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X-Rated X-Ray: Reconciling Fairness, Privacy, and Security

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Studies: A Critical Journal of Crime, Law and Society Volume: 20 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2007 Pages: 149-159
David A. Mackey
Date Published
June 2007
11 pages
This paper discusses the legal, social, and ethnical considerations of airport screening, particularly X-ray screening, in the context of homeland security.
Technology has fueled the intrusion into individual privacy by government and profit-minded organizations and current technology permits these intrusions to be far more intrusive and coordinated than in the past. Homeland security, and by implication the public good, is threatened by unrestricted personal autonomy and right to privacy. Legality should not be the only criterion used to determine whether or not a search should be allowed. Ethical issues associated with the use of the technology should also be considered. Ethical concerns address issues of consent, awareness, equality, and proportionality. The communitarian perspective provides one model to evaluate the fit between the goals of the community and the individual privacy. Aviation security experienced significant changes during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Airline bombings and hijackings continued in the 1970s, but were mostly international incidents. According to the 9/11 Commission, onboard explosives were viewed as the most significant threat to domestic aviation. Contemporary concerns have been expressed regarding the effectiveness of airport screening procedures for both passengers and cargo. In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security noted that there were currently 56,000 screeners deployed in all 429 commercial airports in the United States. Effective screening should be a component of improved airline security which addresses airport security, passenger identification and screening, airport proximity security, and in-flight security. X-ray screening using backscatter technology is one technique which has been used to screen airline travelers. However, the use of backscatter technology without substantial improvements to other airport screening may be viewed as unreasonable. References