Right-wing media have been using recent headlines on TSA body scanners and pat-downs as an excuse to promote hysterical fears over the reach of "Big Sis," as internet gossip Matt Drudge refers to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Now The Hill is trumping up such concerns with a false spin on a recent interview Napolitano gave PBS host Charlie Rose.
In a November 23 article titled, "Next step for body scanners could be trains, boats, metro," The Hill reviewed Napolitano's November 22 interview with Rose to claim that Napolitano is one politician "who's suggested the advanced scanning machines could be used in places beyond airports."
Right-wing bloggers immediately pounced on The Hill headline. Blogger Jim Hoft titled a November 23 post on his blog Gateway Pundit, "Good-Bye Freedom -- Hello Police State... Napolitano Announces Next Steps for Naked Scanners Involves Trains, Boats, Metro." A November 24 post on the conservative blog Hot Air claimed, "Now it looks like we'll be getting scanners all over the place, including public transportation, trains, and boats." Drudge posted a link to The Hill article as "BIG SIS: Next step for body scanners could be trains, boats, metro..." on the Drudge Report on November 24:
In fact, Napolitano never actually claimed that the DHS is considering expanding the use of body scanners to other forms of public transport. Bizarrely, The Hill article itself acknowledges this, noting at one point that "[Napolitano] gave no details about how soon the public could see changes in security or about what additional safety measures the DHS was entertaining."
Here's what Napolitano actually said during her interview with Rose (accessed through Nexis, emphasis added):
CHARLIE ROSE: You said a very interesting thing. Part of your job is to know what [terrorists will] be thinking in the future. So what will they be thinking in the future?
JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, I think they're going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through. I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to train or maritime. So what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?
And then I think what we also, what we as a country need to be thinking about is what is the role in prevention. In other words, what is the process by which a young man in the United States goes from becoming radicalized to becoming radicalized to the point of leaving the United States to going to a camp somewhere for six months or whatever and then coming back with the intent of murdering his fellow citizens?
CHARLIE ROSE: So what do we know about that now?
JANET NAPOLITANO: I think that's where we need and can do more work. And when I speak with my colleagues in other countries, I think we all believe that understanding that process better is important.
Napolitano did talk about the body scanners and so-called enhanced pat-downs, but only to explain and defend their current use. She also briefly acknowledged that "there will be some tweaks or some changes as we go through...as we learn some things to improve the procedures." But, by the time she got around to discussing future threats to "mass transit or to train or maritime," the discussion had long since moved on from airport body scans.
So, The Hill could conclude, "Napolitano mentions DHS looking to mass transit safety," or even, "Napolitano defends DHS use of body scanners." But "Next step for body scanners could be trains, boats, metro" simply doesn't hold up.