The right to privacy is an important issue, no doubt, but for me it does not rank at the top of the list. Right now, for example, I'm much more concerned about the economy, the environment, and ending the war in Iraq. But here's an item sent to me by a friend over the weekend that gives people such as myself great pause and serves to place privacy rights closer to the top. The image above is from a millimeter-wave scan machine used at airport security venues across the country. Columnist Robyn Blumner of the St. Petersburg Times describes that when "selected" by airport security personnel for one such scan, she agreed because she thought she was being "sniffed" for explosives by a machine. Instead:
The millimeter-wave scan machine took an image of my body under all my clothes and then gave it a tin-like patina. The picture makes one look avatar-like, with every hill and valley in full view. The image was then viewed by a security officer 'in a remote location and a windowless booth,' so the agent couldn't match a face to a body, according to Sari Koshetz, a spokeswoman for the [Transportation Security Administration].
You can see the image here.
I've been "selected" for similar screenings in the past, and I had no idea I was agreeing to a strip search. Not only is the idea of appearing naked in front of a government bureaucrat repulsive, but I also worry about the amount of X-rays these machines emit and how carcinogenic they may be, attacking unknowing travelers.
Not that anybody in possession of his or her faculties expects honesty or disclosure from the Bush administration.
But clearly, if people are going to be scanned "naked" and permeated with high levels of X-rays, they should be told so in advance. This is truly outrageous.