Hart wants to limit use of whole-body scanners

Hart wants to limit use of whole-body scanners

by
Dustin Hurst
February 17, 2010
Dustin Hurst
Author Image
February 17, 2010

If Rep. Phil Hart, R-Hayden, has his way in the Idaho Legislature, whole-body scanners won’t be used as a primary screening method at Idaho airports anytime soon.  Hart believes the scanners, while a good tool for security, are too invasive and unproven medically for use in the state.

Hart introduced the plan before the House State Affairs Committee Tuesday, saying that the scanners violate Article I, Section 17 of the Idaho Constitution, which holds “unreasonable searches and seizures” without a warrant as unlawful.  He said that it is the intent of the Legislature to find a balance between the security of public facilities and the “inalienable rights of man” as found in Article I, Section I of the Idaho Constitution.

Rep. Russ Matthews, R-Idaho Falls, agreed with Hart, saying that “privacy is part of a tradition of this nation.”

Under Hart’s plan, security personnel in airports, or other public facilities, would be prohibited from using the scanners as a primary means for ensuring the safety of a respective facility.  The bill says that screeners must first use an alternative method of screening, such as a metal detector, as the primary inspection method.  Only if a person is deemed a potential threat by security personnel after using a primary screening method may a whole-body scan be required.  Even if security personnel proscribe a whole-body image of a particular person, that person would be enabled, by the legislation, to request a less-invasive pat-down search.

Provisions in the bill prohibit the storage and transfer of the images produced by the scanners.  Hart said that the images produced are 360 degree x-ray images in which the person being scanned is basically naked and he wants to prevent those images from becoming public.

There also exist concerns about the medical risk involved with the scanners.  Hart told IdahoReporter.com following the hearing that questions are still being asked about the technology and the science of the machine’s full effects on the human body are not yet known.  Because the scanners use radiation to produce images, Hart is concerned that those who travel often would be adversely affected more than average Americans who travel only a few times each year.  Under directives of Hart’s plan, the head of Homeland Security in Idaho would need to certify the safety of the machines prior to installation and use in public facilities in the state.

More importantly than issues of health, believes Hart, are the issues of freedom and liberty surrounding the scanners.  Hart, in his testimony before the committee, said that while Americans are free to choose to smoke and drink, the new scanners would require a process that is potentially harmful to the body.

Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, questioned Hart’s logic.  “Is it a choice to take a flight or can people take another mode of transportation?”

Hart responded, saying that he believes that in the fast-paced world of today, flying has become a “necessity” for some citizens.

The measure was introduced by the committee and will receive a full hearing in upcoming weeks.

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