Does the government have the right to potentially risk the health of men, women and children who travel in the name of national security? Now that the body scanners have been deployed in many US airports, it is time to take a second look. We were told by the government that they were necessary to secure our safety after the attempt by the underwear bomber. Some have theorized that the scans can damage the DNA. Unfortunately, very little is known about the effects on the human body because no long term studies have been done. Therefore, it is hard to say with certainty that the benefits out weigh the risks.
Now that they have been deployed in many airports throughout the country, it is time to ask whether they are safe. Do the facts jibe with what we have been told?
1. The pictures can not be saved.
FACT: That turned out not to be true. The pictures can be saved and there have been instances of abuse.
In the UK where the scans are mandatory, children are not allowed to go through them because of the fear that the saved pictures can be hacked, and will therefore breach child pornography laws.
2. There are no health risks.
FACT: No one knows. Presumably even low dose radiation can have a harmful effect. Conservative estimates state that there will be one additional death for every 200 million people exposed to the body scanners. There will be even more people who develop cancer from the exposure. Although we are exposed to background radiation on a daily basis, it is not the same as placing our bodies in a field of focused radiation.
3. It will make us safer
FACT: The body scanner technology would not have been able to identify the underwear bomber because it cannot see powder, nor can it see anything placed in a body cavity. It can see liquids and ceramics and fine intimate detail of an individual, but it is no better at picking up metal objects than the metal detector.
Studies have pointed to the willingness of over 75% of people to go through the naked body scanners. This is the biggest reason why these machines have been deployed. If we believe that the risks outweigh the benefits, then it is time to know what our rights are and to exercise them. In the name of national security and because of fear, we as citizens have given up our right to be considered innocent before being proven guilty.
–Know your rights: Going through the body scanners is Not Mandatory at airports in the US (they are mandatory in the UK). You have the right to “opt-out” and have a pat down.
Although, it may feel uncomfortable or strange to submit to a pat down, it beats subjecting yourself to potentially harmful radiation and the voluntary loss of your privacy. This is just the beginning of a slippery slope.
If Janet Napolitano doesn’t want to go through the body scanners why should we?