Thursday, January 07, 2010

Do the TSA Airport Scanners Violate Federal Child Pornography Laws?

On cue with the recent Underwear Bomber, the mainstream media outlets are suddenly saying that we now need to have full body scanners at all the Nation's airports. There are several issues about these scanners that I will probably write blog articles about over the next few weeks including whether these scanners (1) are safe; (2) violate privacy rights; and (3) are effective.

But one issue trumps all of the aforementioned issues and that issue is whether the airport scanners violate the child pornography laws? Federal law defines child pornography as any sexually explicit visual depiction of a minor's genitals or pubic area. You can read the full text of the federal statute at Title 18, Chapter 110, § 2252A Certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography.

Unless there is a specific exemption or law passed protecting the operators of these airport scanners, the operators may potentially expose themselves to criminal liability every time they take a full body scan of a minor child and view the computer-generated image on screen. It has been shown that these body scanners will reveal the details of the person's genitals and breasts. Therefore, when a child is scanned in the machine, the body scanners will produce a sexually explicit computer-generated visual depiction and that constitutes child pornography. The British media is making a similar argument and says that British airport scanners break child porn laws.

The rapid introduction of full body scanners at British airports threatens to breach child protection laws which ban the creation of indecent images of children, the Guardian has learned.

Privacy campaigners claim the images created by the machines are so graphic they amount to "virtual strip-searching" and have called for safeguards to protect the privacy of passengers involved.

Ministers now face having to exempt under 18s from the scans or face the delays of introducing new legislation to ensure airport security staff do not commit offences under child pornography laws.

These full body scanners are a ridiculous waste a money, offer a false sense of security and are also potentially hazardous to human health. I will be keeping my eyes on this matter both here and aboard.

Source: Guardian

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