By Nathan L. Walls

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  • Encased/Raleigh
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  • Completed Snow Angel/Raleigh

Articles tagged “current-events”

Regarding the TSA: An open letter to my representatives

I am writing this as a public post. However, I am specifically sending this message to my senators and my congressman. I encourage you to express your frustration with the TSA by writing a physical letter to your representatives as well.

Dear (Senator Burr|Senator Hagan|Congressman Miller),

I am writing to express my disgust and frustration with the Transportation Security Agency’s recent adoption of backscatter screening machines (also known as Advanced Imaging Technology). While I have not directly experienced the backscatter machines or the TSA’s alternate and invasive body pat-down, I have significant qualms about both procedures and how they are applied to screening passengers.

First, the backscatter screening machines are based on a faulty premise: If only we saw more of people we might prevent a bomb, knife or other weapon from getting onto a plane. Unfortunately, we already know Al Qaeda is completely comfortable hiding bombs in the rectums of suicide bombers. The backscatter machines will not find objects hidden inside someone’s body.

Second: While cleared for use by the FDA, there are significant doubts about the long-term safety of increased radiation exposure.

Third: The alternate, enhanced pat-downs are invasive and the TSA seems to be relying on that invasiveness to humiliate passengers who request alternate screening. Neither option is acceptable.

Fourth: The TSA assures us images from the backscatter machines are going to be handled professionally. Assurances have been provided that no images will be stored. However, under separate use, the U.S. Marshalls have admitted to storing several thousand images from backscatter machines. So, we know the machines have the capability to store images. Absent significant, persistent and independent oversight, I have no confidence that at some place, one or more TSA agents will not abuse their position and keep compromising, intimate images of passengers. I am further convinced of this when seeing reports of TSA screeners preferentially steering passengers to backscatter screening based on apparent attractiveness.

Given the issues with both, I believe the enhanced pat-down screenings and backscatter machine screenings can constitute sexual harassment under the guise of government sanction. Whether or not these incidents are widespread, they are disturbing, unacceptable actions in excess of authority and common decency. They have no acceptable place in the United States.

I am requesting that you, as my representative in Washington, express your disgust with these ineffectual, invasive, insulting and potentially dangerous screening methods. While terrorism is abhorrant and reasonable measures should be taken to prevent bad actors, the general population should not be treated in a debasing fashion and told it is in the name of our safety. It is not.

Encourage the TSA to adopt screening practices based on behavioral science and focused on keeping bad individuals from flying. Please encourage your colleagues with oversight of the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA to hold public hearings on the adoption of the backscatter machines, the enhanced pat-down procedure and the general state of screening passengers for flight.

Encourage your colleagues with oversight over the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA to hold public hearings exploring the safety of the backscatter machines against X-Ray usage or magnetometer / metal detector.

Demand the restoration of our Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search.


Nathan L. Walls
Raleigh, North Carolina

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