Editor’s Note: Some of the links in this report lead to graphic images that have been taken from current airport security scanning procedures. Use caution in viewing the links.
A constitutional attorney preparing to legally challenge the Transportation Security Administration’s enhanced screening procedures – which reveal a virtually nude image of passengers – says airline passengers have Barack Obama to thank for the process.
“Legislation has been proposed to mandate full-body scanners and make them the primary screening method in all U.S. airports by 2013, but Congress has yet to act on it,” John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, wrote in a new commentary.
“So we can thank President Obama for this frontal assault on our Fourth Amendment rights. Mind you, this is the same man who insisted that ‘we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans,'” Whitehead said.
“Yet in the wake of the bumbling underwear bomber’s botched Christmas Day attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound plane, Obama directed the Homeland Security Department ‘to acquire $1 billion in advanced-technology equipment, including body scanners, for screening passengers,'” he continued.
Concerns over the invasion of privacy by TSA scanners, described as voyeurism by critics, along with the “molestation” of the associated “enhanced” pat-downs and the health concerns from the blasts of radiation have reached a critical mass.
As WND reported, groups have formed to organize passenger boycotts and prepare protests at airports, calling for a “National Opt-Out Day” on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
Whitehead told WND he’s working on assembling numerous allegations regarding the constitutionality of the scanners in light of the Fourth Amendment’s provision that the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
“It’s a huge civil liberties issue,” he told WND. “In the United States, we’ve never before strip-searched – full-body strip searches – unless there’s reasonable suspicion of some kind of criminal activity.”
For the third straight day, TSA officials declined to respond to WND requests for comment or explanation.
“We’ve gotten tons of e-mails, mainly from females about the invasions of the body scanners,” Whitehead said. “In one case, a mother [told how] her 12-year-old daughter was pulled out of the security line, and [TSA] did touch her breast and vaginal areas.
“This is an unreasonable search and seizure,” he said.
Rutherford said any court adhering to the Constitution would find that so.
In another case, a pilot reported having TSA inspectors put their fingers down inside his pants, and yet another person reported TSA officers, infuriated that she was upset over their pat-down procedures, “put her in a room and isolated her for two hours” so that she missed her flight.
Whitehead said his organization is representing Michael Roberts, a 35-year-old airline pilot who refused to go through the Advanced Imaging full-body scanners that are currently being deployed at airports.
“Using either X-ray radiation or radio waves, full-body scanners can ‘see’ through clothing to produce images of an individual’s unclothed body, although they are unable to reveal material concealed in body cavities,” Whitehead explained. “Critics have likened the scans to ‘virtual strip searches’ because of the degree to which details of the body are revealed.”
He noted the ACLU has urged Congress to derail the technology, arguing passengers “should not be required to display highly personal details of their bodies – such as evidence of mastectomies, colostomy appliances, penile implants, catheter tubes, and the size of their breasts or genitals – as a prerequisite to boarding a plane.”
White pointed out that the technology, further, has yet to be fully tested, and there are alarms being raised in the medical community about the radiation exposure to which passengers are subjected. He said the TSA plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on hundreds of the machines is rolling forwarded even without congressional endorsement.
He cited the Washington insider link for the purchase of the machines, many of which are made by Rapiscan Systems, a corporation represented by the Chertoff Group, headed by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Logo for campaign to halt air travel
Chertoff has lobbied publicly for the need for the machines to be installed in airports.
A commentary at Boston.com noted Chertoff was taking advantage of the position he had held with the government “to push full body scanners into American airports.”
Further, there appears to be a concerted effort to coerce people into the scanning machines, because while opting out now is legally possible, the result is a full-body pat-down that one writer said is intended to bludgeon people into cooperation.
Jeffrey Goldberg described in The Atlantic his encounter with the TSA:
I told the officer who directed me to the back-scatter that I preferred a pat-down. I did this in order to see how effective the manual search would be. When I made this request, a number of TSA officers, to my surprise, began laughing. I asked why. One of them – the one who would eventually conduct my pat-down – said that the rules were changing shortly, and that I would soon understand why the back-scatter was preferable to the manual search. …
“Starting tomorrow, we’re going to start searching your crotchal area” – this is the word he used, “crotchal” – and you’re not going to like it.”
“What am I not going to like?” I asked.
“We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance,” he explained.
“Resistance?” I asked.
“Your testicles,” he explained.
While the individual situations are alarming, Whitehead said, it’s the constitutional conflict that’s going to create the biggest problem.
“The next thing you know we’re going to have iris scans (for identification),” he warned. “The Department of Homeland Security already is spending money on this.”
Biometrics of that kind would be part and parcel of a “surveillance state,” he warned.
Whitehead said the one common factor in all the complaints about TSA that he’s seen has been outrage.
“I haven’t seen much defense of these things,” he said. “Are we going to allow this? What’s’ the next thing? Virtual strip-searches and overly intrusive pat-downs are moving into a very dangerous area.
