Enhanced Airport Screening Controvery – by Stephen Lendman
On November 23, Washington Post writers Jon Cohen and Ashley Halsey III headlined, “Poll: Nearly two-thirds of Americans support full-body scanners,” according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, even though “half of those polled say enhanced pat-down searches go too far.”
A new Zogby (11/19 – 22) poll disagreed, saying:
At 61% opposed, “(i)t’s clear (most) Americans are not happy with TSA and their enhanced security measures recently enacted. The airlines should not be happy with 48% of their frequent fliers seeking a different mode of transportation due to these enhancements.”
Neither should passengers facing molestation and harm to their health. More on that below.
Calling enhanced screening a “virtual strip search,” the ACLU also objected, saying:
“We need to act wisely. That means not trading away our privacy for ineffective (and overly intrusive) policies. Ultimately, it is up to the American people to figure out just how much privacy they want to abandon….The ACLU represents those who value privacy in this debate.”
AP reported it already received over 600 complaints, passengers saying “they were subjected to humiliating pat-downs at US airports, and the pace is accelerating, according to ACLU legislative counsel Christopher Calabrese.”
He added: “It really drives home how invasive it is and (harassing) they are….All of us have a right to travel without such crude invasions of our privacy….You shouldn’t have to check your rights when you check your luggage.”
Public outrage also makes headlines, passengers complaining about intrusive screening, especially being groped. The more often they fly and endure it, the louder perhaps disapproval will grow, especially for techniques some critics call ineffective.
Reports also call them heavy-handed. A Michigan bladder cancer survivor, wearing a body bag to collect urine, said its contents spilled on his clothing after a Detroit airport security agent patted him down aggressively. He called the experience “absolutely humiliat(ing). I couldn’t even speak.” Other accounts are also unsettling, and for what!
Screening Fails the Test
An October 28, 2006 Ron Marsico Newhouse News Service article headlined, “Airport screeners fail to see most test bombs,” saying:
‘Screeners at Newark Liberty International Airport…failed 20 of 22 security tests conducted by undercover US agents last week, missing concealed bombs and guns at checkpoints throughout the major air hub’s three terminals, according to federal security officials.”
On October 22, 2007, Thomas Frank’s USA Today article headlined, “Most fake bombs missed by screeners,” saying:
Screeners failed to detect them at “two of the nation’s busiest airports,” Chicago O’Hare and Los Angeles International.” The failure rates “stunned security experts.”
A November 11, 2010 published report by the Airline Pilots Security Alliance headlined “The Truth about Airline Security – from the Pilots Themselves,” saying:
Post-9/11, despite elaborate airport procedures, FAA tests showed “airport screeners failed to detect deliberately hidden weapons from 66% – 95% of the time, (and) new independent government reports confirm screening failures….just as high….for both weapons and explosives.”
X-ray machines are no better than metal detectors. The number of bags screened, and numerous shadows and shapes on each viewed from only a single angle, makes it very hard to identify weapons among the clutter of gadgets, clothes, and personal articles passengers pack or carry on their person. As a result, “screening weaknesses make the system very easy to deliberately exploit.”
In fact, besides being a health hazard (discussed below), it’s useless and unnecessary. So-called bomb plots are fake. Remember past ones, including a fake shoe bomber, a fake underwear bomber, a fake Times Square bomber, an earlier fake one there, fake shampoo bombers, a fake Al Qaeda woman planning fake attacks on New York landmarks, fake 9/11 bombers, and others in a fake democracy with fake elections and fake public servants. Now intrusive airport screening for fake security and corporate profits. More on that below.
America’s war on terror was fabricated to incite fear. It’s a bogus scheme to facilitate America’s imperial agenda, including global wars, homeland repression, greater corporate dominance, and an oppressive security apparatus that includes intrusive airport screening, more perhaps coming to communities and many neighborhoods.
Look for them next at train and bus stations, on city transit systems, at random city checkpoints, in court houses and government buildings, and on interstate highways, then perhaps at home, work, shopping malls and elsewhere, making America Orwell’s worst nightmare – Big Brother harassing, watching, listening, screening, and destroying the last remnants of civil liberty protections.
Yet the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled passengers have no right to refuse, saying:
“Requiring that a potential passenger be allowed to revoke consent to an ongoing airport security search makes little sense in the post-9/11 world. Such a rule would afford terrorists multiple opportunities to attempt to penetrate airport security by ‘electing not to fly’ on the cusp of detection until a vulnerable portal is found.”
Not a word (from a right-wing court) about harassment, worthless procedures, hazardous radiation, lawlessness, fake threats, or that state terrorism alone imperils everyone. More details below.
Lies, Damn Lies, and Government Pronouncements
So far, Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) systems operate at America’s 68 largest airports, passengers opting out subjected to humiliating pat-downs. Those refusing both procedures won’t fly. However, they’ll be harassed, interrogated, possibly arrested, and fined up to $11,000 – for lawfully demanding their rights.
Yet Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano calls screening procedures effective for public safety, saying:
“There is a continued threat against aviation involving those who seek to smuggle powders and gels that can be used as explosives on airplanes. The new technology is designed to help us identify those individuals.”
False! The above section exposed the lie, but there’s more.
She also calls AIT machines (Advanced Imaging Technology) “safe, efficient, as well as strengthen newcomer privacy. They have been exclusively evaluated by (the FDA,) a National Institute of Standards as well as Technology (and) a Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, who have all endorsed their safety.”
