Remember when flying was fun? When you actually looked forward to going to the airport and getting on a plane? The attacks of September 11, 2001 changed everything in air travel. Since that day, the U.S. government has spent billions on technology, enacted new rules and turned flying into a far more upsetting, complicated procedure than it needs to be. Now we are required to take off our shoes, belts, earrings, travel kits, and laptops thus making it a more time-consuming process to go through a security check at any airport. As if these time-wasting measures were not bad enough, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has now introduced the millimeter wave scanners into its security measures. The millimeter wave scanner is one of the two types of full-body scanners, along with the backscatter x-ray scanner. A millimeter wave machine is a phone booth-like scanner which beams radio frequency waves over the surface of the body using two rotating antennas. The energy reflected back from the body is analyzed for anomalies. After you walk into the phone booth-like scanner, a security officer inspects the image displayed on a monitor attached to the machine. If the machine detects a threat, a yellow square appears on the suspect part of the body. If not, a large OK sign pops up. Also, should you choose to bypass the millimeter wave machine, a very intrusive cavity search is performed by TSA officers.
With this new hindrance in the airport security process, the question is whether these machines are a violation of individual privacy rights. Opponents of full-body scanners argue that strip searches without probable cause violate our basic human rights. The argument centers on the premise that the government has no right to make strip searches routine and mandatory, regardless of whether the strip search is done by physically removing clothes or by using technological means to remove the clothes. However, the TSA claims that the concerns of said opponents are unfounded because the images of passengers who are scanned are not electronically saved or printed to be stored anywhere. Moreover, the TSA officer who views the passengers does not have any type of contact with them as the viewing room is in a separate place, away from the security checkpoint. Therefore, once the image is captured and the passenger leaves the scanner, the image cannot be retrieved anymore because this option is disabled by the manufactured as requested by the TSA.
However, after passing through the millimeter wave machine and receiving a pat-down from a female TSA officer yesterday morning, I am convinced that my basic human rights somehow conflict with some of the rules implemented by the TSA.