The Naked City: Government in Our Pants?

Well, there were eight million stories in The Naked City. Hey, for those of you under age 60 check it out. But something tells me there are going to be more than eight million stories as airline customers begin this holiday season to inch their way in the security queue through the full-body scanning machines and aggressive pat downs that are now part of the flying experience.

And I guess at my age I should relish every opportunity for someone to rub my thighs and explore other even more private areas. But I don’t know. Something just doesn’t feel right about this newest adventure in homeland security.

I’ll also admit that I really have no complaints — despite the hassle involved — to reasonable security measures aimed at keeping asshats and other miscreants off airplanes. The last thing I want to be doing is sitting next to someone with a pipe bomb wedged up his ass. Good grief.

So I read with interest the opinion article in the Akron Beacon Journal by Steve Chapman with the Chicago Tribute, “Government in our pants.” Here’s an excerpt:

When it comes to protecting against terrorism, this is how things usually go: A danger presents itself. The federal government responds with new rules that erode privacy, treat innocent people as suspicious and blur the distinction between life in a free society and life in a correctional facility. And we all tamely accept the new intrusions, like sheep being shorn.

Maybe not this time.

The war on terrorism is going to get personal. Very personal. Americans have long resented the hassles that go with air travel ever since 9/11 — long security lines, limits on liquids, forced removal of footwear and so on. But if the Transportation Security Administration has its way, we will look back to 2009 as the good old days.

The agency is rolling out new full-body scanners, which eventually will replace metal detectors at all checkpoints. These machines replicate the experience of taking off your clothes, but without the fun. They enable agents to get a view of your body that leaves nothing to the imagination.

A lot of people, of course, couldn’t care less if a stranger wants to gaze upon everything God gave them. But some retain a modesty that makes them reluctant to parade naked in front of people they don’t know, even virtually. Henceforth, Jennifer Aniston is going to think twice before flying commercial.

Besides the indignity of having one’s body exposed to an airport screener, there is a danger the images will find a wider audience. The U.S. Marshals Service recently admitted saving some 35,000 images from a machine at a federal courthouse in Florida. TSA says that will never happen. Human experience says, oh, yes, it will.

For the camera-shy, TSA will offer an alternative: ”enhanced” pat-downs. And you’ll get a chance to have an interesting conversation with your children about being touched by strangers. This is not the gentle frisking you may have experienced at the airport in the past. It requires agents to probe aggressively in intimate zones — breasts, buttocks, crotches. If you enjoyed your last mammography or prostate exam, you’ll love the enhanced pat-down.

Oh boy. I can’t wait. I’m on a flight to and from Reagan National in early December. When I was last in DC a few weeks ago, they were just getting started with the full-body scanning. It took about 90 minutes for a 100 or so of us to make our way through security on a weekday afternoon.

Good luck to all during the Thanksgiving holiday rush.

And a year ago my friend Walter on a flight from Florida had a jar of organic peanut butter confiscated by the security patrol at the gate.

Something tells me that we are going to look back on those outrages as the good old days.

Sheesh.

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