Sunday, November 21, 2010

Senator Leahy: We'll be watching

Kevin McElroy forwarded Sen Leahy's response. For those who feel the political route will be more effective, here's what you can expect:
Dear Mr. McElroy:

Thank you for contacting me about the use of body scanners in airports and new security screening procedures.  I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue, and understand your concerns.

After September 11, 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) implemented a pilot program to test whole-body scanners in airports before they were put into widespread use.  In October 2009, the TSA ordered 150 whole-body scanners to be deployed in airports across the nation, and in March 2010, the TSA purchased an additional 450 scanners that are currently being deployed nationwide.  In the wake of this deployment, many Americans have expressed concerns over personal privacy as the whole-body scanners are used to screen passengers, and the security of those captured images.

On October 28, 2010, the TSA announced that it would begin to utilize new pat-down techniques at airport security checkpoints for persons who refuse to be screened by airport scanners, and for those who trigger the scanners while they are screened.  I have seen news reports describing the pat-down searches and heard from numerous Vermonters who oppose such procedures.  I am also troubled by these more stringent and invasive pat-downs, and believe that while the TSA must effectively ensure airline and passenger safety, it must not sacrifice our privacy.
I have also heard from Vermonters who are concerned over the potential radiation hazards that may be posed by widespread implementation of whole-body scanners.  While the risks associated with radiation from these machines are said to be minute, I believe that we need to ensure that public health is not put in jeopardy with the deployment of any screening technology.

As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I intend to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security is held accountable for ensuring that we are successful in protecting both passenger safety and privacy.  I believe that we can successfully accomplish this goal without sacrificing either.  You can be sure that I will keep your thoughts in mind when the Judiciary Committee holds its next oversight hearing of the Department of Homeland Security and continue to closely monitor this issue.

Thank you again for contacting me.  Please keep in touch.


United States Senator