Coming soon: full-body scanners at salad bars?

Sounds absurd, I know, but after the latest report that terrorists are targeting our all-you-can-eat restaurants, would anyone be surprised?

The plot, uncovered earlier this year, is said to involve the use of two poisons – ricin and cyanide – slipped into salad bars and buffets, according to CBS News.

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It comes just as we’ve begun digesting a generous serving of more false terror alarms, notably at Newark airport, Rome, and several UK airports.

In a related development, a survey released by the U.S. Travel Association this morning found 8 in 10 people said they support a trusted traveler program that would provide alternative screening measures for Americans who submit to a background check and meet other risk criteria. I wonder if that would include a trip to the salad bar?

Respondents also said they would take an average of two to three more trips per year if the hassle involved in flying could be reduced without compromising security. Those additional trips would add $84.6 billion in travel spending and support 888,000 additional jobs, according to the survey.

Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association, said the government should pay attention to the results:

Americans are clamoring for a better way, and it should be a wake-up call for our leaders in Washington. An efficient air travel security screening system that streamlines the process for trusted travelers can strengthen our security and economy. Let’s get to work building the system Americans crave.

Guess what? It looks as if Washington is paying attention. I’ve already reported on pending legislation aimed at stopping the pat-down and scanning abuses by America’s federalized airport screeners.

Exhibit A today is U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) who is campaigning to end what he calls “invasive” TSA screening procedures.

Congressional hearings on the scanners and pat-downs are likely to be held in 2011. The congressman sits on two panels with jurisdiction over the TSA.

Duncan doesn’t buy the agency’s line that pat-downs and scans are necessary.

We’ve got to have some balance and common sense about this stuff. If we spent 100 percent of the federal budget on security, we couldn’t make the country totally, completely safe. You just can’t do it. We have plenty of security at the airports right now.

It turns out the Republican who is in charge of the committee that oversees TSA is a kindred spirit, according to a report in Slate. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) who will run the subcommittee that oversees the Department of Homeland Security, has already forced TSA to revise significant details of its strip-search story — admitting, essentially, that it lied.

According to the report, Chaffetz was one of the first Republicans to oppose whole-body imaging, and kept opposing it after the Christmas bomber debacle inspired the DHS to take a second look at the scanners.

Meanwhile, for those of you who still don’t think full-body scanners and pat-downs are a big deal, here’s some interesting reading from about victims of sexual abuse who undergo screening.

Given the Department of Homeland Security’s unchecked expansion of its Orwellian If You See Something, Say Something campaign, and its plans to install full-body scanners wherever it can, is it only a matter of time before we have to walk through one of these machines at Souplantation?

Update (6:30 p.m.). Secretary Napolitano apparently doesn’t think “If You See Something, Say Something” is Orwellian enough, so she’s outdone herself in this self-congratulatory press release, issued a few minutes ago: “Over the past year, our efforts have been guided by one simple yet powerful idea: homeland security begins with hometown security.”


(Photo: Ciot/Flickr Creative Commons)