TSA Body Scanners Are the Tipping Point for Travelers, May Not Reveal Useful Evidence, Say UAB Experts

Released: 23-Nov-2010 3:15 PM EST
Source Newsroom: University of Alabama at Birmingham
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Newswise — UAB psychologist Josh Klapow, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Public Health, believes new security measures at the nation’s airports are the straws that broke the travelers’ backs.

“Invasive body scanners and pat downs are the tipping point that is putting us over the edge regarding air travel," Klapow says. "We're so frustrated by air travel in general: the cost, the inconvenience, the almost de-humanizing experience. So it's not surprising that people are rising up to object to the latest humiliations, the full body X-rays or the dreaded pat-down. It's the last straw."

"Intellectually, we understand that this sort of security is important and necessary....but emotionally, it pushing us beyond our comfort zones and makes it very hard to accept and handle."

So what's the solution? Since the backlash to the enhanced screening techniques largely stems from our emotional response to the long list of indignities associated with air travel, Klapow says that to restore civility to flying, we need to understand and examine the entire flying experience. It's not just pat downs.....it's pat downs on top of everything else associated with modern flying.

UAB forensic scientist Jason Linville, Ph.D., a professor of justice sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, says serious questions about the validity of the forensic data generated by full body scanners need to be answered. Linville acknowledges that full-body scanning has merits in terms of identifying evidence of a threat but questions whether the returns are worth the investment.

“I don’t know that the TSA has been able to present a case for whether the full body scanners currently in use are actually doing the job they intend. There is the notion that the scanners may not actually reveal useful evidence,” Linville says. “If the scanners can’t detect specific devices or substances more often than currently used metal detectors, there should be a serious discussion about their use, especially given the national discourse on privacy that they have generated.”

About UAB
Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center and the state of Alabama’s largest employer. For more information, please visit www.uab.edu.

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