Making the Patriot Act More Patriotic

In a piece at the Washington Post, Jeffrey Rosen, president of Philadelphia's National Constitution Center, says that the controversial law should be reformed because Americans are being exposed to invasive technology.

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A TSA security checkpoint at Ronald Reagan National Airport (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Writing at the Washington Post, Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, says that the controversial law should be reformed because Americans are being exposed to invasive technology.

The problem with the government's handling of surveillance since Sept. 11, 2001, comes down to the choice of the naked machine over the blob machine.

In 2002, the Transportation Safety Administration had to pick between two airport screening technologies: one that showed graphic images of a passenger's naked body and one that represented the body as a nondescript blob, with arrows pointing to the areas that required secondary screening. Because both technologies promised the same amount of security, while one also protected privacy, you would think the choice between them would be a no-brainer. In fact, both the Bush and the Obama administrations supported the wide deployment of the naked machine over the blob machine.

It took a political protest -- represented by the Patrick Henry of the anti-body-scanner movement, the gentleman who in 2010 exclaimed to a TSA agent, "Don't touch my junk" -- to persuade the Obama administration and Congress to reconsider. This year, the TSA removed the invasive technology from major airports and replaced it with more privacy-protective machines.

Yet we remain unnecessarily exposed. Repeatedly, our government has chosen technologies, policies and laws that reveal innocent information without making us demonstrably safer ...

Read Jeffrey Rosen's entire piece at the Washington Post.

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