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Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See for full contents of our site

January 2, 2010


ACLU - Okay, so no one is explicitly calling for body cavity searches for all airline travelers - yet. But the logic of those pushing for body scanners for all airline passengers, and criticizing the ACLU for opposing that, leads to the inescapable conclusion that these critics would support such a policy.


1. When Richard Reid brought explosives onto an airliner hidden in his shoes, the authorities made everyone remove their shoes. When security experts and other critics pointed out that this was "silly security," defenders argued that we must put up with it in order to block that particular kind of plot.

2. Now that a disturbed person has brought explosives onto an airliner in his underwear, panicked voices want the TSA to essentially view naked pictures of every passenger who boards an airline - that's up to 2.5 million people per day on domestic flights alone. When the ACLU and members of Congress object, critics cry that we must abandon our personal dignity and privacy in order to block that particular kind of plot.

3. It is far from clear that body scanners will, as so many people seem to be assuming. . .

4. However, if terrorists even perceive that scanners will work, they take the next logical step and conceal explosives in their body cavities. Al Qaeda has already used this technique; in September a suicide bomber stowed a full pound of high explosives and a detonator inside his rectum, and attempted to assassinate a Saudi prince by blowing himself up. (The prince survived.)

So it seems that when the next terrorist tries to blow up an airliner using this technique, all the usual jittery voices surely will once again say that we must abandon our personal dignity and privacy in order to block that particular kind of plot. So we'd just like to get ahead of the game and state right now that the ACLU will be opposed to that.

Of course, even if body cavity searches for all were made policy, terrorists would probably shift their efforts to just hiding explosives in their carryon baggage, and the TSA's level of success in catching contraband has always been, shall we say, mixed. And reliably catching every possible means of hiding 50 grams of explosives is probably impossible given the millions of people who fly each day. . .

Ultimately, it is up to the American people to figure out just how much privacy they want to abandon to block a few particular means of carrying out terrorist attacks. The ACLU represents those who value privacy in this debate. But when Americans make that decision, they should do so with their eyes wide open, without any illusions that this will prevent all attacks on airliners, much less attacks on shopping malls or all the infinite number of other plots and targets that terrorists could come up with if they are not stopped by competent law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sell your airline stock, if you have any.

January 3, 2010 8:38 AM  
Anonymous l said...

If you haven't done anything wrong, you shouldn't have anything to hide. Spread 'em.

January 3, 2010 9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The next "foiled terrorist attack" will be by someone who shoved a stick of dynamite up his butt. When that happens expect the fear mongers to demand sigmoidoscopes at airports.

January 3, 2010 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since American suckers will take anything, anything is possible. Last year, my wife and I, both seniors, were passing through Charlotte N.C. on an international flight and were transferring luggage. All the employees at the luggage counter were underweight females and when we approached, one of them loudly compained of how heavy our luggage was, even though all our bags were under the fifty pouund limit. An unpleasant discussion ensued terminating in the employee dashing our luggage against the wall as she put it on the conveyor belt. We complained, and her supervisor actually THREATENED US WITH ARREST, picking up the phone and waving it at us tauntingly, "Do you want to spend the night here?", she hissed repeadedly at us. It's all becoming increasingly surreal in the land of the brave and the home of the free.
Tony Vodvarka

January 3, 2010 12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, at least you don't have to do any foot tapping to get a little sodomy at the airport anymore.

January 3, 2010 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago, I posted what I thought was a joke on a blog which went something like this, "One of these days, an some overblown security agency, in an effort to justify its existence, will overhear a bunch of drunks dicussing the use of explosive anal suppositories. Then we will be in for it." I feel like something of a prophet.
Tony Vodvarka

January 3, 2010 4:01 PM  

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