It's time to give up this squeamishness. Forget the etchings and fuzzy negatives. Take the whole picture, TSA: breasts, scrotum, penis, labia, gluteal cleft, whatever. Look at mine so you can look at the next guy's. Because if he's a bomber, that's where you'll find the bomb.
Privacy advocates are fighting to keep the scanners from becoming standard procedure. In today's New York Times, their point man, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, argues, "I don't think anybody needs to see my 8-year-old naked in order to secure [an] airplane."
Sorry, Congressman. You're mistaken. Smugglers aren't stupid. They'll use whatever category of passengers you exclude from scrutiny. That's why terrorists and drug traffickers use women and babies. My 9-year-old and 6-year-old are fair game for the scanner. So's your 8-year-old. There were 8-year-olds on the Detroit flight. I'll bet you every parent of every kid on that flight, in retrospect, would gladly have let their children go through the scanner in exchange for Abdulmutallab getting the same scrutiny.
So firstly I want to address his equation of terrorists to drug traffickers. Saletan can't even get his argument going before he is expanding the purpose of the body scanning beyond it's original purpose, which is to keep people from getting blown out of the sky. I don't trust the government to limit the use of any law enforcement technology to any kind of small specific purpose, the federal government is quick to expand any powers it is granted. First it will be terrorists and drug smugglers, but soon it expands to whatever the crook du jour is. Remember how secret searches were supposed to protect us from death and dismemberment from above? Well it appears that the government believes that protection from suspected drug dealers is a good enough cause to bring in this big gun. Since only a few thousand of these warrants have been issued, it's unlikely that the FBI knows what is in your bedside table, but considering how often the government gets it wrong what you stash under your underwear drawer is not as certain to be your secret as it was before creeps like Saletan started clamoring for absolute safety at the expense of your privacy.
Secondly Saletan assumes that we are all willing to take one for the team in order to provide him a little more sleep in his first class seat to France.
Let go of your fear of nudity. In the age of pubic powdered explosives, we can't let you board a plane without somebody scrutinizing your naked body.
Does Saletan seriously believe that there is no small contingent of people who have phobias about nudity that are not at least as serious as the fear that some people have of dying in an attack on an airplane? Why do we need to cater to the second group but not the first? I mean if Saletan wants to hire a government goon to check out my magnificent pair that's fine with me, but I really don't believe that my daughter needs some potential pervert checking her out before the trip to grandma's house. What are we going to do to make sure that the people doing the job aren't in it for the jollies? Are we going to have a questionnaire to weed out the perverts too stupid to check the right answers or does he want us to set up government brainwash camps to perform the duty of creating a sexless class of laborers. Perhaps we retired the tradition of raising eunuch slaves a couple centuries too early for his taste. However he intends for us to address this, people who have a serious phobia, a religious tradition of modesty or a desire to protect their children from the prying eyes of the TSA aren't going to just "let go". They're going to have to do some intense therapy before they fly or just stay off the plane.
William Saletan seems to believe that the majority of people have enough of a fear of terrorists that they would willingly subject themselves to this kind of treatment. I think he's making a huge wrong assumption. Everyone that gets on a plane engages in much riskier behavior as soon as they get of the plane. If you follow the reason link in the last sentence you will see that simply walking around the street or driving to the airport puts you at a much greater risk of an unpleasant death than any terrorist and not one person can get onto a plane without doing at least one of the two. People drive every day without requiring that their road mates take a breathalyzer, let alone that there be a snapshot of their genitals taken before they climb into the station wagon. I believe that the desire of most people is to travel conveniently with a general assumption of safety. We don't demand that every trip we take not be our last. We smoke, we drink, we have sex with people we should have gotten to know better and in most of those activities we prefer that the government stay at arms length. I myself prefer that they have as little to do with my travel plans as possible.
Somehow Mr. Saletan believes that we can take measures to keep our privacy if we allow body scanning at every airport, but how are any of us supposed to keep an image of ones body completely secret other than to not let another person have it. A TSA screener with a hidden camera could do a lot of damage in our world of information tracking. A video of naked bodies going through an airport could easily be linked to an online ticket agency database by someone who had access to both. How are you going to make sure that the screener doesn't have a buttonhole camera videotaping the images on this screen? Will he be working naked like the cocaine processors in American Gangster or will she need to go through her own screening every day on the way into the booth? Can you really make sure that everyone that has access to the equipment down to the janitor doesn't have the wherewithal or the motivation to tap into the video lines going from the camera to the booth and collect the images for use later? Don't even tell me that the government itself won't be collecting and storing this information as soon as they figure out that body parts other than faces can be used by recognition software to identify suspects. When that happens every underage drinker or shoplifter in the country will have their nude image on file at the local police station.
Does he seriously believe that a video of Brittany, or Madonna, or Lindsey or the underage Miley Cyrus going through a body scanner wouldn't sell for a multiplier of hundreds to thousands of times the salary of a TSA screener? To avoid corruption completely we would need to pay the screeners CEO sized wages. You may say that most celebrities that the public would want to see nude are able to fly private planes but I have a feeling that Nick Cage can tell you that private planes aren't always a guarantee.
So William, I'm not going to let this proposal go on without a fight. I believe that if you want to catch more terrorists and ensure that flying can be an activity free of risk you need to find a less invasive way to do it. Assuming that all of us are willing to give up liberty for a more complete guarantee of safety on an almost already riskless activity is ludicrous. You're making the same mistake that the last presidential administration did by telling everyone that they can suck it up or stay home.
I never thought I would say this but since money talks so call your local congressman and see if they agree that our bodies should be our private business. If they disagree I'd suggest telling them that your next political donation will be to Rep. Jason Chaffetz. There I spit it out, give money to a republican to wage a campaign for your privacy. It makes me sick but I'm put in the awkward position of having the party of Dick Cheney being the guardians of my liberty.
I've got another solution for you Saletan, stay home yourself if you can't stand to take infinitesimal risks. If you seriously think that all of us are willing to show our testicles as the price of catching a flight, well I say that dicks like you have got a lot of balls.