Polls Show Americans Support Harsher Aviation Security Measures

By Matthew Harwood

Two USA Today/Gallup polls inside of three days show the American public favors the use of fully body scanners as well as profiling passengers that fit the demographics of known terrorists.

Nearly three days ago, polls showed that 78 percent of Americans approved the use of fully body scans at airports. The scans, which either use millimeter wave technology or backscatter technology, can peer underneath passengers' clothes to identify contraband they may be carrying near their body.

Last week, homeland security chief Janet Napolitano announced that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would deploy an additional 300 machines that critics describe as "virtual strip searches" this year. The TSA, however, notes on its Web page that procedures are taken to protect passengers' privacy, including disabling the machines ability to store and transmit images before the machines are installed at airports. 

On Monday, however, the Electronic Privacy Information Center released TSA documents from 2008 that it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request that shows the machines can store and transmit images when in "test mode." A TSA official told that there's no way screeners can activate the test mode to enable them to store and send images while in the field.

The American public also supports by a 3 to 1 ration the use of profiling techniques based off a passenger's race, age, and gender to trigger more thorough screening procedures, known as secondary screening, to identify terrorists.

In the aftermath of the botched Christmas Day terrorist attack, the Obama administration instituted a new enhanced screening policy for airline passengers holding passports from or traveling from or through 14 countries, all but one of which are composed of predominately Muslim populations.

Photo by Visualogist/Flickr


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