“Maybe it’s a good sign that there is a surprisingly large number of people really upset. They’ve [TSA] gone too far,” he said.
Whitehead noted that Rafi Sela, the leading airport security expert for Israel, is convinced the scanning procedures are of no significant benefit.
He said the invasive processes have “few guarantees of success and numerous pitfalls, not the least of which is the harrowing toll it is taking on our civil liberties and the risks it poses to our health.”
“Increasingly, travelers are complaining about being subjected to ogling and inappropriate remarks by airport officials. Yet this almost pales in comparison to the retributive, harsh treatment and excessive full-body searches being meted out to those who decline a full-body scan, which is still optional,” Whitehead wrote.
“The bottom line is this: forcing Americans to undergo a virtual strip search as a matter of course in reporting to work or boarding an airplane when there is no suspicion of wrongdoing is a gross violation of our civil liberties. Indeed, putting yourself through the full-body scanner is the same as subjecting yourself to a strip search. It completely undermines one’s right to privacy and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by government agents,” he continued.
“The Constitution does not allow blanket strip searches or full-body pat downs of American citizens unless there’s some reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. If we allow the government to reverse the burden of proof so that we have to prove our innocence, then we might as well give up on the Constitution altogether. At that point, we are all suspects in the surveillance state,” he said.
WND has documented a number of first-hand reports of passenger’s experiences with the TSA:
- Rachael: “A couple of months ago, I flew to Washington, D.C. Before heading home, I chose gifts for each of my children in my hotel’s gift shop. I was very excited to give my daughter a snow globe with our Capitol Building. (She LOVES snow globes!) When I went through security at Reagan Airport, a TSA agent confiscated my daughter’s snow globe and told me I would not be able to have it back, as there was no way to test the liquid inside of it. Are you KIDDING me?!?! I was so shocked, and all I could think was how disappointed my daughter would be. I asked what would happen to the snow globe, and the agent said, ‘We’re going to throw it in the garbage.’ While the agent took my bag to scan it again, I tried to hold my emotions, but was completely unsuccessful. By the time the agent returned, I was in tears. I took my bag and left, afraid if I stood there an extra second, I’d begin screaming at the TSA. These ridiculous TSA rules allow the terrorists to continue to inflict pain on us as a nation!”
- Rosemary: “I’d decided months ago that I was NOT going to be microwaved on ‘medium defrost’ and have my 51-year-old body ogled by a TSA employee. So the angry TSA attendant parked me next to the scanner, and I kept looking at the scanning device and wondering (and hoping) that the Plexiglas shroud blocked all the radiation generated by the machine. What a perfect punishment for someone who fears being exposed to whatever health risks: Park them NEXT to the machine so that they get mega-doses. I literally pleaded with the TSA attendant to allow me to retrieve my personal possessions and she refused. I was traveling alone (as I often do). I then pleaded with her to allow me to at least be in the line of sight of my wallet and cell phone and she again ordered me – again in a loud voice – to remain still. She was demanding, harsh and unyielding. I kept thinking to myself, ‘This is what happens when you opt out. You lose your wallet and your laptop. Very, very effective.”
- Stan: “I have not undergone the ‘porno scan’ and will not do so when the time comes to do it.”
- Beth: “The TSA pat downs are a major violation – groping is not appropriate! I was groped once in China and didn’t like it one bit. I had to resist the urge of slapping the person in the face!”
- Dotty: “It was nearly midnight as I entered the Las Vegas airport on a mobility scooter to fly to Hawaii for a niece’s wedding. I told the TSA agent that I wouldn’t go through the ‘naked machine’ but preferred to hobble through the metal detector. The supervisor was called and screamed at me for between 7 and 12 minutes straight, saying I was rude for being scared of her agents. She said the machine didn’t show people naked and showed me a sample picture of a scan to prove it. I pointed out the man’s genitals on the sample picture which made her even more angry. ‘That’s just because you’re looking for them,’ she yelled.”
The options now are to have a full-body scan that essentially produces a nude image of the passenger or opt out of that procedure and endure a full-hands-on body pat-down that includes private parts.
The procedures have been the focus of warnings even by the networks:
George Donnelly, who with James Babb has launched the “We Won’t Fly” website delivering a message directly to airlines, told WND the customer revolt is taking off faster than he could imagine.
His website says, “We do not consent to strip searches, virtual or otherwise. We do not wish to be guinea pigs for new, and possibly dangerous, technology. We are not criminals. We are your customers. We will not beg the government anymore. We will simply stop flying until the porno-scanners are history.
“We will not be abused simply for the privilege of purchasing your services. We demand the airlines make their maximum lobbying effort in support of our, your customers’, rights and liberties. We are eager to fly again, but only when this invasive threat has been contained.”
There also are dozens of other campaigns and efforts being organized through which passengers are encouraged to resist the TSA policy.
WND previously has reported that such imaging also is taking place on U.S. roads and highways.