To start today's discussion, I excerpt an AP story currently on the wire:
WASHINGTON (AP) - High-tech security scanners that might have prevented the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a jetliner have been installed in only a small number of airports around the world, in large part because of privacy concerns over the way the machines see through clothing.
The body-scanning technology is in at least 19 U.S. airports, while European officials have generally limited it to test runs.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of trying to ignite explosives aboard a Northwest Airlines jet as it was coming in for a landing in Detroit, did not go through such a scan where his flight began, at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.
The full-body scanner "could have been helpful in this case, absolutely," said Evert van Zwol, head of the Dutch Pilots Association.
But the technology has raised significant concerns among privacy watchdogs because it can show the body's contours with embarrassing clarity. Those fears have slowed the introduction of the machines.
Jay Stanley, public education director for the American Civil Liberties Union's Technology and Liberty Program, said the machines essentially perform "virtual strip searches that see through your clothing and reveal the size and shape of your body."
Abdulmutallab passed through a routine security check at the gate in Amsterdam before boarding, officials said. He is believed to have tucked into his trousers or underwear a small bag holding PETN explosive powder, and possibly a liquid detonator."
Later in the story, it says this:
"Last June .... because of privacy concerns, the House voted 310-118 to prohibit the use of whole-body imaging for primary screening. The measure, still pending in the Senate, would limit the use of the devices to secondary screening.
"As a society, we're going to have to figure out the balance between personal privacy and the need to secure an aircraft," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who sponsored the measure. "And there is no easy answer."
Maybe there is an easy answer. Put aside our prudery, that gift from the Puritans, and let the authorities get on with the job of intercepting those with bombs in their underpants.
Surely this is better than banning lavatory visits one hour before the plane lands, which effectively would ban all bathroom breaks on flights from Pittsburgh to New York City. On behalf of my bladder, I do protest.
I know nuns and other professionally modest people don't want to have body images taken but do they never go to the doctor for an examination? Could not dissenters be allowed to be patted down or go through the puffing machine? You could also hire some RNs to look at the pictures - in my experience, nurses are no-nonsense types who have seen it all and are not impressed.
I write as one whose body should never be seen in public, who should be made to wear a diving suit at a nudist colony. The nights are not dark enough for my body, but I think the full body image machine should be used routinely.
This is not about sex. This is not about titillation. This is about keeping passengers alive. Prudish disgust for the human body should not be social policy set by Congress. It could kill us.