As the debate over what critics regard as overly intrusive security measures at airports heats up, a Washington Post/ABC News poll
conducted Nov. 21 finds that 64 percent of those surveyed support the use of full-body scans while 32 percent say they invade privacy by producing X-ray images of the passenger's naked body. Four percent had no opinion.
But when it comes to the pat-downs that are required if a passenger chooses to "opt out" of the full body scan, 50 percent say that the touching of sensitive areas of the passenger's body by screeners goes too far while 48 percent believe it is justified by concerns about terrorism. Two percent had no opinion.
While the Post/ABC poll shows that almost two-thirds of the public back the full body scans, that's a lower number than reported in a CBS News poll
conducted Nov. 7-10 before the protests reached the crescendo they have in recent days. In that poll, 81 percent supported the use of full body scans.
Despite whatever concerns exist about either procedure, the Post/ABC News poll found that 71 percent said the more rigorous screening mandated by the Transportation Security Administration made no difference to whether they would take a commercial flight. Twenty percent said the procedures would make it less likely that they would travel by air, while 10 percent said it would make them more likely to do so.
John Pistole, head of the TSA, has said that his agency has chosen not to use profiling as a screening device because "we don't do that here in the U.S." but 70 percent of those surveyed by the Post/ABC News said they supported profiling.
When it came to the question of what passenger profiles should include, 86 percent backed the use of profiles based on personal behavior, 78 percent said travel history should be considered while 55 percent backed its use on the basis of nationality. The public was split on whether personal appearance should be a criterion with 50 percent supporting its use while 48 percent were opposed. Racial profiling was opposed by a 59 percent to 40 percent margin.
The Post also reported
on Monday that a scientist associated with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory had proposed four years ago to the Department of Homeland Security that a fix could be made to the scanning machines' software that would distort the body images of passengers "so they look like reflections in a fun-house mirror" while still revealing any dangerous objects they may be carrying. He said his proposal was rebuffed by officials.
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