Why are you naked at the airport?

Right after the horrific events of 9/11/01, I was stunned to watch my fellow citizens simply bend over and acquiesce to security measures that I thought were uncalled for and overreaching and so did security expert Bruce Schneier. I submit that making millions of people remove their shoes after one so-called “shoe bomber” hid explosives in his shoes is ludicrous, but few of us push back or protest.

Why aren’t more of us saying “no” to accelerated invasiveness of our persons and privacy? Are people simply lambs stumbling along blindly as they head off for slaughter?  Is it OK for you to be full body scanned and essentially viewed naked at the airport?

I submit that it’s because the vast majority of people are unable to think critically or properly assess risk and this short page on the National Science Foundation (NSF) website encapsulates it well:

Risk is a fact of life but how we perceive risk can influence our emotional state. Fear and anger are key components. Jennifer Lerner and Baruch Fischhoff of Carnegie Mellon University, along with Roxana Gonzalez and Deborah Small, graduate researchers at the time, examined how emotions affect our assessment of risk. Although we may like to think that our judgments about risk are entirely objective, this study demonstrated that emotional responses to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks could affect not only a person judgment of risk for future attacks, but also risk estimates for other types of hazards.

The NSF article went on with (my emphasis):
Fear also impacted a study conducted by Leonie Huddy of the State University of New York at Stony Brook and her colleagues. They found that among those who perceive future terrorist attacks to be likely, people who were fearful and anxious after Sept. 11 were less likely to support aggressive military action, opting instead for isolationist policies.  More recently, the researchers found that anxious people also had greater difficulty learning factual information about countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq that have been affected by U.S. foreign policy — despite the survey participants greater attention to related news coverage.

Are you afraid when you’re going to fly and feel any intrustion is OK? For those that push back on me about my concerns over giving up personal liberties, I always ask them if it’s OK for 100% of their internet use and phone calls to be monitored (which they already are) and the responses are often, “Anything to keep us safe and it would be OK if they could catch terrorists.” Next I ask if it would be OK to have their mail opened and hear, “Oh no, why would I allow that!?!” without a trace of awareness on their part about the irony of their question.

You do understand, don’t you, that the full body scanners being purchased by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) will be as marginally effective as millions of us taking off our shoes in an attempt to stop the next attack? If you don’t believe me about its marginal effectiveness, feel free to link to facts online in the comments about all the people that have been caught hiding bombs in their shoes since December of 2001 (spoiler alert: that number is zero and please don’t resort to unknowns like, “Of course they won’t tell us about thwarted attacks since that’s classified” since the TSA and the Dept of Homeland Security would insist that attacks stopped would be front page news).

This Washington Post article lays out the push back by organizations like FlyersRights.org who argue (and with whom I concur) that, “The price of liberty is too high,” said Kate Hanni, who as founder of FlyersRights.org, an advocacy organization for air passengers, shuttles regularly between her California home and Washington to lobby Congress. Hanni said many of her group’s 25,000 members are concerned that “the full-body scanners may not catch the criminals and will subject the rest of us to intrusive and virtual strip searches.”

You know what to do if you feel as strongly about this as I do (let alone the continued expenditures). Tell your elected representatives what you think about body scanning and, if you don’t already know who they are and how to contact them, you can find your Senator and House representative here.

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