The Body Scan Scam

Let the dance begin.  Security gurus versus privacy rights advocates are starting the new year off with a very loud public argument on the use of millimeter wave body scans at U.S. airports.  The problem is that they’re not even debating the right question.  Like many things, this would be funny it not for the potential deadly implications of the debate’s outcome.

Here’s the rub: the body scans which make your naughty bits visible to some TSA employee (and who knows where the images get stored or for how long) are worthless at detecting low density items like the explosive carried by the attempted Detroit Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.  But because the Obama administration, Homeland Security, the TSA, and a whole bunch of other folks who have initials instead of names know this already that debate cannot be had.  Why?  Because it would scare the American people who might stop flying thus leading to another whole series of bailouts which are politically unpopular.

Choice quote from article:

Tests by scientists in the team at Qinetiq, which Mr Wallace advised before he became an MP in 2005, showed the millimetre-wave scanners picked up shrapnel and heavy wax and metal, but plastic, chemicals and liquids were missed.

Uh oh.

Kevin Murphy, product manager for physical security at Qinetiq, admitted this SPO system would also not have picked up the Christmas Day bomb, but insisted that it could be used as part of a “layered approach” to security in mass transportation, which would also include monitoring people’s behaviour.

But don’t worry, TSA just spent $165 million on these machines to provide you, the traveler, with the added cost, inconvenience, and potential humiliation just so that you can be provided with the illusion of security.

Please tell me that I’m not the only one who thinks we need to take a long hard look at air travel security in the country and come up with some real solutions instead of these stupid toys.