By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Dawn's Column Safe And Secure, Or Just Exposed?
Placeholder Image
A recent conversation in the office brought to light that someone had actually seen me in an "anatomically correct" mode at the airport without my knowledge. You see, I was somehow randomly selected to step into this high-tech glass booth at the Las Vegas airport a couple months ago.

I was in an express line of sorts, due to my fiancé's frequent flier perks, but I didn't notice anyone else being asked to step into it. I thought it was just something to search for weapons, one of those extra precautionary measures, but it was significantly more than that - and not a single airport official said a word about what it actually showed and I didn't see any signs.

I was blissfully unaware of this invasion of privacy that occurred in October until just the other day when my colleague pulled up an Internet news story about the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) millimeter scanners being used in airports and it had an accompanying photo.

He showed it to me and I almost choked. It may as well have been a nude black and white photo of a woman.

"Ohmygosh. I did that in Las Vegas! They did that to me at the Las Vegas Airport," I said.

My coworker laughed and asked if I saw anyone else going through the machine. I acknowledged that I did not. In fact, most of the travelers in our express line were men and older women. He laughed some more and said I got the "hot chick treatment."

While I appreciate the inflated compliment, it's a dubious distinction in this regard. From what I've read, these scanners apparently work by bouncing millimeter waves off passengers' bodies and produce a highly detailed black-and-white image that can even detect sweat on a person's back.

This is the high-tech version of a good, old-fashioned strip search. That's what I was subjected to and I think it's an outrage. Someone like myself would most likely not have to submit to an actual strip search in any other circumstance, unless I'd landed myself in the clink.

I understand the reluctance to profiling, but let's face it, this random selection stuff is a bunch of bull and it doesn't work. I don't look suspicious and it's a waste of time and money to examine someone like me. That's because I'm not the type to blow up airplanes.

The focus needs to be on known high-risk groups and forget about political correctness and potential ridiculous lawsuits. If two people are standing side by side, and only one of them can be searched, the one who falls into the high-risk category should be searched. Unfortunately, the way things are now with airport "security," the other person is searched because no one wants to offend the high-risk person.

Suspicious-looking and suspicious-acting people should be required to go through special searches or scans - at least for their general appearance or their behavior.

Come on, you know you don't get into an elevator alone with someone who looks like a weirdo - or sometimes even a man, period, if you're a woman. You don't talk to the person who's dressed in a trench coat in August and calling you over. When you see someone scary-looking coming your way on the sidewalk, you walk into a store or group of people or cross the street.

That's all a form of profiling. And if you ask me, it's just good common sense.

I would rather be wrong about their intentions and be safe than to be sorry that I ignored my better judgment for the fear of hurting their feelings.

Common sense is what the TSA, a.k.a. the federal government, needs to exercise here. What has happened to good judgment? Instead, it's about not making a few people feel bad, instead of about making sure the masses are safe.

So instead of doing some things that are common sense, people get randomly checked, including little old ladies, regular business travelers, a child traveling with his family to Disneyland ... and me. While there may be the very rare occasion that someone in one of these groups may be guilty of planning a terrorist attack, it's unlikely. However, if a group of men sporting "I hate America" tattoos arrive together, have one-way tickets, talk in a huddle and then split up to catch different flights, well let's check out those folks more closely. Perhaps that's a ridiculous example, but I've heard plenty of ridiculous stories about airport "security."

I have read that people can decline to go through these high-tech scanners but then have to submit to a pat down. I wish I'd known what exactly I was in for with this scanner and knew I had an option. As an American flying in America, I believe that's my right to know. I'd rather have the pat down, done appropriately of course, by a woman security officer than to have some security dude looking at me naked on a monitor in a private room. I feel violated and I'm a typical American. There are better ways. That scanner is not a time-saver, either. At least it wasn't in my experience.

There's also the question of potential health implications, but that's another can of worms. Just because the government tells me it's safe, doesn't mean I should believe it.

Maybe the problem is that the federal government is in charge of this type of safety instead of the airlines themselves. What airline can afford to have people blowing up their planes? The smart ones would profile and search the suspicious types and those of us who are decent citizens could fly without having our private parts on display to total strangers.

Dawn M. Henley is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.