new tsa airport screening assault regulations, or, security theatre goes x-rated

By now I hope everyone has heard about the new regulations on airport screening from the US's Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Full-body scanning equipment ("naked scanners") have been installed in 68 US airports, with more on the way. If you object to increasing your daily dose of radiation, you can opt for a full-body "pat down" by guards, i.e., being sexually assaulted by strangers.

As the ACLU puts it, "Giving people a choice between being virtually strip-searched in an x-ray machine or enduring an aggressive groping is really no choice at all." But don't worry, the person sticking their hands down your pants will be a trained professional. Or not.

You've seen the video of the man refusing the scan at the San Diego airport and the children's book cover parody that made the rounds. (Amazingly, more than one Canadian blogger was fooled!) But the implications for freedom to travel, civil liberties, privacy, and the encroaching police state are deadly serious and very frightening.

Dr. Dawg noted a different kind of climate change because Ezra Levant appears to agree with us. That caused me to click, and here I am quoting that blowhard! Strange bedfellows indeed.
Surprise! Canadian travellers to the United States are now subject to having high school dropouts touch their breasts, penises and vaginas as part of “airline security.”

Sorry, do the words penis and vagina make you uncomfortable?

They certainly make the U.S. Transportation Security Administration uncomfortable.

The TSA can’t even bring themselves to use those words when describing their new “enhanced pat-down” procedure.

You will find them nowhere on their website, including their section on advice for travellers.

They have pages about how to pack your toothpaste.

But they don’t tell you that you will stand in line while a stranger touches you in places that, if done by anyone else, would lead to sexual assault charges.

Oh, by the way: Their touching of penises and vaginas isn’t limited to adults.

They grope children, too. In the past two weeks, the Internet has been flooded by videos taken by passengers on their cellphone cameras, filming their own screaming children being fondled by uniformed officials.

So what’s the new rule for parents to teach our children?

Don’t let strangers touch your privates—unless they say they’re allowed to?

Unless they are in a position of authority? Unless Barack Obama says it’s OK?

Levant goes on to show his true colours when he asks, "Where is the American Civil Liberties Union?" He claims that august organization is "too busy defending the rights of terrorists," and throws in a little Islamophobia into the bargain. Obviously, Levant is either a liar or a fool who didn't do his homework (my money's on liar), since the ACLU has been campaigning against these regulations from the moment they were announced. That's how I first heard about this: through the ACLU mailing list.

Despite Levant's gratuitous bigotry, it's good to see people from all points of the political spectrum decrying this very serious invasion of privacy and unwarranted expansion of government power.

Radiation and naked body images or physical assault, which will it be? I don't love the idea of full-body scans, but I could not endure a pat-down by a stranger. If I literally had to to submit, to save my life, I guess I could force myself to live through it, by reminding myself that I've lived through worse. But I think I would throw up, or pass out - or probably disassociate, which seems to be what my mind does - and I'd very likely have nightmares and flashbacks about it.

And there are millions of people - men and women - who would feel the same way. My friend James sent me this, from Skepchick.
The full-body scanners also involve unspecified amounts of radiation, which several scientific and medical groups, not just the tin-foil hat types, have expressed concerns about. So, opting out of the full body scan seems like it might be a good idea. I’ve had a LOT of x-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs. I’m not Evil Knievel, but I have managed to break a lot of bones, particularly in my head. (Hey! Let’s not extrapolate!)

Anyway, on the advice of my doctor, I’m supposed to limit my exposure to radiation and microwave sources. Ok, simple enough. I opt out of the scan.

Except. When you give the technology a pass, you are now subject to a fairly intimate groin grope and feeling up. A lot of folks have said that if you don’t want to have the scan and fly safely, or accept that some strangers will have to touch you, then you should just not fly. The reality is, though, that for many of us we must fly semi-regularly as part of our jobs. It’s not entirely my choice to fly; I can’t take a week of work off to drive to California and back for a business trip. So, bring on the grope.

Except. I am a rape survivor. And I know that if I am forced to have the kind of circle jerk that I’ve seen on video–where a bunch of TSA screeners surround me and one of them touches me in very private places–there is a real chance I’m going to freak out. Traveling is always very stressful, in part because I have visual processing issues and epilepsy (see above; i.e, fractured head). Add onto that reliving a painful part of my past–someone touching me and I have no ability to say "I don't consent"–I am not a happy traveler.

Don't listen to Ezra Levant. The ACLU is leading the charge against this and you can join them. DHS has been forced to retreat before and we can make them do it again. Sign a petition to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, and share it with everyone you know.

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Update. Apparently I wrote this whole post without ever mentioning the stupidest thing about this. Luckily redsock put it in comments: None of this will make us any safer. Alternate post title: "security theatre turns x-rated".

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