Having shrugged off the concerns of privacy watchdogs and legal experts, the TSA has escalated its use of full-body scans for air travel, giving passengers an option between this and an intrusive patdown. Less easy to ignore however is the growing backlash among travelers offended by the invasive scans.
“We have received hundreds of emails and phone calls from travelers vowing to stop flying,” warned an official for the US Travel Association. Though the TSA has found itself under growing scrutiny for its ever more intrusive system of checks related to air travel, it seems the full body scanners have found opposition from almost every conceivable group, from religious activists to privacy activists to pilots.
Indeed, Dr. Michael Love, the X-ray lab head at Johns Hopkins medical school, warns that the technology involved in the scanners is likely dangerous, and given its widespread use will inevitable cause skin cancer in some passengers. Other scientists have warned that the “classified” nature of the scanners is preventing any independent review of the health threat they pose, with one terming the official claims of safety “deeply flawed.”
In fact the threat of cancer and the extremely graphic nature of the image the scanners produce has prompted many to choose the “enhanced patdown” system, which itself has prompted massive complaints that it amounts to a full-on, public groping.
The TSA’s strategy appears to have been to offer two equally offensive choices and then insist that everyone “had a choice” in the matter. Far from deflecting criticism, however, it seems to have prompted massive cynicism about the TSA’s goals and methods. How long they can continue their policy of routine invasiveness remains to be seen, but it seems that at the very least it will no longer be something Americans quietly grumble about.