Naked Body Scanners — Coming to a Neighborhood Near You!

Well, you can forget the airports-only naked body scanners — they’re now coming to a neighborhood near you. Forbes reports that “American Science & Engineering. . .has sold U.S. and foreign government agencies more than 500 backscatter X-ray scanners mounted in vans that can be driven past neighboring vehicles to see their contents.”

My take: This whole War on Terror is getting out of hand. What happened to the Fourth Amendment (i.e., no unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause)?

The Department of Homeland Security’s mission statement says that their “overriding and urgent mission is to lead the unified national effort to secure the country and preserve our freedoms. . . . The citizens of the United States must have the utmost confidence that the Department can execute both of these missions [‘both’ refers to terrorism and natural disaster response].”

“Preserve our freedoms”? How does having federal agents put their hands down my pants or take naked photos of me preserve my freedom?

“Citizens of the United States must have the utmost confidence”? What does “must” mean? Quite frankly, I don’t think the government could run a lemonade stand efficiently.

As my colleague Hans Bader astutely pointed out in a recent blog post, the government failed to stop the Christmas bomber last year and that the “TSA often fails to detect explosive ingredients and fake bombs in performance tests. A study found that the TSA is more than twice as likely to fail to detect a bomb as the private security firms it replaced.” Ask the people of New Orleans how satisfied they are with DHS’s FEMA response to Hurricane Katrina.

It’s about time to have a chat about national security and freedom. Unfortunately, we have to recognize that there’s a trade-off involved that is all too easily ignored. If freedom is our end, we have to recognize that the means to “preserve” it might undo the whole thing.