Nathaniel Rich in the NYT on scanners, TSA’s coercive tactics

Novelist Nathaniel Rich has written an op-ed for the New York Times on his refusal to go through the strip-search scanners (although it strikes me as inappropriate that the op-ed appears as part of the “Anxiety” series, as if it’s about some quaint neurosis instead of an important civil liberties concern).

You can read the op-ed here. Leave a comment if you can; one of our regular readers, Susan Richart, reports that so far, none of her comments have appeared.

The NYT has a track record of ignoring comments it doesn’t like, as we’ve outlined before. Frankly, as historian Norman Pollack points out, it’s a badge of honor.

(Photo: Daquella manera/Flickr Creative Commons)

  • Susan Richart

    A bit late, but here’s a link to some opinions in the Times on Rich’s op-ed piece:

  • AZN

    Whatever the civil liberties implications are, Rich’s op-ed is nonsence from the scientific point of view. The radiation dose you get from a scanner is equivalent to the dose you get in a few minutes while flying at commercial airliner altitude. It’s a miniscule portion of what you pick up during a regular commercial flight. Rich and NY Times needed to check his facts before posting. As far as facts and science go, his op-ed is pure garbage.

    • Susan Richart

      Then why don’t you tell us the real facts?

    • Enaylius

      Get bent Apologist. No independent test of the scanners ever was done home boy.

    • AZN, you’re repeating garbage by the TSA.

      Neither NIST nor Johns Hopkins tested the scanners, as they have stated repeatedly, despite the TSA’s constant lying claims. The Marquette University study, likewise touted by the TSA, also made no claims about the safety of the backscatter scanners; the author of that study, Prof. Taly Gilat-Schmidt disavowed the sloppy media reporting and furthermore said she wouldn’t send her daughter through the scanners.

      We have written about this issue umpteen times — quoting actual scientists who have actual credentials — and if you’d do the tiniest bit of research instead of spouting propaganda fed to you by the TSA, you’d know more about it.

      Why do you think the EU has banned the backscatter scanners? What — because they’re all effete Europeans? There are no scientists over there?

  • Susan Richart

    Another individual was finally able to get in a comment and a link to the TSA “proposed” rule. At last!

  • mustafa eraslan

    thank you so much for sharing lisa was a descriptive comment

  • NYT moderation is inscrutable. Just look at this thread, about military conscription, where a few people dominate, leaving comment after comment, all of which get posted:

    To be clear, I’m glad they’re getting posted. They’re well thought-out, literate comments that add to the discussion. They should get posted. I’m just pointing out that it isn’t a matter of “the same people are posting too many comments,” which is a lame excuse sometimes offered on websites and blogs where discussion is being censored.

    • Susan Richart

      Lisa, I don’t see any comments!

  • Susan Richart

    Finally, two of my comments, responses to other posters, appeared. One is the very last comment that is showing this morning.

    I am disappointed that no comments about the comment period got through. Reading through all the responses seems to indicate that no one apparently knows about the comment period.

  • Susan Richart

    Lisa, Bill or Sommer, if you are still on line, could one of you try to put in a comment about the TSA comment period?

    • They won’t print my comments. Just that one they did, then nothing. I don’t know why I even bother over there anymore.

      • Susan Richart

        Very strange, isn’t it? There seems to be neither rhyme nor reason to their “system.”

  • Another comment I just left:

    Lisa Simeone Baltimore, MD

    Aristotle, this issue has been well covered, not only at the NYT but by Pro Publica, TSA News Blog, and many other news sources. In answer to your question, no, neither the FDA — nor any other reputable scientific organization — has tested the strip-search scanners for safety, despite the TSA’s repeated lies about this fact.

    The radiation-emitting backscatter scanners, currently being pulled from airports because they have no so-called privacy software, haven’t been independently tested. And the millimeter wave scanners haven’t been independently tested.

    But all this misses the larger point: even if a scanner were developed that is 100% safe, it is still a civil liberties violation. We are not criminals by virtue of setting foot in an airport. Scanners, of whatever kind, are a violation of the 4th Amendment. Period.

    • Susan Richart

      Lisa, this comment is finally showing up: May 27 at 6:35 p.m.!

