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TSA body scanner incident canary in coalmine of US freedom

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“Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., former Chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee and the current top Republican on the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, blasts TSA’s invasive “pat downs” during a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on November 17, 2010. Duncan also questions the role of lucrative government contracts in TSA’s new naked body scanning machines. “

The text of the speech is copied below:

“Mr. Speaker:

A nationwide revolt is developing over the body scanners at the airports, and it should.

Hundreds of thousands of frequent fliers who fly each week are upset about getting these frequent doses of radiation.

Will body scanners and search groping stop you from travelling by air?

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Parents are upset about being forced to have their children radiated or being touched inappropriately by an unrelated adult.

There is already plenty of security at the airport, but now we are going to spend up to $300 million to install 1,000 scanners.

This is much more about money than it is about security.

The former secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, represents Rapiscan, the company which is selling these scanners to his former department.

Far too many federal contracts are sweetheart, insider deals.

Companies hire former high ranking federal officials, and then magically, those companies get hugely profitable federal contracts.

The American people should not have to choose between having full-body radiation or a very embarrassing, intrusive pat-down every time they fly, as if they were criminals.

We need a little more balance and common sense on this.”

In airport security, we’re being asked to have naked images made of us or to be fondled by airport security in return for being “safer”. We need to look at whether these measures do anything to increase our security. There’s a single terrorist plot that was foiled by the increased airport security put in place since 9/11. There have been some attempts, but none of them have been successful because of the actions of passengers or intelligence that stopped them before they even made it to the airport. None of them appear to have been thwarted by the billions of dollars that have been spent on beefing up airport security. Not a great security trade-off.

The other thing to keep in mind is that terrorists blowing up airplanes are very rare and that the billions of dollars spent on airport security would surely have saved many more lives had it been spent on other things that are much more likely to kill us. Sure, being blown up in an airplane is scary, but many more people die from falling each year – 13,322 in the US in 2000 – that’s three times as many as died in 9/11. In 2000 in the US, you were three times more likely to die from “legal execution” (80 people) than by being “bitten or struck by a dog” (26 people) yet I’m sure more people are afraid of dying from a dog attack.

We think this sums it all up nicely: Michael Chertoff supervised the “relief efforts” in New Orleans after the levee failures. He managed the investigation of 9/11. Now he’s helping railroad the full-body X-ray machines he ordered BEFORE the so-called “underwear bomber” incident into US airports – and getting paid for it. He needs to see the inside of a courtroom and, if there is justice, a jail cell (or a noose!) too. Who is responsible for this travesty?

  1. Michael Chertoff for reasons stated above
  2. John Pistole – Head of the TSA
  3. Janet Napolitano – Head of Homeland Security
  4. Barack Obama – Napolitano’s boss
  5. Every US Congress person who has not personally gone on record to defend Americans and other US travels from these assaults.

Hats off to Representative Duncan for being a lone voice speaking on behalf of travelers, civil rights, and basic sanity. Indeed, All security is a trade-off – we give up something (freedom, money, convenience, etc) in return for increased security. We need make sure that the trade-offs we’re making are worthwhile. Your computer will be 100% secure from viruses if I don’t connect it to the Internet and don’t allow any external devices near it and don’t turn it on, but it also wouldn’t be useful.

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