Ralph Nader on body scanners and the erosion of civil liberties

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) now runs full body scans on passengers at airports throughout the United States. These detailed, three-dimensional images of individuals have been described by security experts as the equivalent of “a physically invasive strip-search”, and although the scans are not mandatory for all travellers, passengers who decline are subjected instead to extremely invasive body searches euphemistically referred to as “enhanced pat-downs”.

On July 2, 2010, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)  filed a lawsuit to suspend the deployment of body scanners at US airports, pending an independent review. They said that the program is “unlawful, invasive, and ineffective.” EPIC argue that the federal agency is in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act, the Privacy Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as the Fourth Amendment.

On June 13, Democracy Now! spoke to civil rights campaigner and four-time Presidential candidate Ralph Nader who also says that these new security initiatives are unnecessary and in violation of the Constitution, whilst posing potentially serious health risks related to either x-ray or microwave radiation exposure:

“Well, first of all, physicists have shown that the backscatter, which is the x-ray — there are two kinds [of body scanners], the backscatter and the millimeter — expose people to twice as much as what the TSA had been telling the public. There have been known malfunctions of these machines, where people, without their knowledge, have been exposed to even more of these harmful radiations.”

Amy Goodman also asked Ralph Nader for his opinion on the FBI giving its agents new “proactive” powers to infiltrate organisations, to sift through household trash, and to covertly search databases during domestic investigations, without the statutory requirement of providing firm evidence for suspicion of terrorist or merely criminal activity. A New York Times report published on 12th June provides further details of the changes. 1

Here is Nader’s response:

“This is part of Obama-Bush, as I call it. It’s the extension of illegal activities, violation of constitutional rights, that were made worse under the Bush administration and extended and expanded under the Obama administration. So you’ve got a national security state that doesn’t think it has to obey the Constitution or federal statutes, and it’s just running amok. And that’s going to lead to more and more abuses, more and more fear among people, more and more innocent people being accused inaccurately. And here we go again.”

Democracy Now! also spoke with Amie Stepanovich of EPIC and actress (former Miss USA) Susie Castillo, who has recently become a vocal critic of such security procedures:

1 The following extracts are taken from an article entitled “F.B.I Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds” by Charlie Savage from New York Times, published on 12th June.

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.”

“The F.B.I. soon plans to issue a new edition of its manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who have been briefed on its contents. The new rules add to several measures taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for signs of criminal or terrorist activity.”

Some of the most notable changes apply to the lowest category of investigations, called an “assessment.” The category, created in December 2008, allows agents to look into people and organizations “proactively” and without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.”

Click here for full article: www.nytimes.com/2011/06/13/us/13fbi.html?_r=1

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Filed under mass surveillance, police state, Uncategorized, USA

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