Point-Counterpoint: Full-Body Scans at Airport Security

By and
If you can't tell what's going on in this picture, it's a man smuggling a handgun in his FUPA. Photo: Reuters/Corbis

After Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab made it past security with explosive materials in his underwear, the debate has reopened over whether the Transportation Security Administration should use full-body X-ray technology to scan passengers more thoroughly. Many people have opinions about this contentious issue, which deals with both privacy and safety concerns. Herewith, our takes:

Stop the X-Ray Madness Before It Begins
By Chris Rovzar

For over five years, I wore a claspless bike chain fused around my right wrist. (Yes, it was idiotic and everyone hated it, especially my boyfriend, but moving on.) As a result, every single time I went through airport security for half a decade, I was patted down. I've literally been groped by strange men during my travels all over the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and once even in Syria. (And that was just in the airports, zing!)

Seriously, though, let me tell you something: It was wonderful — that feeling of personal connection, of studied thoroughness, of finesse. Walking out of the security line was like walking out of the dentist's office, every time. Except you don't usually leave the dentist slightly aroused.

With the X-ray scanner, in which a person is in another room entirely looking at your naked, black-and-white body, you won't get that same feeling of thoroughness. Sure, they'll tell you you're safe — that sure, someone has violated your privacy and personal space. But how will you know? If someone is going to be learning that I have weird pockets of fat on the sides of my lower back, I want to be able to look that person in the eye, and give them a knowing nod that says, "Don't think I didn't notice that your neck is muffin-topping over your standard-issue TSA sweater."

And anyway, in the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, would the X-ray screening have even turned up anything awry? He had the explosives hidden in a condom in his underpants, which is presumably where a lot of people would hide such things. How is a TSA employee going to know what is normal junk, and what is terrorist junk? Because let us tell you, after much personal experience, we can assure you that it's impossible to predict what you're going to be looking at down there. (See above re: travel in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and once in Syria.) Stick to the personal groping, please. Just make it more thorough, and everybody wins.

We Must Have Naked Screening ASAP
By Lindsay Robertson

The central question of naked screening is this: What is worth so much to us that we would give up our right to not be seen naked by strangers? And the answer to this question is, naturally: the ability to see celebrities naked. Duh.

TSA employees don't make very much money. This is a fact. Another fact is that no matter how careful the TSA is, no matter how many threats they make, no matter how Avatar-tastic the production values on their "What Happens to People Who Leak" corporate-training video are, the TSA simply cannot afford to make absolutely sure that no pictures of naked celebrities are sold to the tabloids or other shady media organizations. It would just be impossible. And don't give me "the scanners merely show images in real time, they don't record," because for security reasons that's probably not true, and anyway, anyone could just take a picture of the screen. Hell, the tabloids could even get eyeballs from verbal descriptions of naked celebrity bodies. You can't un-see George Clooney's penis. You can't erase Angelina Jolie's areolae from your mind's eye. Unless the TSA also has one of those mind-eraser thingies from Men in Black, celebrities, including Will Smith and (especially) Tommy Lee Jones, are screwed.

So we must, as a nation, demand naked screening immediately. It must be as widely used and compulsory as metal detectors, even for private planes — after all, a private plane can be just as effective a weapon as a commercial one. The future of America and its cocktail-party conversation depends upon it. I want to see George Clooney's wang.


Okay, okay. If you want some real opinions, The Week has a pretty nice roundup.