Safer or more exposed?
In the wake of the attempt to blow up an airliner as it landed in Detroit, the world's attention is once again on the airports, and, more specifically, airport security. Some perhaps faced the prospect of flying home from winter holidays with a bit more fear and trepidation, while others were sure it was going to be much more of a pain to get home than it would've been.
But what no one has noticed, what no one has been chilled by, is the rushed-through approval of full-body scanners at Dutch, Nigerian and UK airports. These scanners, which produce 'naked' images of those passing through them, are said by government officials to be 'necessary' to tighten security in the wake of this latest failed attack.They are supposed to reduce the need for pat-downs, but many are likening them to strip-searches.
This is an extraordinary, incredible invasion of privacy that is being introduced with little or no complaint from the general public. This would never have been possible in any other time but after a 'terrorist attack.' Recent experience has shown us that governments often use these times of crisis and fragile public feelings to introduce stringent measures they would never otherwise get away with. President Obama has already begun to oblige those who want the 'war on terror' expanded, which is frightening enough in itself.
Everyone wants to be safe. But at what price? How far will we let our governments go in curtailing our freedoms in order to catch the terrorists? Is it even effective?
Thousands of innocent people have been taken aside and searched at airports, and hundreds of so-called 'enemy combatants' have been detained at Guantánamo Bay, and the US, UK and Dutch governments – all of which knew about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's history and recent excursion to Yemen before he was allowed to board to Detroit, still have been apparently unable to stop the people actually trying to carry out attacks.
Even if you're not outraged by this, you should at least be asking questions. We all should. The public need to know exactly why the system failed, and what is being done to fix it – beyond knee-jerk installations of invasive body-scanners. There has to be a better way that doesn't infringe upon the basic human right to privacy, and doesn't risk the expansion of armed force in areas already ravaged by violence.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.