Airport security has certainly been beefed up over the last month. The most notable additions to the security lines that students can expect to see on their homeward-bound Thanksgiving trips are full body scanners. Los Angeles International Airport is one of the approximately 60 airports outfitted with the new technology.
The scanners, which use advanced imaging technology, take what is essentially a black and white nude picture of the subject. If a passenger tapes, glues, attaches or wears something that is potentially dangerous, then it’s a pretty safe bet the scanner will pick it up.
Passengers have the right to refuse a full body scan, but there is a catch that many passengers have passionately complained about: an intimate and thorough pat-down that gives Transportation Security Agency staff the right to examine a person’s inner thighs, breasts and buttocks.
Understandably, passengers have complained about such pat-downs. They are intrusive, and they can be humiliating. At the same time, Kate Hanni, Executive Director of FlyersRights.org, stated in a recent New York Times article that “There seems to be a huge variation in how they’re patting people down.”
Still, the heightened thoroughness of airport security is necessary and should not be compromised for the sake of convenience.
Airport security lines can be long and tiresome, but ease of mind is well worth the added inconvenience.
It’s been less than a year since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab successfully boarded a Northwest Airlines flight hiding an explosive device in his underwear. Either the full body scan or a pat-down would probably have detected Abdulmatallab’s home-made bomb.
John S. Pistole, a TSA administrator, recently said in a statement, “We all wish we lived in a world where security procedures at airports weren’t necessary, but that just isn’t the case.”
The very least we can do is make sure nothing dangerous is allowed on flights.
Opponents of the scanners and pat-downs include public interest groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as medical and science professors who argue that the scanners pose a potential health risk because of the small doses of radiation used in about half of the machines.
Homeland Security, however, has stated that the Food and Drug Administration and Johns Hopkins University have tested the safety of such technology extensively.
President Barack Obama recently addressed the TSA heightened security measures as well. Speaking at a NATO press conference in Lisbon, Portugal, the president said that the increased security is needed to prevent another Christmas Day bombing.
No one is denying the extra hassle the body scans or pat-downs add to a passenger’s travel plans. But everyone should be willing to sacrifice to ensure our personal and national safety.
A USA Today/Gallup poll confirmed that the majority of travelers approve of the TSA’s increased security measures. In the poll, 78 percent of respondents support the full body scanners. The survey only reached a small sample size — 542 adults — but those who were questioned had flown at least twice in the last year.
Those who supported the new security measures rightly understand what needs to be done to keep our country safe.
The increased security measures will make flights more secure. We should all accept the inconvenience with a grain of salt, and feel a little comforted when we fly home this Thanksgiving break.
William Fay is a senior majoring in international relations.