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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“How much are we willing to sacrifice in the name of “”security””?”

The millions of Americans who will travel by air this holiday season should prepare to receive a frisking by Transportation Security Administration agents.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, threats posed to aircrafts have been mounting. The infamous underwear bombing last December exposed gaping holes in TSA’s security screening process.

However, the administration’s new screening procedures have drawn fire from civil-liberty advocates.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security, claiming the TSA’s intrusive pat-downs and full-body scans are a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

When asked whether there were plans to change the new regime, Janet Napolitano, head of the Department of Homeland Security, and TSA Chief John Pistole both denied that the agency was considering reforming its policy, insisting the invasive procedures are “”the last line of protection”” for passengers.

But while a recent CBS News poll indicates 81 percent of Americans approve of the new measures, the enhanced pat downs in particular are prompting thousands of complaints from disgruntled passengers.

“”I really didn’t expect her to touch my vagina through my pants,”” said Washington elementary school teacher Kaya McLaren after being subjected to a TSA frisking at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Charlotte, N.C., flight attendant and breast cancer survivor Cathy Bossi, after refusing to consent to a full-body scan because of radiation concerns, was forced to remove her breast prosthesis during a pat down. In plain sight of onlookers, the TSA agent “”put her full hand on my (prosthetic) breast and asked, ‘What is this?'”” Bossi told a local television station.

Unable to compose herself after having her teddy bear taken by a screener, 3-year-old Mandy Simon, kicking and screaming, was frisked by a TSA employee at a Chattanooga, Tenn., airport. Her father Steve captured 17 seconds of the ordeal on film, footage that has since gone viral.

The TSA’s Advanced Imaging Technology has also been the subject of public backlash. Some of the nude images produced by the machines have been saved and circulated on the web.

Critics charge that the AIT scanners not only expose passengers to harmful amounts of radiation, but are useless in the detection of powdered explosives and are unable to locate materials hidden in body cavities.

Those supportive of the TSA’s procedures contend they are not only necessary but have proven effective, touting the fact that there has not been a successful terrorist attack on a plane originating in the U.S. since Sept. 11.

But while some are willing to forgo their privacy in order to ensure airline safety, others believe the vigorous screening measures have crossed the line.

Right-wing political pundit and Fox News contributor Ann Coulter is among them. In an appearance on “”The O’Reilly Factor,”” Coulter claimed the new screening procedures were a result of the “”crazy, politically correct world we’re living in now”” and suggested that rather than subjecting all 621 million in the domestic aviation system to what she calls “”Hitler’s last revenge,”” the TSA should ethnically profile passengers.

Unfortunately, Coulter is not alone. She and others believe foreign-born Muslim males should be targeted by airport security personnel. And while the majority of Americans approve of the TSA’s new screening process, 37 percent of the public favors profiling as an alternative.

But in terms of civil liberties, ethnic profiling is no better than conducting a search without reasonable suspicion.

Today, National Opt-Out Day, millions will protest the TSA’s boarding security checks by choosing to “”opt out”” of the AIT scan and undergo a pat down instead, which will undoubtedly result in long security checkpoint lines and huge delays. But having to choose between a full-body “”porn”” scan and an equally invasive frisking doesn’t seem like much of an “”option.””

In wake of the TSA’s new airport screening procedures, we must ask ourselves what we are willing to sacrifice in the name of “”security.”” Are we willing to live in a society where all are assumed guilty until proven innocent or one that deems some more culpable than others simply because of what they look like or where they were born?

— Nyles Kendall is a political science junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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