an $11,000 civil fine.

Experts warn that full body scanners could increase your risk of cancer. The radiation used in the machines could be underestimated and harmful to children. The scanner is supposed to only affect the skin and not reach the internal organs. The radiation used in the machines could be twenty times higher than originally predicted.

"I haven’t really thought about it much. In today's world it’s the price we pay, so I guess its not really invasion of privacy if its going to keep us safe," said Julio Laracuente, 22, an employee at a psychiatric hospital in New Hampshire.

National Opt-Out Day is taking place on Nov. 24, 2010. According to the National Opt-Out Day website, on this day you have the right to opt-out of the naked body scanner machines. All you have to do is say "I opt out" when they tell you to go through one of the machines. You will then be given an "enhanced" pat down. This is a right given to you by the TSA. Nov. 24 is the busiest travel day of the year, and will be used to show citizen's disagreement with the new body scanners.

The idea of a full-body scan has some people feeling uncomfortable. “At first I didn’t think anything of it, but after seeing the images the other day, it looks a little intense,” said Matt Stone, a 39-year-old account executive in North Attleboro, Mass.

When asked what he thought about full body scanners college student Brandon Crockett, 22, replied, “We should adopt the Israeli way of airport security and search people by the way they look, they have been doing it that way for over 50 years, if someone looks like a terrorist then they should be searched. There is no need for full body scans on elderly women and children; it is an unnecessary dose of radiation and a waste of time." Crockett hopes that the government will not allow strip searches to occur at the airports, and thinks if they do people will most likely begin to boycott airports.

What if you could walk through that airport body scanner, pause for the camera, and know that your naked image would never be pored over by human eyes? If it was software, not TSA screeners, who searched you and other passengers for possible explosives?

That's the vision of Transportation Security Administration head John Pistole. At a Senate hearing Wednesday, Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson conjured this future and suggested to Pisole, "It looks like technology can be a solution to the privacy issue." Pistole responded, "I think so, I'm very hopeful in that regard."

By Shea Hardiman, Elin Karlsson, Cassandra Kapelson, Amanda Newberg and Lindy Almony

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