Intrusive airport screening is not justified or necessary

As one of America’s most treasured holidays, Thanksgiving will inevitably bring millions of travelers to U.S. airports. However, this year travelers will face much different airport security measures.

Quickly growing to become the nation’s primary security screening method, full body imagers and the alternative enhanced pat downs have led to today’s National Opt-Out Day, a grassroots movement that’s pushing all travelers to reject the scan and to instead submit to the pat downs, which will likely bring about enormous delays and missed flights as lines bottle up.

These citizens are rightfully upset over the violation of their personal privacy.

Despite claims from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other agencies, these latest precautions are unnecessary. The scanners’ inability to prevent another attack negates both the financial – $2.4 billion over the next eight years, according to Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates – and ethical costs, and they are a serious misstep in the balance between American safety and personal liberties.

Highly paid lobbyists for the body scanner producers include former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, who pushed the idea in newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Their success was furthered by the failed terrorist attack last year of Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab, who hid explosives in his underpants.

The machines quickly garnered criticism, as members of the GAO told a House subcommittee they found a lack of proof that the machines could have detected the bomb carried by Abdulmuttallab.

Despite the fact that Israel faces some of the greatest terrorist threats of any country in the world, its airports do not use the full body scanners.

“I don’t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines,” said Rafi Sela, a former chief security officer at the Israel Airport Authority, to Canadian lawmakers in April. “I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747.”

If full body scanners can only detect what’s hidden beneath clothing, a terrorist could simply hide explosives by swallowing them or placing them in body cavities.

Instead of looking at every passengers’ naked body via on-screen images or engaging in enhanced pat downs, which would likely constitute sexual battery outside the screening zone, specific threats based on intelligence must be targeted in conjunction with foreign policies that will eliminate legitimate threats and protect innocent people.

The body scanners and pat downs invade passengers’ privacy and don’t mitigate threats. They will only make terrorists change tactics as they have continually done.