Airport Body Scanners Intruding On Our Constitutional Rights?
The holiday travel season has begun and the recently installed full electronic body scan machines at Lindbergh field are busy. their purpose is to insure public safety. But those scanners have made some passengers uncomfortable and even resistant. One Oceanside man made the news early this week by refusing the scan and the alternative pat-down body search. With me to talk about the objections and if they are deserved is KUSI's Director of Content and News Planning Bob Kittle.
Bob Kittle, director of content and news planning for KUSI
This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.
HOLIDAY TRAVEL SEASON HAS BEGUN. RECENTLY INSTALLED FULL ELECTRONIC BODY SCAN MACHINES AT LYNNBURG FIELD ARE BUSY. PURPOSE IS TO ENSURE PUBLIC SAFETY. SCANNERS MADE PASSENGERS UNCOMFORTABLE. ONE OCEAN SIDE MAN MADE THE NEWS THIS WEEK BY REFUSING THE CAN AND PATDOWN BODY SEARCH. WITH ME TO TALK ABOUT OBJECTIONS IS KUSI'S DIRECTOR OF CONTENT AND NEWS PLANNING. LET ME ASK ABOUT THIS MAN. WHY HAS ONE MAN'S REFUSAL TO BE SEARCHED ELICITED SO MUCH ATTENTION?
HE HAD A PHRASE THAT HE SAID TO TSA AGENT ABOUT TO PAT HIM DOWN. IF YOU TOUCH MY JUNK I'LL HAVE YOU ARRESTED. THAT PHRASE HAS GONE AROUND THE WORLD. IT HAS BECOME A RALLYING CRY FOR PEOPLE OPPOSED TO GOVERNMENT INTRUSION IN GENERAL. IT TOUCHES A CERTAIN NERVE IN THE AMERICAN PSYCHE ABOUT AN ALL-INTRUSIVE GOVERNMENT. THAT PHRASE DON'T TOUCH MY JUNK IS COMPARED TO DON'T TREAD ON ME, THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR SLOGAN FROM THE SOLDIERS IN VERMONT. HE'S TOUCHED A NERVE IN THE AMERICAN PSYCHE WITH A REBELLION AGAINST GOVERNMENT INTRUSION.
WE ARE TALKING ABOUT ELECTRONIC BODY SCANNERS AND PERSONAL PATDOWN. IS ONE MORE OBJECTIONABLE TO THE OTHER?
TO THIS GENTLEMEN THEY ARE BOTH EQUALLY OBJECTIONABLE. THE SCANNER ITSELF PRODUCES GRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE BODY WITHOUT CLOTHES ON. IF YOU HAVE SEEN IMAGES ON THE INTERNET IT IS A GRAPHIC WAY OF SCREENING SOMEONE. THE PATDOWN ITSELF IS INTRUSIVE. IF YOU HAVE SEEN HOW IT IS DONE, IF A WOMAN IS BEING PATTED DOWN BY A FEMALE TSA AGENT THE AGENT CUPS HER BREASTS AND GOES DOWN HER LEGS AND GROIN AND BOTOX. SAME THING WITH A MAN. ANY WAY YOU LOOK AT IT IT IS AN INVASIVE SEARCH.
ASIDE FROM THE INVASIVENESS ARE THERE OTHER CONCERNS?
THE HEALTH CONCERNS HAVE BEEN RAISED ABOUT THE RADIATION THAT THE SCANNER EMITS. PARTICULARLY BY THE AIRLINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION AND FLIGHT ATTENDANTS THAT GO THROUGH IT MULTIPLE TIMES EVERY WORK DAY. THERE IS CONCERN OF THE AFFECT THAT KIND OF RADIATION EXPOSURE MIGHT CAUSE.
WHAT ACT YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS?
THE 4th AMENDMENT IN THE CONSTITUTION STIPULATES THAT THE GOVERNMENT MAY NOT CONDUCT UNREASONABLE SEARCHES. THE QUESTION IS IS THIS AN UNREASONABLE SEARCH? THAT WILL WORK ITS WAY THROUGH THE COURTS. I SUSPECT IT WILL HAVE TO BE RESOLVED BY THE U.S. SUPREME COURT. WHILE I THINK THE SEARCHES ARE INAPPROPRIATE AND UNNECESSARY, I'M NOT SURE THAT THE SUPREME COURT FINDS THAT IT VIOLATES THE 4th AMENDMENT.
A LOT HAS TO DO WITH THE AGENTS THAT DO THE SEARCH. HOW WELL SCREENED ARE THEY? CAN WE TRUST THEM WITH OUR PERSON?
THAT'S RIGHT. THE ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF POWER AND RESPONSIBILITY IS GIVEN TO TSA AGENTS AS THEY PUT THEIR HANDS ON YOUR BODY AND DECIDE IF YOU GO THROUGH THE SCANNER. IF THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT WELL STRAINED OR PSYCHOLOGICALLY FIT TO CONDUCT THIS WORK A LOT OF PROBLEMS OCCUR. WE HAVE HEARD HORROR STORIES FOR WEEKS FROM PEOPLE SUBJECTED TO SEARCH THEY FELT WERE WAY TOO EVASIVE.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO IS HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO RECONCILE INDIVIDUAL CHOICE WITH PUBLIC GOOD?
CERTAINLY THE GOVERNMENT HAS AN OVERRIDING RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT THE TRAVELING PUBLIC. THE QUESTION HOWEVER, IS WHETHER THESE SEARCHES MAKE US ANY SAFER. WHETHER THE SCANNER MAKES US ANY SAFER. REALITY IS MOST PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE SUBJECTED TO SUCH AN INTENSIVE SEARCH. SEARCHING AN 85-YEAR-OLD GRANDMOTHER IS A WASTE OF GOVERNMENT RESOURCES, TIME AND MONEY. IT INFLICTS UPON THE 85 GRANDMOTHER A VERY UNNECESSARY SEARCH, I BELIEVE.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.