I’ve been reading a lot online about the TSA’s new scanning machines and security pat-downs. Particularly vitriol from potential passengers reacting to people who don’t like the screening procedures. I am left with many questions that I don’t hear anyone asking.

How did we arrive at this situation? I guess we’re talking about a repeat of 9/11, as if any post-9/11 passengers would let something like that happen again. It seems to have occurred to few people that the planes driven into New York and Washington were not carrying bombs or guns. In fact, the passengers of United Flight 93 were able to force the hand of the hijackers even after they had taken control. So why are we in need of something more than the metal detectors we had been using?

Moreover, it irritates me that people are getting bent out of shape about these new procedures for a number of reasons.

There were people at the onset of the post-9/11 world claiming that Americans are not guaranteed a right to privacy. And if you look at the exact wording of the Bill of Rights, we are not. It doesn’t really mention it anywhere. I think the 9th amendment takes care of this pretty handily – basically saying that just because the right isn’t listed in the Constitution, that doesn’t mean you don’t have it. But there have been other interpretations through history that generally reduce the efficacy of the 9th amendment in this vein.

But here we are, just kind of given up on that privacy, and our reduced freedom (liberty, if you will) now also toys with the 4th Amendment’s right against unreasonable search. The question being whether performing effectively a nude search or a hands-on invasive pat-down of a person is considered a reasonable search with probable cause to which every person boarding a plane should be subject.

What I don’t have is due process. What I don’t have is a warrant to perform a search based on probable cause.

What this is like are those stupid signs at the store that say “we reserve the right to search your bags”. Well, first, no you don’t. You can call the police and given probable cause, the police can warrant a search. But you can’t just insist on searching everyone’s bags that comes into the store without a reason. Even if you did search everyone’s bag, people would have the right to refuse it and not enter the store to begin with.

What we’re seeing is fines without due process. You can be searched or opt out, but if you opt out, you don’t have the option of leaving without a fine? Someone needs to clarify that for me.

Also, this story that the scanners apply less radiation to you than the trip itself is not the whole story, and is bad science. The scanners apply a type of radiation that lets them penetrate your clothing and reflect off of your skin. So basically, the only part of you that is affected is your “exposed” skin, and all within a short amount of time. Even if you received half of the cosmic radiation (that’s ambient radiation found at higher altitudes), you’d be receiving it over the course of a few seconds rather than over the hours of your flight.

Imagine you’re sunbathing for two hours. The amount of radiation from the sun is spread out over those two hours. Sure, you might get a little burnt, but your body dissipates the radiation internally and externally so that you’re not flash-toasted all at once. Now, take all of the energy applied to your body from the sun exposure for just half that time and flash it at you all within a couple of seconds. Your skin is going to roast.

I didn’t just make this up. This is a legitimate concern of Nobel Laureates.

The worst part of all of this for me is that there’s nothing being done. Sure, there’s a lot of complaining. But nobody is doing anything. At least, with all the turmoil, you’d think that someone would actually file a suit of some kind and you’d hear about it. The closest I’ve come to learning of such a thing is via known celebrity and troublemaker Penn Jilette.

I suspect that this is another one of those ridiculous moments in history were people get upset about something that they should legitimately be upset about, and then, through complacency, do nothing about it. See also: Every sensational news story on the evening TV news.

Sure, this is probably more important than HDCP, but at least this has enough social momentum at the moment to have something done about it. HDCP never had a chance, since nobody really knew anything about it being applied. And now we’re screwed. Oh well.

As with most things involving politics, that’s kind of what I come to expect anymore.