In these circumstances, the TSA's claim that 99 percent of passengers "consent" to full-body scans is less impressive. Still, it is not surprising that most people would choose showing their bodies to a TSA agent they cannot see over letting one get up close and personal, which is a more conspicuous, embarrassing and degrading experience. That does not mean they're fine with the scoping, only that the groping is worse.
The TSA likes to cite a CBS poll conducted a few weeks ago that found 81 percent of Americans support the new scanners. But the pollsters did not mention that the scanners reveal passengers' naked bodies. Not surprisingly, polls that allude to this fact tend to find less support for the machines. A Gallup poll conducted a few days before Thanksgiving found that 42 percent of fliers object to the scanners, while a Zogby poll conducted around the same time found that 61 percent of likely voters oppose the TSA's new procedures.
As more scanners are installed and virtual strip searches become routine, opposition may increase. Then again, Americans have a history, at airports and elsewhere, of getting used to invasions of privacy and infringements of liberty justified in the name of public safety.
Requirements that once seemed objectionable -- from surrendering your pocket tools and beverages to taking off your shoes, from mandatory seat belt laws to DUI roadblocks, from divulging your Social Security number to showing your papers, from letting police dogs sniff your stuff to signing a registry when you buy allergy medicine -- have a way of becoming the new normal.
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