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Monday, November 15, 2010

Freedom or Security?

What does a flight passenger in the U.S. have in common with an inmate? Well, they're both subjected to invasive search techniques (although I do concede that the techniques used on passengers are not the same as those used to search inmates, at least not yet).

John Tyner was flying out of San Diego and refused to be scanned in airport security, so he was subjected to a pat down. This now involves using the palms instead of the back of the hand and they touch more than they used to, and I'll leave it at that. Tyner agreed to the procedure, only objecting to the potential risk that the TSA officer would touch his "junk". I'm sure this has happened before -- my favorite (sarcastic tone) congressman, Jason Chaffetz, is actually known for his belligerent refusal to be subjected to the full-body scan -- but what makes Tyner's story different?

He audio recorded the whole thing on his phone and then posted it to YouTube.

Frankly, I'm a little suspicious that the whole thing may not have been an excuse to not go pheasant hunting with his father-in-law. But, beside my postulations, I think this brings up a very relevant issue in terms of what freedoms we are ready to give up in the name of security. This is worth thinking about seriously, because I think that it's at the heart of political movements and simply put, the idea of being governed and having government in general.

Of course there are ridiculous examples, such as Pelosi's famous "Crocodile Tears" she shed as a result of comparing political rhetoric of peaceful protesters to political murders, and perhaps even Tyner getting out of a pheasant hunting trip. But in all seriousness, where does the balance lie? How much freedom or responsibility should citizens take on, and what should they turn over to elected (or non-elected bureaucrats) officials?

This issue defines nations.

Well, what about the question, "If you have nothing to hide, what's the problem?" I have asked this question, and have used it to justify security policies in the past. But in retort to that question, what about another: "If you have nothing to hide, why should you be publicly humiliated for having spent your money on a flight?" Are TSA's security policies/procedures becoming too invasive? What areas of our life are we going to allow the government to get its hands on to check?

Consider how our legal mindset in America is set up: innocent until proven guilty. We do not refer to Elizabeth Smart's kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell, as guilty but rather as "the accused." Then why should all passengers be assumed guilty of terrorist plotting until proven innocent through search techniques using palms to feel sensitive areas in public, or revealing your body image to a stranger while being exposed to radiation that could cause irreparable damage to your DNA, and increase your risk for cancer. (Going through once or twice is probably not going to do it, but if you travel frequently and are exposed to high energy waves at home or work, it's not the best thing to expose yourself to. There's a threshold to how much DNA your cells can repair daily, and this can be reached by simply being outside in the sun for an hour or two in Dallas, and less in SLC, UT, due to altitude and less atmosphere. Also, when it comes to causing electrons in an atom to jump from one energy level to another, it's the wave energy or frequency that matters, not necessarily how much exposure you have. High frequency = High Energy = Short Wavelength = Not Good. See the spectrum here for an idea.)

In this case, I do not necessarily object to the idea of using dignified means to prevent terrorist attacks. I do object to having two humiliating choices - public groin check or revealing body scan that also exposes me to radiation - for choosing to travel by air. And yes, to me palms are different than the back of the hand. The back of the hand I would consider a brush, the palm I would consider a feel. I don't care if this can be done in private or public, the process induces thoughts of stranger danger.

I'm just a little too uncomfortable letting Big Brother get borderline-frisky with me.


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