Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke out yesterday, Monday, November 15 defending her agency’s need to use millimeter wave and backscatter x-ray full body scanners and even more intrusive pat down frisking.
Against resistance by ALPA and their flight crews, the incident at San Diego International Airport on Saturday when John Charles Tyner refused to be searched, calling it “sexual molestation by federal government agents”, and the national body scan boycott planned for November 24, the DHS Secretary said, in effect, that the content of one’s underwear is fair game, and more important then one’s character or reputation.
Michael J. Aguilar, chief of the TSA office in San Diego, announced at an airport press conference on Monday afternoon, November 15, a probe over Mr. Tyner’s confrontation and refusal to be scanned or searched. He said that the investigation could lead to prosecution and “civil penalties” of up to $11,000.
According to Ms. Napolitano, speaking at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the full body scans are safe and have successfully found weapons. “They cannot store, export, print or transmit images,” she said.
She went on to stress that finding dangerous concealed liquids, creams and powders, such as the PETN high explosives that were used in the failed Christmas Day 2009 attack on Northwest Airlines flight 253, and also contained in recent Al-Qaeda air cargo packages shipped by FedEx and UPS from Yemen, are just as important as discovering more traditional hard weapons.
The push back is not limited to just a fringe element, but is growing into vocal, broad based support. Ms. Napolitano and other government officials are aware of this swelling wave of resentment. In a conciliatory gesture, the security chief said, “If there are adjustments we need to make to these procedures as we move forward, we have an open ear. We will listen.”
It looks like this issue won’t fade away. The public are growing increasingly impatient and intolerant of escalating intrusions into their privacy, and the longer delays in getting past airport security. As one traveler put it, “It’s like a snow ball rolling down a slippery slope, gaining momentum and getting bigger all the time.”
New Jersey legislators drafted a resolution asking Congress to ban full body scanning machines. The blog by Oceanside, CA “refusenik” John Charles Tyner has gone viral, even though he may be in legal peril for his “keep you hands away from my junk” attitude in San Diego. Facebook is getting into the act with a fan page urging travelers to boycott full body scanners on November 24, the day before Thanksgiving.
Now that every U.S. airport has full body scanners operating, along with more intrusive pat down procedures for those who opt out of the scans, public awareness and outrage are growing.
If a grass roots political Tea Party movement could change the balance of power in Washington in the recent midterm election, taking Republican control of the U.S. House of Representatives, and barely missing a similar fate for the Democrats in the U.S. Senate, then there is no stopping the power of an enraged public. Some may even recall the movie “Network”, and that iconic rant, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more.”
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