Dear Department of Homeland Security,

You have said that “Advanced Imaging Technology” scanners are “safe, efficient, and protect passenger privacy.” But, the truth is that the GAO and experts have raised serious questions about the effectiveness of these machines and whether they could possibly justify the invasion of privacy involved. How have these machines been tested? On whom and over what period of time? What levels of what form of radiation are being used? What materials will they detect—and what materials will they miss?

Authorities at DHS say you can opt out of the naked scan. But doing so will subject you to new and highly invasive manual searches of your body, including your intimate parts, by TSA officers. How have these officers been selected and trained? What is the procedure for young children, who are being told by their parents that some touching is bad—does a uniform and a badge make it O.K.? If a child who has travelled a few times becomes subject to abuse, how will they know that this time it is NOT all right? What about victims of previous sexual assaults—will this trigger memories of an assault and impede their healing process? What about gay and lesbian men and women—for them, a same-sex agent could be a potential sexual partner—is the pat-down still appropriate, or does it become an intrusive sexual advance, even if not intended as such? If not, and if they do not choose to identify their sexual orientation, what options do they have—especially if they set off a scanner by virtue of a prosthesis?

In addition, DHS has claimed the right to search and seize the laptops and other electronic devices of international travelers. Never before have customs officers been able to routinely pore through a lifetime’s worth of letters, photographs, purchase records and other data without any basis for suspicion. Must one wipe one’s electronic devices of anything private before travelling? Buy a travel-safe electronic device solely for getting through airports, depriving oneself of one’s own private information for the duration of the trip? What about seized devices—when and by what means are they returned?

Until all these questions, and probably more that don’t spring immediately to mind, are answered unequivocally and in a manner that treats all persons respectfully and with dignity, these procedures are. as they say, “not ready for prime time”—go back to the drawing board and get it right.

Thanks to the ACLU for and providing the basic text for this letter and the opportunity to modify it as a personal letter and then send it to the DHS.


4 Responses to Dear Department of Homeland Security,

  1. Great letter.

    When I was trying to get a grip on the health implications of these scanners, I talked to a family member who is an X-Ray tech. I asked about one of the technologies that TSA uses (millimeter wave, I think). They weren’t familiar with that technology, but they travel frequently with their children, and I got about a 15 minute lecture about how TSA isn’t qualified to use X-Rays and regardless of what technology they’re using it’s an obnoxious invasion of privacy. I think they even opined, at one point, that TSA agents need a prescription for an X-Ray. This from someone who is normally quite the conformist and not prone to question the government on matters of security.

  2. Sallijane says:

    Thanks, Patrick. Glad to read your comments; encourages me that we are not as much of a “fringe” element as the MSM would have us appear (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I understand that another opt-out day is planned for Dec. 23.

  3. Sallijane and all,
    There’s this ACLU letter and some petitions circulating, but what are some options for influencing public policy regarding TSA screening? Are there additional regulatory or legislative options? Has anyone heard of any legislators in the new Congress who want to introduce new legislation on this issue?

  4. Sallijane says:

    I just came here when double-checking the link to pass along to others, and reread the comments. Please check out the following link to Chip Pitts’ interview on C-SPAN on Saturday, 29 January, 2011, regarding the planned extension of the Patriot Act:

    Chip talks eloquently about the climate of fear and its effects on civil liberties and privacy.

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