  • I’ve made several brief comments, mostly one-liners. So far, none have posted. Here’s the longest comment I left, just a few minutes ago, in response to another reader:

    Ornulf, your comment makes me wonder if you work for the DHS or in the “security” industry. Tens of thousands of travelers have been abused by the TSA.

    If eye-rolling or sighing were all that TSA clerks were guilty of, life would be easy. Instead, they’re guilty of crimes ranging from theft to sexual assault. These are facts. Though I doubt the NYT will allow this comment to post.

    • Susan Richart

      Lisa, at least one of your comments is up.

  • Here’s my comment, a response to a DHS employee ranting about being at war with jihadists. I hope it gets posted at NYT:

    at war with a threat that’s frankly not much of a threat at all – which
    means we’re actually at war with ourselves. Why not go to war with bee
    stings, lightning, flooding, or tornadoes, all of which kill many more
    people than the “jihadists” you’re so terrified of? Come to think of
    it, more people are killed by their own furniture every year than by
    jihadists! The purpose of terrorism is to make us terrified out of all
    proportion to the actual threat. Let’s not hand the bad guys a win. It
    seems to me that it’s our own government that is telling us: be
    afraid, be very afraid.

    Travelers have much more to fear from the
    TSA clerks (who are frequently found to have stolen from, harassed,
    injured, and even disrobed travelers) than from the one in 10 billion
    chance of some crazy plot against the airplane (which I feel sure that
    the TSA with its bureaucratic shut-the-barn-door-after-the-horse-leaves
    approach would fail to prevent). At least 500 TSA employees have been
    dismissed for theft, out of a workforce of 60,000 or so, but only a
    handful out of 100 billion air travelers have been a threat. By my
    calculations it’s a million times more likely the TSA will steal from
    you than that a saboteur is trying to get on the plane.

    • Sommer, your comment has already posted — twice! Something’s funny over at the NYT.

    • Susan Richart

      Thanks, Sommer. A response to this clown was the first comment I posted yesterday…….

  • Outland10

    My comment appeared to post at the time, but was not there later. (Does NYT use an email/IP-identified Do Not Post list supplied by DHS?) I haven’t posted anything to the NYT in ages.

    I thanked Mr. Rich and suggested he was on-target where he mentioned congressional lobbying by industry, (as well as training a populace into compliance), as the main drivers behind all this airport nonsense. I also pointed out that MMW doesn’t work, to counter the many comments on that.

    Badge of honor or no, I despise the censorship and this police state in all its forms. Ditto Susan, to the NYT: shame on you!

    • The NYT discussions are moderated. So somebody has to look at every comment and then approve or disapprove it. I suppose it’s possible that they have fewer people working on the weekend, especially a holiday weekend. This wasn’t the case several months ago when they were disapproving comments left and right, as indicated in the above links.

      • Outland10

        I left my comment last night, so it must not have been approved. Whether these mods are even NYT employees I would be curious to know.
        I would be happy to learn I am wrong in my suspicion that some originators are simply blocked from posting.

        I am no more confident of comments eventually posting to the US re: TSA rulemaking.

    • Susan Richart

      A comment will normally be able to be viewed by its creator until the censors either allow or disallow it.

  • Susan Richart

    Here’s the comment I attempted to make this morning:

    “In July of 2011, the D.C. Cicuit Court of Appeals ruled that the TSA had violated law by not having a public comment period before instituting the use of scanners. The Court ruled that the TSA must do so, even though it did not suspend the use of said scanners. That comment period is taking place now through June 26. You may read the TSA’s “proposed” rule and comment here:!documentDetail;D=TSA-2013-0004-0001

    Comments are running approx. 93% against the scanners; 7% in favor of them.

    Scanners alarm falsely abut 50% of the time.

    Scanners do NOT find the “dangerous” items on poster wrote about. It is the baggage x-ray that finds 99.9% of those items.

    If everyone would opt out, their use would cease and so would the “pat downs” which are more invasive that (sic) law enforcement are allowed to do.

    Three cheers for Mr. Rich for standing up to the TSA and for doing so in such a public manner.”

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out what is so politically incorrect about the above that the Times won’t publish it. Shame on you, NY Times.