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Published: Sunday, 5/9/2010

Full-body scanners are good for safety

Schuyler Stupica is a West Side Montessori Center student who won first place in the contest for Division III. The topic was "Air Security and the 4th Amendment." The contest was sponsored by The Blade and the Toledo Bar Association.

On Dec. 25, 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to bomb a plane with plastic explosives sewn into his underwear. This 23-year-old Nigerian was able to walk through metal detectors without a problem and boarded a plane headed to Detroit. Fortunately, he wasn't able to bomb the plane, but he came too close. If all airports had full-body scanners, none of this would have happened.

Some are uncomfortable with the idea of the scans, though. The question everyone is asking is how much they should sacrifice their rights in order to stay safe. The Fourth Amendment defends the American people from "unreasonable search and seizure." Slight concessions should be made to this right in order to make commercial air travel safer.

The way full-body scanners operate is completely safe and non-invasive. The officer who sees you never sees the image; two security officers work the system. One operates the scanner and never views the images, and another views the image and never sees the person. After the operator reviews the images, they are immediately deleted. Also, the TSA says, "The machines are not networked and cannot be hacked. The system has no way to save, transmit, or print the image." Furthermore, the images are barely recognizable as people. Screener Debbie Shacklett said, "I don't look at them as people. I look at them as a thing that could have something on it." Therefore, full-body scanners are not an invasion of privacy, because there's no way anyone could link someone to their full-body scanner image.

Despite all the data supporting full-body scanners, as in all issues, there is an opposing view. Some people feel that the nude body scan images could be misused. Others are worried that the machines allow people to see the images, which could uncover things like breast implants, false limbs, and body piercings. Many also interpret the Fourth Amendment very strictly and believe their rights are being violated. Critics say that full-body scanners are "costly, invasive, and will slow airport security further."

These are all good points, but the argument supporting full-body scanners is much stronger. Sure, the scanners will further slow airport security, but isn't it worth it in the long run? Those extra 15 to 30 seconds spent going through the scanner could save lives! Yes, full-body scanners are expensive, but isn't that worth it too? Further, the officer who sees the images views thousands of them one after another all day long; no individual one would stand out. If travelers still feel uncomfortable, know that it is optional to go through a full-body scanner; they can have a pat-down instead.

In this current time when terrorism is frequent and widespread, airports all over the world should be responsible for having full-body scanners. These scanners make commercial air travel safer, and slight concessions to our Fourth Amendment rights are definitely worth staying safe.



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