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Chan Lowe: Invasion of the body scanners

Everybody knows someone who, when given a small amount of authority, wields it as though he were Ivan the Terrible taming the Russian serfs. The more petty the authority he carries, the more he flaunts it.

Keep this thought in your mind as you ponder what appears to be the default pastime of federal workers with unlimited and unsupervised access to the Internet.

How did the SEC drones pass their time while Wall Street melted down around them? What did the Minerals Management Service revolving-door petroleum jockeys do when they were supposed to be inspecting offshore wells? That’s right—they surfed porn sites on taxpayer time.

So here you have TSA workers, who—let’s face it—don’t have the most exciting jobs in the world, being handed what amounts to a free pass to view people in the buff.

And let’s add a final titillation factor: Porn is created by people who either get paid, or give their permission for, their bodies to be on display. What thrills Peeping Toms is that looking through a keyhole is a violation of their victims’ privacy. They are stealing something they would never otherwise be given. Do you trust these same people to properly dispose of the images they view with such disrespect?

Add up all these motivators, and you may want to ask for the optional pat-down. At least you’ll know who’s looking at you.

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Uhhh, I may be wrong, but as far as I know these scans don't show people "in the buff". When they presented the scanners in Europe, the images looked more like a mixture of ultrasound and X-ray, not like a naked person's image. Is it different, here?

Johanna, you are wrong. Despite the lies told us by the TSA, the images are actually high quality photos showing genitals and breast in exquisite detail.

The photos you have been shown in the media have been altered to look like cartoons. A simple photoshop color inversion converts these pictures into extremely accurate graphics.

The same people who have now been authorized to feel you up now have the ability to look under your clothes. I avoid flying whenever possible.

Actually the full body scanners in European airports, at least in Amsterdam, when i was there recently, do not show a photo realistic naked view of the passenger. They provide a synthetic view of thepassenger, consisting of an outline cartoonish view of the subject, with areas requiring a closer examination by a human indicated on the display, which is visible to the passenger at the same time. This is all done in public and is not in the least bit anymore personally invasive then anything was in the past. Heck, i received a frisking/pat down in 1980, just before going to the plane on the jetway tunnel, in Heathrow. There is no need for perv cam in the equation.

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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