When do the new TSA "security" scanners and searches go too far?
Many of you will by now have heard about a recent incident with a woman who was wearing a GladRags cloth pantyliner and was subjected to an invasive and highly traumatic groin search as a result of the "unusual" appearance of the pantyliner in the scanner. I very much appreciated GladRags' response which was; rather than warn people not to wear their GladRags on flights, to instead encourage them to do so, as a means to educate TSA personnel that menstruating people wearing cloth pads is in fact perfectly normal, and not "unusual" at all.
For Pete's sake, what are we supposed to do? Not use anything when we're having our period and traveling by plane? Makes you wonder how disposable menstrual products show up on these scans, or what response a DivaCup would elicit for TSA security folks? Think about it - what percentage of travelers are bleeding at any given time and could be affected by this?
There are a multitude of personal care products out there, ranging from disposable incontinence underwear, colostomy and ileostomy bags, to birth control devices such as IUDs and silicone cervical caps. What sort of education or training is in place to help security personnel be able to correctly identify legitimate personal supplies? For all that I support GladRags stance, I certainly wouldn't want to be subjected to a search of this nature, even in the name of standing up for an issue so near and dear to my heart.
But rather than wade into the fraught debate of personal privacy versus group security, the aforementioned incident has drawn my attention to a couple of tangential, but important and interesting approaches to the subject that are also worth sharing.
First (and arguably foremost), how safe are these scans in the first place, regardless of what they bring to light? A group of scientists from the University of California, San Francisco, in a letter to Dr. John Holdren, the President of the United States' Assistant for Science and Technology, write that:
"Similarly, there has not been sufficient review of the intermediate and long-term effects of radiation exposure associated with airport scanners. There is good reason to believe that these scanners will increase the risk of cancer to children and other vulnerable populations. We are unanimous in believing that the potential health consequences need to be rigorously studied before these scanners are adopted. Modifications that reduce radiation exposure need to be explored as soon as possible." Is the notion of "personal safety" being honored? As if we needed more reasons to be freaked out about this stuff!
On a lighter note, the Cargo Collective is offering 4th Amendment Underwear (pictured above) as a means to make a point as you traverse the scanners. As a refresher, the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution states: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
What's your take?