Sunday, June 08, 2008

X-Ray Vision

Ten U.S. airports are installing new body-scanning machines that produce whole-body images that reveal your most private parts. Feel safer yet?

I certainly don't. With a tiny bit of brainstorming, I can come up with a few holes in this system.

Obese people can hide items under their folds of fat. Skinny people can conceal items in their body cavities. People can simply disguise things in their carry-on bag. Or multiple people can carry on weapon parts to be assembled on-board. And if a suicide-bomber is caught with a device, what's stopping him from detonating it right there in the airport killing hundreds? Keep in mind, I came up with these genius ideas and I'm not even a criminal mastermind.

The alternative to submitting to the indignity of the full body scan is a full body pat down. What baffles me the most is that people don't seem to mind this invasion of privacy. I'm hearing a lot of comments like "well if it speeds things up and I can keep my shoes on..." Are we getting too used to these humiliations? Today the airport, tomorrow the mall.

Another issue is who views these body scans? We are told a security person in a separate room views the image and immediately deletes it. Call me cynical, but I estimate in 6 months a voyeuristic body scan web site will pop up. Viewing primo celebrity shots will cost extra of course. They can call the web site "Security Theater."

Because that's exactly what the airports are creating -- ostentatious displays of expensive technology to give an illusion of safety. But so far the results are more like a dysfunctional sideshow that has cost the economy $26billion.

Flying the not-so-friendly skies is an inherently dangerous adventure. Planes crashed and sometimes exploded long before we were targeted by terrorists. Security measures should concentrate on keeping the bad guys out of the cockpit. That protects the people on the ground. The people on the plane are already taking a calculated risk.

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