Don’t Pat Me, Bro

I was standing at a security checkpoint in Boston’s Logan Airport last Friday when a tall man in front of me was asked to step aside for a full-body pat down. “Sir, I am going to touch your buttocks, if you don’t mind,” the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer warned. Apparently, in TSA’s opinion, full-body pat down includes quite literally the entire body including the buttocks, chest, and groin region. A pat down does not necessarily have to be based on suspicion and can be administered to anyone over the age of twelve. Thus, it is within a TSA officer’s right to choose me as subject of a random pat down, which they fortunately did not. The prospect of a stranger patting me up and down looking for weapons is troubling nonetheless. In addition to the full-body pat down policy, a X-ray scanner was also in use at Logan Airport last Friday. The full-body scanner is a giant dark blue box the size of a photo booth, which travelers were encouraged to stand in front of with arms crossed in an X above their head. After going home, I did some research into what this new machine and Backscatter X-Ray Technology actually are. After all, we have a right to know just how TSA is shooting x-rays at our bodies. What I found completely shocked me. The full-body scanner paints a very accurate black and white photograph of the individual’s body including basic anatomy shapes. This machine has been coined everything from “the naked scanner” to “the declother”. Travelers should take comfort in the fact that photos from the full-body scanner are deleted as soon as TSA officers view them and that faces in the photographs are blurred. However, this fact willl not comfort me any less the next time I am stripped by the full-body machine. In addition, to refuse to go through a full-body scan means that I would have to be patted down, which, again, is no more enjoyable. So how effective is the full-body scanner? Adam Savage, star of TV’s Mythbusters, discovered that the TSA overlooked two 12-inch long steel razor blades in his breast-pocket even after being “naked scanned”. It seems that the technology, while invasive, is not particularly effective. The TSA said that passengers should “expect an unpredictable mix of security layers that include explosives trace detection, advanced imaging technology, canine teams, among others.” Though I realize that secrecy and unpredicitability are tools that TSA is using to thwart potential dangers, I can’t help but wonder if these invasive and lengthy security measures address legitimate safety concerns or if they are simply fancy terms that TSA uses to calm distressed flyers. While I understand that TSA is doing all it can to prevent the next terrorism scare, my choice at the security checkpoint is still between being stripped by the full-body scanner or patted down by a TSA officer. The entire five-minute process is almost traumatic, and certainly makes me queasy. Jing Qu is a two year Lower from Lincolnshire, IL and a Photo Associate for the Phillipian.