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Hard to figure just how to title this.

A pilot who has entered the same airport for nearly five years to go to his job refuses to go through the new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanning systems, as he objects to being basically stripped naked.

He then declined to be frisked after going through the same metal detector he has walked through for years.

From there, the incident degenerates into a crystal clear illustration by all the security and TSA representatives of just how totally we have allowed the government to strip us of any pretense of civil liberties and rights.

The following quotes the first four paragraphs of the forum post from the following online forum:

Express Jet Forum: Post by Michael Roberts, a pilot for ExpressJet Airlines, Inc

My name is Michael Roberts, and I am a pilot for ExpressJet Airlines, Inc., based in Houston (that is, I still am for the time being). This morning as I attempted to pass through the security line for my commute to work I was denied access to the secured area of the terminal building at Memphis International Airport. I have passed through the same line roughly once per week for the past four and a half years without incident. Today, however, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at this checkpoint were using one of the new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) systems that are currently being deployed at airports across the nation. These are the controversial devices featured by the media in recent months, albeit sparingly, which enable screeners to see beneath people’s clothing to an extremely graphic and intrusive level of detail (virtual strip searching). Travelers refusing this indignity may instead be physically frisked by a government security agent until the agent is satisfied to release them on their way in what is being touted as an "alternative option" to AIT. The following is a somewhat hastily drafted account of my experience this morning.

As I loaded my bags onto the X-ray scanner belt, an agent told me to remove my shoes and send them through as well, which I’ve not normally been required to do when passing through the standard metal detectors in uniform. When I questioned her, she said it was necessary to remove my shoes for the AIT scanner. I explained that I did not wish to participate in the AIT program, so she told me I could keep my shoes and directed me through the metal detector that had been roped off. She then called somewhat urgently to the agents on the other side: "We got an opt-out!" and also reported the "opt-out" into her handheld radio. On the other side I was stopped by another agent and informed that because I had "opted out" of AIT screening, I would have to go through secondary screening. I asked for clarification to be sure he was talking about frisking me, which he confirmed, and I declined. At this point he and another agent explained the TSA’s latest decree, saying I would not be permitted to pass without showing them my naked body, and how my refusal to do so had now given them cause to put their hands on me as I evidently posed a threat to air transportation security (this, of course, is my nutshell synopsis of the exchange). I asked whether they did in fact suspect I was concealing something after I had passed through the metal detector, or whether they believed that I had made any threats or given other indications of malicious designs to warrant treating me, a law-abiding fellow citizen, so rudely. None of that was relevant, I was told. They were just doing their job.

Eventually the airport police were summoned. Several officers showed up and we essentially repeated the conversation above. When it became clear that we had reached an impasse, one of the more sensible officers and I agreed that any further conversation would be pointless at this time. I then asked whether I was free to go. I was not. Another officer wanted to see my driver’s license. When I asked why, he said they needed information for their report on this "incident" – my name, address, phone number, etc. I recited my information for him, until he asked for my supervisor’s name and number at the airline. Why did he need that, I asked. For the report, he answered. I had already given him the primary phone number at my company’s headquarters. When I asked him what the Chief Pilot in Houston had to do with any of this, he either refused or was simply unable to provide a meaningful explanation. I chose not to divulge my supervisor’s name as I preferred to be the first to inform him of the situation myself. In any event, after a brief huddle with several other officers, my interrogator told me I was free to go.

As I approached the airport exit, however, I was stopped again by a man whom I believe to be the airport police chief, though I can’t say for sure. He said I still needed to speak with an investigator who was on his way over. I asked what sort of investigator. A TSA investigator, he said. As I was by this time looking eagerly forward to leaving the airport, I had little patience for the additional vexation. I’d been denied access to my workplace and had no other business keeping me there.

The rest of the post recounts how even after being told he could leave the airport, he was basically bullied into staying until the arrival of another TSA investigator, followed by the exchange with that person.

It is a sad and brutal commentary on how low we as a society have sunk.

I was reminded of nothing more and nothing less than the day my family and I spent in East Berlin after crossing over the wall back in 1971. One day spent in that environment made me more grateful than ever for having been born an American.

Now I see on a day to day basis actions by authorities in this nation that demonstrate again and again that we have degenerated into a state where civil liberties are pretty much an endangered, if not extinct species.

I am reminded of my Berlin experience also by Alaska candidate Joe Miller's recent endorsement of how security was handled in East Germany.

Anyone who does not understand that the threat of Fascism is really not dead, but always lurking in the background as a willing choice of many who would seek power, is just not paying attention.

As for the technology in question, the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) systems.

I discovered just now that you can get the politically correct info on these systems from a site I was not familiar with,

Aviation Security Market: TSA Plans to Procure and Deploy 1,800 Advanced Imaging Technology Machines (AITs) by 2014 .

I was not aware of the site, Homeland Security News.

According to its "About" page, it is is a panel of intelligence analysts with extensive experience in open source intelligence as well as strategic consulting across numerous security-driven markets. We provide ‘best in class’ resource of custom research papers and insightful analysis briefs to our clients worldwide.


Not really sure the site makes me feel any better about any of this.

The TSA web site also has a page discussing this technology: Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT).

So what do those using these systems see when you walk through the devices? Well, check out the example at this site, which puts the technology in a little less favorable context.

Airport Security: Welcome to Scannergate Terror Scares A Boon for Security Grifters.

I also found the pilot's story on one of the premiere Libertarian web sites, Lew Rockwell down in Auburn, Alabama:

It is really hard to know where to begin anymore.

But I think the bottom line for me, especially as I am in the computing technology industry, and have watched the growing massive threats to privacy with the proliferation of video systems monitoring and recording all activity in the workplace and in public over the past few years, is that the concepts we have had in the past of privacy and civil liberties are pretty much dead.

This dovetails, unfortunately, with what seems to be a pretty much across the board abandonment of adherence to the law, from the Wall Street and financial fraud and crime, the criminal actions of the investment and housing bubbles, the originators of whom were bailed out by our government, and of course the government itself.

The past 12 years has seen a pretty much total dismissal of any accountability for any actions, and acceptance as norm that the government and its agents can pretty much do anything they please at anytime to individual citizens.

When President Obama, elected as an agent of change against these trends, okays the assassination without trial of an American citizen, then it seems like it is all just pretty much game over.

Originally posted to HeartlandLiberal on Tue Oct 19, 2010 at 03:46 PM PDT.

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