Whole-body imaging: airport security vs. privacy concerns

Earlier this month the House passed H.R. 2200, hoping to improve the Transportation Security Administration. The result shows the hazards of rushing to fix one problem through an amendment and unknowingly creating a monster of another problem that could end up with the force of law.

The proponents of this amendment were trying to protect passengers’ privacy when going through screening, specifically the new whole-body imaging scanners, or WBIs. The House voted to ban WBIs for primary screening, on the theory that those wishing to preserve their modesty could avoid embarrassment by not alarming the metal detectors. Maybe, but so could a terrorist.

The reason TSA is buying WBIs is to reduce the most critical remaining security vulnerability in aviation — non-metallic bomb parts at the checkpoint. Old-fashioned metal detectors are inadequate because they only alarm on concealed metal. They should be replaced with current, effective technology.

Extensive testing has shown that the WBIs meet the mark — there’s no radiation, but they detect bomb components even in private parts. The images have a fuzzy photo-negative look; check them out on tsa.gov to see if they are offensive. Images can’t be stored, faces are blurred, and the operator never sees, nor knows the identity of, the passenger being scanned.

Tens of thousands of people are subjected every day to a probing, invasive personal pat-down. Those with implants like artificial hips can’t avoid them and people with loose-fitting garments get patted down every time. That could be replaced by a no-touch pause in the WBI.

The dignity and efficiency considerations are important, but there is also a dangerous consequence of this bill. You don’t need a security clearance to see why. The provision states that, “[w]hole-
body imaging technology may not be used to screen a passenger ... unless another method of screening, such as metal detection [alarms] ...,” meaning that if you do not alarm the magnetometer, you would not — by law — be scanned by the WBI.

How absurd is it to spend millions of dollars on an advanced technology and then insert statutory language that effectively allows it to be used only on people who can’t avoid it because they have metal implants? The very people who we are trying to stop would — by law — walk right past the technology that can stop them. Banning WBIs in primary screening risks great harm to everyone who flies.

The central fact of security is that it is about risk management. With a smart, adaptive enemy, there is no such thing as security perfection, but certainly, we ought not give our enemies a free pass, protected by the force of our own law.


Remaking America as a banana republic

From Conrad Quagliaroli

The difference between the United States and a banana republic is — or should I say, was — the rule of law. No one invests in Venezuela because he or she can’t be sure the government won’t disregard the law and confiscate the business.

The Obama administration disregarded the law that gives bondholders first claim to a company’s assets. He dismissed secured creditors — the bondholders of Chrysler, who include retired teachers, policemen and widows — giving them 29 cents on the dollar. At the same time, he is repaying the unions (an unsecured, last-in-line creditor) for their political support, awarding them 50 cents on the dollar.

Recently we learned President Obama just appointed his 16th czar. The problem is the mainstream media that helped elect him will not tell you this, but none of these czars are accountable to our elected officials in Washington. They report only to the president. His plan is to have Congress pass vague laws and then he appoints unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats to impose his socialist agenda.

Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger referred to candidate Obama as a con man and a charlatan. President Obama is  proving him right.   On the one hand, he claims he doesn’t want to run companies, yet like a magician, with the other hand, he is installing his czars to control them.

Woodstock, Ga.

Father’s influence

From Dick Vaughan

Amazing that the president said he shouldn’t meddle in Iran’s affairs yet he meddles in Israel’s settlements. I think his father’s roots are showing.

Albuquerque, N.M.