Patrick Leahy Says TSA Scanners Are Invasive; Will Investigate Them

from the well-that's-a-start dept

We’ve had plenty of problems with Senator Patrick Leahy on this blog, as his push is to always make intellectual property laws worse, such as with ProIP and now COICA. However, sometimes he does things that deserve kudos, such as his plan to investigate the TSA’s new scanners, calling them “invasive.” Leahy apparently wants the Senate Judiciary Committee (which he heads) to examine whether or not the machines really make sense. Of course, perhaps we should withhold any kudos until we find out what comes out of that “review…”

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Comments on “Patrick Leahy Says TSA Scanners Are Invasive; Will Investigate Them”

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Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Senators Response

I sent letters to our reps on the scanners and gropes. Sen. Harkin and Rep. Latham pretty much slapped the “this is what we need to do to keep us safe” line in their replies. Sen. Grassley (also on the Senate Judiciary Committee) response was essentially similar to Leahy’s. He stated that right now it is the best way but does not believe that the measures taken by TSA are necessary to the extent of the invasion of privacy on citizens. He also stated that he would look into investigating TSA’s new tactics. So at least we have two on the same committee working toward the same goal (or at least saying the same thing).

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Senators Response

“Way better than my reps. They send me letters that very carefully say nothing at all, no matter what the topic.”

That’s an interesting take and thank you for your comment. I want you to know that I am deeply invested in this issue and will be taking a long, hard look at it. I am sure with insightful comments like yours, a true solution to the problems we as a country face will come about shortly.

(was it anything like that? Just trying my hand at it….)

velox says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Senators Response

“they don’t imply or state that they’re going to consider the matter or that my comments matter

The fact is, your letters very likely didn’t make it as far as the rep’s desk. Staffers go through the letters, pick out the ones they think are most interesting and forward those on to the rep. The rest get the form-letter treatment.

velox says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Senators Response

Huh??? Rose, You complain that your letters to your rep get a non-useful response which neither promise to consider your comments or even state that your comments matter. I’ve just told you the process by which that happens. You have gotten the form letter which is sent out with pleasing language of which the chief attribute is that it says nothing specific. Their staff can send the same letter to countless other people, and the rep doesn’t even bother with it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Remember you are talking about politicians. Dyed in the wool, professional lairs are a prerequisite to hold office in today’s job description.

The second requirement of being able to speak out of both sides of the mouth to different groups expecting to hear different outcomes is also a requirement.

So I much agree that The eejit has it correct…

Don’t count your politicians until the dollars have fired.

Jose_X (profile) says:

In case this helps...

In case anyone wants to at least make the concerns known so that the reps have fewer excuses later on (and potentially will at get a better thermometer reading to counter the high volume lobbying around their ears), I am posting the letter just sent to (and should send to my actual Senators as well) to perhaps help inspire another letter or two from this audience.


I was happy to hear that you think it is important to reconsider the invasive and potentially skin-DNA harmful TSA full body x-ray scanners as well as the full-contact body “pat-downs” and opt-out $10,000 fines.

If I had more money, it would be interesting to have these challenged in court.

Certainly, a number of important changes were put into place immediately after Sept 2001. Certainly, the behavior and practices aboard passenger planes since soon after 2001 makes it much less likely that any plane would strike a major target. Certainly, flying in a plane is much safer than doing many other activities. Certainly, there are many threats just being out in the street.

These scanners have been shown to be quite ineffective to test attempts to get material past them.

X-ray use is a serious threat, and the current practice enables the TSA to hide what could potentially be devices that lose their calibration and become dangerous soon after they are put into use.

The groping procedures as the alternative is completely unacceptable, as is the $10,000 penalty for refusing.

There are reasonable practices that can be taken, and these are not it.

It also seems like corruption might have been in place in allowing a former government decision-maker to essentially create a very lucrative private sector opportunity for himself.

And it doesn’t help that these procedures do not apply to those who are making the rules and who perhaps even feel they have the most to gain.

