Gwynnae Byrd, 46, Sacramento
"We are all presumptive terrorists now," said Byrd, who contends personal liberties have been needlessly sacrificed by heightened security measures put in place in response to 9/11.
Byrd bristles at the sight of her young children moving through metal detectors at airports, and has watched in anger as her 96-year-old grandmother and sick, wheelchair-using mother were flagged for special screening. She considers the new "body scanning" devices an invasion of privacy, and believes none of these measures has made the country safer from potential attacks.
"Laws and procedures have only given us the appearance of doing something," said Byrd, a lawyer-turned-professional organizer who runs her own business. "But there is no such thing as being absolutely secure. Our current methods emerged out of fear and panic, and are overbroad and ineffective."
Byrd said security personnel should focus on issues that rightly raise suspicions of terrorism, such as whether someone bought a ticket with cash, is traveling one-way or appears extraordinarily nervous.
"We need to work to minimize risk in sensible ways," she said.
Although nearly 3,000 people lost their lives on 9/11, "more than 10 times that number are killed in auto accidents every year," she said. "If we really care about preventing Americans from dying, we might want to invest in making cars and roads safer."
Byrd notes that the federal Department of Homeland Security's budget is somewhere around $50 billion.
"As a taxpayer, I think that money could be better spent on things that don't make me feel like I live in a police state."
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