Government is Invading Our Privacy

The Transportation Security Administration wants to see you naked. Other government agencies are jealous of the TSA and want to see you naked too—and track your every movement by GPS. And anticipate your “criminal behavior” with computers.

The former “Land of the Free” is truly a “Brave New World”. 

The TSA is apparently the model for American government in the 21st Century.

Been to the airport lately? In 19 airports, TSA “backscatter” scanners have captured pictures of you naked; pictures so revealing and detailed that Fox News could not show the images on TV without blurring what used to be called the “private parts”. They are private no more. Every major airport is scheduled to install these scanners.

But not to worry; if you don’t want someone watching you under your clothes from “a monitor in a separate room,” you can request a full pat-down instead by a TSA professional groper.

To calm the fears of the occasional stick in the mud who objects to being seen naked by strangers, the TSA assured Congress and the public when the scanners were first proposed that these images would not be stored or shared but were necessary for “security”.

The computers running these scanners do in fact store the images.

“Security” workers in Britain’s TSA counterpart are known to treasure and share naked images of celebrities going through Heathrow airport. How long before airport images of Lady Gaga appear on YouTube and every A-list celeb insists on riding commercial, too?

These images have caused problems among TSA workers. A TSA worker was arrested for aggravated battery by Miami police after he attacked a fellow worker who made fun of his penis size during a test of the Miami airport scanners.

Alarmingly, it’s not clear what security threat the scanners are thwarting. Last year’s “Christmas bomber” hid some of his bomb making ingredients where the sun don’t shine and even the scanner can’t reach. One shudders to think what the TSA is designing to detect future such bombers.

This kind of fun was bound to spread to other agencies of government.

Six U.S. senators sent a critical letter last week to the U.S. Marshals Service saying they were “disturbed” to learn that 35,314 images from the Brijot Gen2 scanners used at security checkpoints at the Orlando, Fla., federal courthouse were recorded and stored.

While the TSA tried to deny their scanner’s images were recorded and stored, a U.S. Marshals spokesman told the Orlando Sentinel that “Everybody knows they’re being recorded when they come into the courthouse.” I guess we do now.

American Science and Engineering, based in Billerica, Mass., has sold over 500 scanners mounted in mobile vans that can reveal the contents of other vehicles and see under the clothes of people in that vehicle. While the Department of Defense is the biggest customer deploying the mobile scanners in Iraq and Afghanistan, government agencies foreign and domestic are also customers. A company spokesman boasts that AS&E has customers on “all continents except Antarctica.”

In addition to the dubious “security” benefits of this technology and the obvious violation of basic privacy rights, has anybody tested the health effects of powerful x-rays on pregnant women who are frequent fliers, or courthouse visitors, or just driving down the street ? If this were privately deployed technology, the lawyers would reap millions in class action suits.

Snooping Big Government is spreading in other ways.

In Washington, D.C., police are now using “crime predicting” software developed by the University of Pennsylvania. Remember the movie Minority Report? Government “predicting” when someone will commit a crime couldn’t have any political agenda, could it?

In other news, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that government agents can attach a GPS tracking device to your car without your permission and without a warrant.

However, the Supreme Court has ruled that wiretapping by government, including remote snooping, requires a warrant. So, how can the government track your movements in your car or take your naked picture without one?

In the tsunami of outrageous government actions, it’s difficult to keep track of them all. But if the government can take your naked picture without your permission or without a warrant, we do not live in a “free country.” Oh, Brave New World.