We are the bodyscanners

You know what I like more than keeping my skivvies to myself? Not getting blown up.

Every now and then, the ACLU finds itself in agreement with some core conservative principles–personal property, opposition to government intrusion in personal lives, privacy. So it comes as only a mild surprise that the ACLU has come out in opposition to the use of electronic scanners as an additional measure of airport security. “Full body scanners present serious threats to personal privacy and are of unclear effectiveness,” their statement reads. While I agree that the effectiveness of such devices should be thoroughly evaluated and improved, the degree of threat to my personal privacy is highly dubious.

For one thing, the only secret I keep in my bra is some pretty great BioFit technology… but that’s just for show. I try not to walk around with high explosives strapped to my body, so I don’t mind in the slightest if someone takes a look-see to make sure. If it catches the guy next to me who does have more to hide than a flat chest, then I’m glad to have done my part.

Second, have you ever used one of those body scanners? Moderate claustrophobia aside, those things are pretty neat. Like a 5 second open MRI, shaken, not stirred.

“Body scanners produce strikingly graphic images, creating pictures of virtually naked bodies that reveal not only sexual organs but also intimate medical details such as colostomy bags and mastectomy scars,” the ACLU statement continues. Anyone who’s ever gotten a bikini wax has shared more with total strangers than these body scans reveal. But for more private people, I understand how someone looking at your virtual hoo-hah isn’t the most pleasant of ideas. Some pervy security workers might get a jolly from looking at these bizarre alien-like images, but one can only hope that if the system works as it is intended to work, they’ll be looking for–and will catch–bombs.

I’m sure the argument was raised when x-ray scanners were improved so TSA workers could see more than vague shapes inside your carry-on bags. “They don’t need to know I’m carrying a box of tampons with me!” “That’s bottle of pain pills is MY business!” But we’ve gradually learned to leave a little dignity at the airport doors in the years since 9/11, along with cans of mace and pipe bombs. We’ve learned to react not with fear and sorrow over terrorist efforts, but rather, as did the heroic citizens on board Northwest 253 Christmas Day, with outrage and hardened determination not to become statistics in a tragedy. Of course the fear of a slippery slope is legitimate, but if it’s one thing we can do to keep our travels safer, we should embrace it, however begrudgingly. After all, there is less revealed in a fleeting body scan image than your personal information on Facebook–and that stays public forever.


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