Monday, November 15, 2010

Immodesty and Molestation or Security?

There have been a lot of articles recently about TSA and their security measures.

Any passenger, no matter how old, can be randomly selected to be asked to go through a body scanning machine. Now, lest you think it just scans for metal, take a look:

Absolutely nothing is private and yes, total strangers are viewing the person being scanned's naked body. We can only hope they are not commentating during their job and the images will not be saved, either in computer or human memory.

The scanner itself uses X-rays. The X-rays are less powerful than your typical medical x-ray such that they do not penetrate the skin. They reveal only every detail about the skin and the TSA insists the X-rays are perfectly safe for everyone, even asking women who are pregnant to use it. I'd be curious to know just how long they've been studying the effect of the X-rays before declaring them "safe."  

If you are concerned about how safe the X-rays might be, or prefer your naked body not exposed to strangers, you must then accept a full body pat-down. This means a TSA agent will slide his or her hands (the gender will match your own) all over your body including breasts and genitals. Children are not exempt from this; there are no age limits:

Just what are you supposed to tell your child? We tell our children that certain areas are private and they should never let anyone but Mommy, Daddy and their doctor touch those areas, and now we are supposed to include TSA agents? We don't even include police officers but we are supposed to permit TSA agents?

Yes, it is important our planes are safe. But it is no less important that we maintain our human dignity in doing so. If we lose our self respect and our dignity, isn't there a sense in which the terrorists have won anyway?

What about modesty? I for one do not expose certain areas to anyone besides my husband or doctor and yet now we are supposed to expose them to strangers or have strangers put their hands on them. The choice is immodesty or molestation? Really? Is that the only way to fly safe? If that is really the best the TSA can do, I think it is time to let someone else try.

I cannot in good conscience expose my children to either possible nude photos of them being taken nor to them being felt all over by a total stranger. We simply will be unable to fly as long as these measures are the "standard" of safety.

UPDATE: After floods of complaints, the TSA has given a little ground, announcing that it has eliminated patdowns for children under 12. Apparently 13 year olds can handle being felt all over better than 12 year olds? At least the little ones are now spared this, but what about the rest of us? I'm 31 and I'll be damned if a stranger is taking a naked picture of me or feeling me all over. I can't imagine how a teenage girl would feel better about this than I would. 


  1. Yeah, I don't think I want to fly under these current conditions. Which is thankfully a moot point for us as I will be too close to my due date to fly to Texas for our usual January or February visit. I wonder how many other people will just decided they don't need to fly. Will the airlines start hurting enough that the TSA has to back down?

  2. I hope so. I don't expect for the girls or I to travel again until May, but I've told James, if they are still doing these things, we are driving to Disney World.

  3. Argh! This is infuriating! They can't say this is the ONLY way to keep us safe.

  4. We're flying to TX in a month and have been watching this situation closely. At the moment there are no full-body scanners at either airport we're planning to use, but if there were we'd have some tough decisions to make. My husband and I eventually decided that we were both terribly uncomfortable with the full-body scan, not only for modesty's sake but because we do not believe that level of radiation can possibly be safe, and many scientists have come out saying that it's not. I, for one, would take the pat down if it was the only way to get on the plane, but I wouldn't let anyone touch my kids. If it came to that we wouldn't fly.

    Can you imagine? We tell our children that only Mommy and Daddy and the doctor can touch them in those places, and now we have to add TSA agent? I don't think so.

  5. Calah, Just FYI I did hear about one guy who had checked the website of the airport he was flying out of and it said there was no full-body scanner and then when he got there, it turned out the website was not up to date.

  6. Maurisa, My dad has read a few articles, like in the Wall Street Journal, etc. that argue really well how and why these procedures don't even really help with security. They point out, once terrorists know what they are doing, they go around it. Do they really think a terrorist is going to hide a bomb in his pants knowing he will be pat down or scanned while naked? So a bunch of people are either exposed or molested and for what?

    Calah, I hope you can avoid them. The level of radiation worries me, particularly as one who is pregnant and, in May, will have a newborn. Modesty is also a big issue for me. But there is also the concern that the images will be retained, reused, and reviewed. Would I *trust* the government with a naked photo of myself? Please! I don't trust them with much now no less something as personal and private as that! The pat-down definitely worries me. I've heard too many horror stories of just how personal they can get with their hands inside your pants and everywhere else. Reading this blogger's experience ( can definitely make an impact. I know the TSA have said they wont pat-down children 12 and under, but I'm nervous about staking a whole trip on their keeping their word. Hope your trip goes well and the TSA keeps their hands off you.

    BTW, I read today that having the TSA at the airport at all is optional for the airport and Orlando has said it is going to get an outside company instead. Assuming the outside company doesn't use the TSA's methods, maybe other airports following their lead will lead to saner travel!

  7. A voice of sanity: Introducing the American Traveler Dignity Act

  8. Under President Clinton, a TWA flight went down and a bomb was suspected. At that point, a law was put in place saying to travel you had to carry photo i.d. Turns out it wasn't terrorism, but the law stayed in place.

    It was the first time in American history, that I know of, that Americans were required to carry papers just to TRAVEL. You need a license to operate a car, but not to ride in one. Americans had never before had to carry identification just to move from one place to another in a certain way. And everyone just laid down and took it. I was crazy even then, saying this was a huge line to cross, but everyone I knew thought it was a tiny little chalk mark and what mattered was the safety, the safety.
    So here we are.
    I haven't flown since they started with the silliness after 9/11. The only way to avoid this indignity is to walk away from it. It's a shame that I can't use a perfectly good human innovation -- air travel -- because of the choices we've made communally, but it's not the first thing my family has had to give up on because our perspective differs from the national norm, and it probably won't be the last.

  9. Sadly, for many of us the choice then becomes between having our privacy invaded or our children not knowing their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. This is why people have been willing to submit to such inconvenience and indignities; because otherwise we lose a different, essential part of our humanity: connection to family. If all of my family had boycotted flying since 9/11, none of my family would have come to our wedding and my children would not know their grandparents or the state of my birth. We live too far away for car travel to be a practical option.

  10. I don't mind needing an I.D. I mean, if you lose anything or have any problem anywhere, having a valid I.D. is very valuable, whether you drove, flew or walked. Also, I use my I.D. just to go shopping so it isn't like people don't see my I.D. Also, one thing that airports that have had to deal with this problem much longer than we have do is look at just who the person is. They look in their eyes, know who they are, where they are from and observe their behavior instead of feeling them up or taking naked pictures of them. Read more here:
    The problem is that our security is SO concerned about NOT profiling or looking at just WHO they are looking at for fear of offending anyone, they would rather dehumanize, demean and humiliate anyone and everyone from children to the elderly to those with handicaps or medical conditions and just plain old innocent citizens.

    Melanie, I know you have family in Texas. James' family is in Texas. Obviously we are closer to Texas than you are so yours would be a significantly longer drive, but if we needed or wanted to get to Texas right now, I'd pack up the car and drive. If things are like this come May, we will be driving to Florida. Fortunately that is the furthest family is from us at the moment but, God willing, this invasive insanity will end before any of us want to travel so far.