May I dare suggest that the US make its practices around the world much more transparent. The public should be made aware of details as much as possible when our government decides to place people’s lives in jeopardy. Having people feel they should strike back at our US government and people is a serious problem. We are applying this same ineffective blunt approach to dealing with global issues. People respond to fairness and opportunity not to the use of guns to support abusive practices and to a lack of due process.

And as long as this government continues to betray our trust, myself and many Americans will support any reasonable attempt to truly protect whistle-blowers (for example Wikileaks and the many similar sites that will pop up if Wikileaks should pass).

Frustrated yes, but I hope it is clear that I and many Americans are thankful you decided to take this first important step.

Nick (profile) says:

Canned responces.

As a Vermonter ‘Writing my senator’ meant Writing Sen. Leahy. Here is the reply I received.

Thank you for contacting me about the use of body scanners in airports and new security screening procedures. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue, and understand your concerns.

After September 11, 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) implemented a pilot program to test whole-body scanners in airports before they were put into widespread use. In October 2009, the TSA ordered 150 whole-body scanners to be deployed in airports across the nation, and in March 2010, the TSA purchased an additional 450 scanners that are currently being deployed nationwide. In the wake of this deployment, many Americans have expressed concerns over personal privacy as the whole-body scanners are used to screen passengers, and the security of those captured images.

On October 28, 2010, the TSA announced that it would begin to utilize new pat-down techniques at airport security checkpoints for persons who refuse to be screened by airport scanners, and for those who trigger the scanners while they are screened. I have seen news reports describing the pat-down searches and heard from numerous Vermonters who oppose such procedures. I am also troubled by these more stringent and invasive pat-downs, and believe that while the TSA must effectively ensure airline and passenger safety, it must not sacrifice our privacy.

I have also heard from Vermonters who are concerned over the potential radiation hazards that may be posed by widespread implementation of whole-body scanners. While the risks associated with radiation from these machines are said to be minute, I believe that we need to ensure that public health is not put in jeopardy with the deployment of any screening technology.

As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I intend to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security is held accountable for ensuring that we are successful in protecting both passenger safety and privacy. I believe that we can successfully accomplish this goal without sacrificing either. You can be sure that I will keep your thoughts in mind when the Judiciary Committee holds its next oversight hearing of the Department of Homeland Security and continue to closely monitor this issue.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Arizona shooting and Wikileaks

..are wake-up calls that gov reps are not protected from the public nearly as much as they might think.

I’m sure it is easy for them after a while to think that their job is to make as many favors as possible to wealthy people that deposit gold coins into their coffers and lawyers and a PR staff that will help them find the right words to lock up enough votes.

I think any reasonable person would (I certainly would) look at those events and wonder just how safe they really are from anger among the public.

the shooting: there are angry crazy people among us that perhaps pose a greater threat to us on the street as might any foreign-bred terrorist.

wikileaks: many within our government might have tools to safely reveal our wrong-doing.

Some might not be too interested in actually improving government, but others might be. In any case, we have to keep taking the message circulating.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Arizona shooting and Wikileaks

People don’t feel angry if they can contribute. Taking away a person’s ability to contribute to society without replacing it with something else is an even bigger threat to democracy. Thusly, I think outsourcing may be the single biggest long-term security risk to the safety and security affecting the country.

AR (profile) says:


Of course they are going to investigate the scanners. After a full investigation of looking at the pictures, some in real time, they will actively check out what constitutes a “pat-down”, what constitutes groping, and at what point people find maximum annoyance. Then they will spend lots of money to have a report written up to submit to the committee. It wont change anything, but he “looked” into it. May take a year or so.

Christopher (profile) says:

These things are not on invasive, they are unsafe AND go against the Fourth Amendment, which bans all searches without due cause and process… meaning, without a warrant.

It doesn’t matter if you are using a PRIVATE service or not, there is simply no justification for these searches. I would have been much happier if they would have focused on securing the cockpit with bulletproof doors and doing nothing else.

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