Op-ed: The Opt-Out Shame Game



“Female opt-out!” The cry was volleyed around the Detroit Airport security screening area like a hot potato dressed with derision, topped with shame. This is the technique employed by our U.S. Transportation Security Administration at the entry point to American air travel, where I often feel my stomach tighten at the sight of the Total-Recall, Martian-prison-camp-like body scanners used in the name of security. That is, instead of in the name of the security-industrial complex that it really is.

Since day one of coming face-to-face with both the hulking beige body scanner and the twin-electrode-box backscatter machines, I’ve held fast to my Fourth Amendment rights. That’s the one ensuring our rights “against unreasonable searches and seizures” by our government. To me, “unreasonable” is being subjected to even small doses of both disdain and radiation. Both of which, for a travel writer like me, add up to a harmful amount of transdermal rays invading my organs.  

“Unreasonable” also applies to having a bitter TSA agent snap on her rubber gloves and run her chilly hands between my breasts, butt cheeks and crotch, grope along my pants’ waistline, and cup my breasts and belly in front of the tired, poor, huddled masses who are today’s air travelers.

It’s so deeply disrespectful, even just explaining the process here is beneath us.

Alas, it’s not only the violation of my personal privacy and not-unreasonable sensibilities that mandates my opt-out. Part of my beef is the blatant government sell-out to backscatter-imaging technology manufacturers like Rapiscan and American Science and Engineering.

It can’t be a coincidence that their revenue and stock prices grow in tandem with their government-lobbying budgets. In fact, they’re probably great, growing firms to own stock in. Especially when they win big TSA contracts like the $12 million one Rapiscan got in September 2011, for the “Advanced Technology Upgrade” of our country’s checkpoint-screening systems. This contract showed a great ROI (return on investment) for Rapiscan’s $410,000 documented dollars spent lobbying our elected officials last year.


Tags: Commentary