Monday, January 11, 2010

You Show Me Yours, I'll Show You Mine

Some in Congress claim there are privacy issues, concerning the use of full-body scanners at airports to increase security. They are afraid that the ability of the scanner to "see through" clothing is an invasion of privacy. All because a Nigerian man tried to one-up Richard Reid, the infamous "Shoe Bomber," by putting his own life (and reproductive capability) on the line by putting an explosive device in his underwear.

This, from the people who brought you, amongst other things, The Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, warrant-less wiretapping, and a free pass from potential liability for telecom companies who supplied private phone records and allowed the wiretapping to take place.

Let's get one thing straight: you have a better chance of being struck by lightning, than dying in a terrorist attack involving an airliner. In recent years, most terrorist attacks have consisted of car bombs, truck bombs, IEDs, suicide vests, planted on roads, on trains, on buses, or in trucks. That said, the idea that the plane you are riding in may suddenly explode fills us with a unique terror, made even greater by the events of September 11th, 2001. Frankly, the destruction of airplane filled with passengers is terrorism of the highest order, because at thousands of feet above the ground, the vulnerability factor is very high.

All this in evidence, we come to the conclusion that there must be tighter security at airports, and we will have to pay for that security with assaults on our personal liberty and inconvenience at a time when inconvenience is the last thing we want. Congress may wish to wail about privacy at this point, but they led us down this garden path, and they have no right to change their mind and act the wounded party. It is their mess; it is up to us to clean it up.

Anyone who has seen the results of a full-body scan will note that we are not talking about the creation of Internet-ready pornography; the person in the scan is represented by a translucent white shadow, over which lies the opaque blocks that represent less ephemeral items: watches, keys, pacemakers, and hopefully, underwear bombs or hidden guns and knives. The scans are done at the security checkpoint, but those who do the scanning may be in an entirely different area of the airport, and have no way of seeing who is being scanned, only which scanner is delivering the image. It is technology that was science fiction two decades ago, but is finally capable of being turned to good use to provide updated security, and eliminate some of the fuzziness that comes from random pat-downs, wanding, auxiliary searches, and bomb-sniffing dogs.

As with most times in our country's history, it is we -- its citizens -- who bear the brunt of defending our nation, and not simply by being in uniform. The first shots fired in the War of American Independence were not fired by well-equipped, well-trained troops, but by citizen militias, groups of butchers, bankers, shipwrights, blacksmiths, and others, determined to defend their homes from the British, and eventually break British tyranny in The Colonies. It is always the average citizen, who sees most clearly the wrongs that need righting. It is the average citizen, who can do more to ensure the safety and security of their fellow Americans, by bring to light the weaknesses, foibles, and follies extant in our society. It is we, who can control how problems are solved by electing representatives with a good sense of the land and good common sense, who are driven by a need to serve the people, not their party.

For Congress to worry about privacy now, after the horse has left the barn, only goes to show how we got into this situation in the first place. Throughout recent decades, it has become more important for Congressmen to pander to their party, and pay lip service to the people who elect them. Backed by the money readily available from special interests and corporations, the contributions of the average citizen are of such little value, that to hope that the person we vote for has our best interests at heart, is at best a fool's bargain. The security of America has been thrown away by legislators interested only in the consolidation of their personal power, expanding their influence, and catering to the interests that hold the biggest purse-strings. It has taken moments like September 11th, the Shoe Bomber, the shooting at Fort Hood, and now the Underwear Bomber, to stir them up, though rather than creating a homogeneous mixture of patriotism and mindfulness, the stirring has only led to a jumble of Senators and Representatives falling all over each other to point fingers at others for their failings.

Our security starts at home, with us. We must strive to be vigilant, and we must continue to be tolerant. Mistakes will be made, people will be wronged, but we will get the hang of it. We must also work to replace those in Congress who have forsaken their sworn oath to see to our freedom, liberty, and security, with people we know understand our concerns and more importantly, will listen to our problems. Inevitably, it is on the shoulders of American citizens, that the tide of hatred against us and our way of life will be turned, and it is up to us to ensure that those who do not intend to help us are moved aside, before they lead us to greater disaster.

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