The recent uproar over the TSA’s use of the full body scans in airports across the United States presents an interesting study over the way in which personal privacy is protected in the face of national security. After September 11, 2001, airport security measures increased dramatically. This happened rightfully so, taking into consideration that if such measures had been in place before the incident, then it might not have happened. However, at what point do these security measures become too much? Is it worth it to risk personal civil liberties protected by the Bill of Rights in order to further enhance airline security?
Beginning in 2007, full body scanners were introduced to airports nationwide. The concept behind the scanners is that they produce a black and white three-dimensional image of the person being scanned, and any anomalies (i.e. potential items of harm) will be further investigated. However, as evidenced by the images shown here, the images produced by the scanners are clearly quite invasive, because, essentially, all clothes have been removed from the person being scanned; and the image is left to be scrutinized by a TSA officer. However invasive this may seem, the alternative does not offer that much of a greater option. Should someone choose to not go through the body scanner; they must receive a full-body pat down by one of the TSA officers. For both males and females, this pat down is highly intrusive for the person’s body. TSA officers are required to feel up into the groin region and also in-between the breasts in females. Is this really any better than a random TSA officer viewing an almost naked picture of you?
According to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” Surely, through both the body scans and the pat down, most people will begin to feel at least some levels of discomfort; this contradicting the right of a person to be “secure” in their own body. Furthermore, if any random person on the street were to touch another person in the way the TSA officers do during a pat down; then it would be akin to sexual assault; clearly, another injustice of the U.S. legal system. Following the ideals of Luce Irigaray in “The Sex Which is Not One,” it is clear how men and women are reduced purely to their physical bodies and nothing else, when images are produced of them in the body scanners.
On November 24th, the day before Thanksgiving (an extremely busy transport day for airports), thousands of people against the body scanners participated in “National Opt Out Day,” where instead of being scanned, passengers would opt out and receive a pat-down by one of the TSA officers. While acts of the constituent public like this are not enough to completely disregard the flagrancies of the TSA, in order to show disapproval; action must be taken in order to uphold personal rights guaranteed by the Constitution.