One fruitful debate to emerge from the recent security scramble in response to the foiled terrorist plot on Christmas Day, is whether or not digital strip searches, aka full-body scans, might be utilized more universally to help prevent potential future treats to security.
Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam has already announced that it will begin to use 15 such machines for all flights to the United States. Screening will begin in a few weeks.
“The big question to our country,” said Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz, who sponsored a measure that these devices be used only as secondary screening methods, “is how to balance the need for personal privacy with the safety and security needs of our country.” The bill passed in The House, but not in The Senate.
Maureen Dowd, in her most recent op-ed, “As the Nation’s Pulse Races, Obama Can’t Seem to Find His,” asserts that, “we are headed toward the moment when screeners will watch-listers sashay through while we have to come to the airport in hospital gowns, flapping open in the back.”
Presently, only 40 airports have these machines, while plans to implement an additional 150 in 2010 are underway. This doesn’t nearly cover the hundreds of airports that exist in the U.S., although the larger challenge seems to be whether or not it is a breach of ethics to require these screenings in the first place. It has also been recommended that funds for the screening devices be instead allocated to intelligence gathering to prevent potential terrorists from getting to the airport in the first place.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has already filed a law suit against the Department of Justice earlier this month, claiming that the new technology is a violation of our privacy, as it captures images of people stripped naked. The ACLU has also been proactive in the debate and just issued a press release to reinforce that privacy of travelers be respected.