Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why You Should Always Wear Clean Underpants

Depressing...Not surprising...

Remember the carefree innocence and naivete of those halcyon days in America when all you had to do to avoid having your privacy intimately invaded while being treated as a criminal, was to simply forgo your right to travel freely?

Oh, such zippy fun was to be had!

Well, those days are done and you better get used to it. Connor Friedersdorf reports over at the Daily Beast:

When Uncle Sam started peeking at the genitals of U.S. travelers, apologists insisted that his prying eyes were justified. Hadn't terrorists hijacked airplanes on 9/11? John Pistole, head of the Transportation Security Administration, insisted that upset Americans could always choose not to fly.

What he neglected to mention is that his bosses at the Department of Homeland Security intend to use various kinds of body-scanning technology elsewhere in American life. That's clearer than ever if you read the recently updated "privacy impact assessment" that the agency published. It notes that as far back as 2008, DHS personnel descended on the Toyota Center in Kennewick, Washington, where they tested equipment meant to detect security threats in large crowds of people. Folks showing up for sporting events were directed to a special entrance if they were uncomfortable being guinea pigs.

DHS intends to continue publicly testing equipment for the next several years, including sophisticated video surveillance cameras, infrared imaging, ultrasound sensors, and (most controversially) active millimeter wave scans—technology that produces "strikingly graphic images" of the human body, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. As the Cato Institute's Jim Harper notes, the idea is to figure out how government can use the sort of invasive scanning techniques seen in some airports "anywhere DHS wants."

But why on Earth should we be upset about this? It's a minor thing, having your naked body analyzed by strangers due to no actions of your own. All you have to sacrifice is travel. Or sporting events. And clearly, we won't be nearly safe enough if we stop there! Nude scanners most assuredly must be extended to all large gatherings! If we're going to be safe, we need these nude scanners at every supermarket, political rally and playground or else the terrorists will get us! Boo! Scary! 

On a personal note, I'd like to say that this sort of thing is particularly depressing to me. I am imminently due to become an Uncle. My sister lives in London. I would like very much to visit my new niece or nephew. At the same time, I'd like very much to not sacrifice my privacy. Arguing that I have an alternate travel option means that I should what? Swim?

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