False again, according to Johns Hopkins Lab spokeswoman Helen Worth, telling CNN: “That was not our role. We measured the level of radiation, which was then evaluated by the TSA.”
Dr. Michael Love, head of an x-ray lab for the biophysics and biophysical chemistry department at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine exposed another lie about safety. On November 12, AFP quoted him saying:
“They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these x-rays. No exposure to x-ray is considered beneficial. We know (they’re) hazardous but we have a situation at airports where people are so eager to fly that they will risk their lives in this manner.”
Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) also raised concerns about “potential serious health risks.” Biochemist John Sedat and his colleagues said skin and underlying tissues get most scanner energy. “While the dose would (cause less harm) if it were distributed throughout (the) entire body, the dose to the skin may be dangerously high.”
On June 29, Dr. David Brenner, head of the radiological research center at Columbia University told the London Telegraph:
“If all 800 million people who use airports every year were screened with x-rays, then the very small individual risk multiplied by the large number of screened people might imply a potential public health or societal risk. The population risk has the potential to be significant.”
All travelers are at risk, especially pregnant women, their fetuses, young children, cancer patients, HIV-positive flyers, and anyone over 65. Calling the technology safe is untrue, yet the Obama administration deceitfully does it. However, not without growing criticism.
Unions for American Airlines and US Airways asked their pilots to bypass scanning, citing radiation concerns. On November 20, Los Angeles Times writer Brian Bennett headlined, “TSA exempts US airline pilots from pat-downs and body scans,” saying:
“After weeks of pressure from pilot unions….the (TSA) agreed (on 11/19) to exempt pilots….traveling in uniform. (Instead, they’ll go) through expedited screening after two forms of their (ID) are checked against a secure database, TSA Director John Pistole said in a statement.”
New Jersey and Idaho legislators also want enhanced screening banned. So do New York City ones, wanting them out of JFK and LaGuardia Airports. Georgetown University Professor Marc Rotenberg, President of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), heads a lawsuit challenge to suspend their use, pending an independent safety review, saying “The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has shown a frightening disregard for the concerns of American travelers.”
November 24 was designated “National Opt-Out Day!” for citizens to “stand up for their rights, stand up for their liberty, and protest the federal government’s desire to virtually strip us naked or submit to an ‘enhanced pat down’ that touches people inappropriately. The protest’s goal is to arouse public outrage, and demand lawmakers change policy. Otherwise, flyers face a “no-win situation: both the naked body scanners and the enhanced pat downs (grossly violate) privacy rights and dignity, both make you feel like a criminal….Is there….no better way to provide aviation security….?”
More at issue: why have what’s intrusive, harmful, unneeded, and destructive of civil liberty protections! Why sacrifice privacy rights and the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures! Why put up with government tactics that allow it! Why let America fast track toward tyranny, a nation no longer fit to live in! Why stay silent when more than ever Lynne Stewart’s advice applies:
“Organize! Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!”
A Final Comment
In response to widespread complaints, Obama did what he does best, deceitfully saying the following:
“TSA in consultation with counterterrorism experts have indicated to me that the procedures that they have been putting in place are the only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat that we saw in the Christmas Day bombing.”
False, as the above information explains, but more’s at stake as well – the profit motive. Among others, Bush administration Homeland Security (DHS) head Michael Chertoff’s company, the “Chertoff Group” profiteers from the scam, his company saying it:
“provides strategic security advice and assistance, risk management strategy and business development solutions for commercial and government clients on a broad array of homeland and national security issues.”
He represents Rapiscan Systems, an AIT machine maker. His advocacy, in fact, dates from his DHS years, ordering five Rapiscan scanners, a relationship now exploited for profit. In fact, four days after last December’s underwear bomber incident, the company got a $165 million contract to supply more.
On December 29, 2009, Washington Examiner writer Timothy Carney headlined, “The TSA and the full-body-scanner lobby,” saying:
“Let’s look at those expensive, hi-tech body screeners” Congress appears ready to buy.
AIT maker Smiths Detection hired transportation lobbyist Van Scoyoc Associates to promote machines.
On December 28, 2009, Cleveland Plain Dealer writer Leila Atassi said AIT manufacturer America Science & Engineering, Inc. retained K Street’s Wexler & Walker to lobby for their installation.
Last December 29, Bloomberg said former Senator Al D’Amato represents L3 Systems, Jeffries & Co. analyst Howard Rubel claiming the company “developed a more sophisticated system that could prevent smuggling of almost anything on the body.”
TSA plays ball, an agency Mother Jones writer James Ridgeway’s book (“The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11”) said “has a dismal record of enriching private corporations with failed technologies, and there are signs that the latest miracle device (AITs) may (be) more of the same.”
Follow the money, former government officials profiting, as well as at least one notable investor, billionaire George Soros, never one to let an opportunity go unexploited, especially with inside information to do it, how billionaires make more billions.
On November 14, Washington Examiner writer Mark Hemingway headlined, “George Soros also profiting off controversial new TSA scanners,” saying:
He “owns 11,300 shares of OSI Systems Inc. the company that owns Rapistan,” an investment he’s profited on handsomely.
Is it just coincidental that two letter changes make Rapistan Rapescan, passengers, taxpayers, and core democratic values affected!
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.