You can only get on if you show them your wiener

If you’re planning on flying anytime soon, you better get your lead underwear prepared. With the appearance of so-called “porno-scanners” in airports across the United States and Canada, you may become an unwilling star of your very own unclothed portrait.

These controversial full-body scanners have been implemented as the newest weapon in the war against terror, allegedly being able to spot an assortment of dangerous goods, such as knives, guns and bombs on an individual.

Since the introduction of these scanners, they’ve been criticized as an extreme invasion of privacy. The outrage stems from the fact that the scanned picture sees through the person’s clothing, revealing your naked body to the screener. The initial purpose was to eliminate the uncomfortable stroke down after setting off the metal detectors. Naturally, any self-respecting travelers would be opposed to subjecting themselves to this involuntarily exposure.

An Internet video that surfaced on November 13 demonstrated the repercussions of this opposition. John Tyner, a blogger, was pulled from the metal-detector line and asked to go through the full body scanner. He refused and also denied a subsequent request for an agent to perform an invasive patdown, telling the employee, “If you touch my junk, I’m gonna have you arrested.” After being told he would not be able to board his flight, he agreed to be refunded and leave the airport. As he was about to leave, he was informed that he would be fined $10,000 and subjected to a civil suit for leaving the security area.

After all these invasions of privacy and personal space, are these radical changes actually making our skies any safer?

In a recent episode of 60 Minutes, an investigatory reporting program in the United States, they investigated the mass expenditure of funds by the Transport Security Association in the name of air security. The TSA has spent 50 billion dollars on 500,000 new employees, 35 million on training and new uniforms for employees and 160 million dollars on 2,000 behavior detection officers.

These mysterious “behavior detection officers” are uniformed security officers who lurk quietly around the security stations, looking at traveler’s micro-expressions. According to the TSA, these micro expressions identify terrorists by their expressions of anxiety, nervousness and a slew of other emotions. But in a place mired with stress, how can an innocent traveler late for a flight be separated from a terrorist?

When asked by Lesly Stahl, host of 60 Minutes, Kip Hawley, the outgoing head of TSA replied, “Well, you’re normal.” He added that the officers know the difference between a terrorist and a stressed traveller. So after boasting about these officers remarkable abilities, we should see a remarkable rate of capture of terrorists, right?

Unfortunately, to date, the TSA has failed to capture a single terrorist in its entire existence.

In a time of great economic hardship for the world, especially the United States, this failure rate after pumping millions of dollars into the programs is an embarrassment. Not only that but many the potential terrorists that have been caught in the past years have already boarded the planes. Of the 180,000 people that have been stopped by the officers, none of them have been terrorists.

This hemorrhage of funds and privacy is flimsily justified by Mr. Hawley: “This is war. These people are trying to kill us.” Despite these measures put into place, government investigators have since managed to smuggle improvised explosive device components through the X-ray machines at airports.

Similarly, Jeffrey Goldberg, a journalist writing for The Atlantic, managed to get through security with a forged boarding pass and other times boarded with a carry-on full of jihadist curios, such as a Hezbollah flag and a shirt that said, “OSAMA BIN LADEN HERO OF ISLAM.”

In light of these failures, it becomes apparent that bearing it all will not make flying any safer. The heightening security at airports could be referred to as “security theater,” meaning that these features are only implemented to make us feel safer. As soon as a new terror threat is discovered, more restrictions are put into place to eliminate them. Instead of a looking at people’s underwear and private places on a screen, the TSA should be investing in intelligence. As in stopping the threat before it arrives at the airport. That way, innocent people are not subjected to degrading security methods and the frustrated public does not harass the officers themselves.

Such a program is already in place in Israel, home to perhaps the best intelligence system in the world. In Israeli airports, in a country ravaged by terrorism, passengers aren’t required to even remove their shoes, let alone a full body scanner. Instead, pre-emptive intelligence and well-trained professionals keep their airports safe, with a much lower cost to the average traveler.

Despite the laughable statistics behind the programs, they are expected to stay, and are even being extended in some cases. Hopefully common sense will soon prevail – until then, having your junk rummaged is simply one more hidden fee that comes along with that expensive airplane ticket.

//Haley Whishaw, Writer

//Illustration by Miles Chic

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com