John Tyner has become Exhibit A for the alleged outrages of new aviation screening techniques. The 31-year-old California man never made his flight out of San Diego's airport after he refused to undergo a full-body scan. The new technology - known as advanced imaging technology - can "see" through clothing and alert security officials to items that may have gone unnoticed by more traditional screening methods. The machines were deployed in large numbers after an al-Qaida operative tried to bring down an airliner last Christmas with a bomb sewn into his underwear.
Mr. Tyner's decision to opt out of the scanner triggered a mandatory, police-style pat-down - a fate that awaits anyone who makes the same choice. As a Transportation Security Administration employee explained the pat-down procedure, Mr. Tyner told the officer, "I'll have you arrested if you touch my junk." He was not talking about his carry-on luggage. A recording of the encounter has gone viral on the Internet.
Mr. Tyner is not alone in objecting to the new security regime. A public interest group has filed a federal lawsuit arguing that full-body scans violate passengers' constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The objections are as misguided as they are myopic.
Some 385 full-body scanners are in use at 65 airports; these airports also continue to rely heavily on metal detectors. Scanners produce a computer-generated image that shows the contours of a body, including the outlines of breasts and buttocks, for example. But these images are not photographs that realistically depict a person's likeness; the subject's face is also blurred or obscured.
Congress and the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general should monitor the use of scanners to guard against privacy breaches. But concerns over privacy should not trump the legitimate role of scanners in protecting the flying public, particularly in light of al-Qaida's continuing interest in targeting commercial flights.
- Washington Post
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