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  (Source: Cynthia Boll/AP)

Pricey new "millimeter-wave" full body scanners may seem promising, but in reality they do little to detect liquids, plastics, or chemical explosives, say UK government officials.  (Source: IOS Graphics)
Turns out we might really not be any safer with new semi-nude scans

On Christmas Day Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, attempted an audacious terrorist attack on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.  Fortunately, the Nigerian native's scheme failed due to faulty explosives and he was taken into custody after being restrained by passengers.  However, in the wake of the attacks, U.S. President Barack Obama is considering rolling out current test-phase 3D scanners on a national basis.

Privacy advocates are outraged as the scanners show basically a nude image of the passenger -- with genitals and breasts blurred by software (though the raw image is fully nude).  However, there may be a far greater problem with the scanners. According to British government officials -- they don't work.

The British Department for Transport (DfT) and the Home Office tested the new 3D scanners thoroughly and found that while they were relatively accurate in catching high-density materials that pat-downs missed (such as knives, box-cutters, or other problem items), they failed to detect most low-density items, including bags of liquid.

The Christmas Day bomber used a 3 oz. package of the chemical powder PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate), disguised in his crotch.  Hard to detect in a pat down, British politicians familiar with the country's internal research say that "millimeter-wave" scanners would also likely fail to spot the bag of low-density chemical explosives.

According to Ben Wallace, the UK Conservative MP, tests showed that the new scanners failed to detect a variety of low-density materials, including, plastic, chemicals and liquids.  The waves pass through these materials, hitting the body and then bouncing back, revealing only the underlying skin.

Like the U.S., the UK is now considering adopting the scanners on a broad basis.  However, emerging evidence from government studies on the scanners indicates that the rollout may be nothing more than a pricey game of "security theater" designed to make people feel safe, while doing little in reality.  This is significant, considering the investment may amount to hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, an expense that will surely be passed on to taxpayers.

Mr. Wallace comments, "[UK Prime Minister] Gordon Brown is grasping at headlines if he thinks buying a couple of scanners will make us safer. It is too little, too late. Under his leadership, he starved the defence research budget that could have funded a comprehensive solution while at the same time he has weakened our border security.  Scanners cannot provide a comprehensive solution on their own. We must now start to ask if national security demands the use of profiling."

Mr. Wallace is among the politicians in the U.S., UK, and abroad that's suggesting some sort of profiling system as an alternative to more effectively increase security.  Such a system might involve additional searches of foreign nationals, particularly from volatile regions like the Middle East and Africa, while potentially lightening the searches on certain groups, like the elderly.



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Profiling
By UncleRufus on 1/4/2010 9:59:42 AM , Rating: 2
So obviously that dude at the end uses whatever news clipping each morning to make some sort of profiling statement. Of course profiling happens whether it is official procedure or not.

The problem I am having is that this fellow had a powder hidden in his crotch which is not normally detectable in a pat-down search. Is the idea that we are going to start cavity-searching anyone that looks non-western? If you are willing to pack high exlosives next to your bait-n-tackle, then you are probably willing to cram it (gently) where the sun don't shine.

It seems that no matter what security measures you take, there is going to be a counter measure, and if you are willing to die for your cause, you are probably willing to make a checklist of those things. Hell, I make a checklist when I go to the grocery store. How hard is it to make sure that you aren't using metal weapons, traveling without luggage or documentation, wearing traditional middle eastern clothes, etc..etc..?




RE: Profiling
By Reclaimer77 on 1/4/2010 10:07:38 AM , Rating: 3
Airports are not the first line of defense though. They are the last line, and what little time they have to screen passengers should be prioritized from highest risks to lowest. 80 year old grandmother, low. Middle eastern man of early to mid 20's wearing typical clothing, high.

Why even call it profiling when it's really just prioritizing risks ? We'll never know the answer to this question, but honestly, how much time was wasted doing politically correct screening of everyone while this, obvious, higher risk person walked onto the plane ?

This is just common sense. But I'll get downrated because, someone, what I'm saying comes off as racists and extremist.


RE: Profiling
By MozeeToby on 1/4/2010 10:49:19 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Airports are not the first line of defense though. They are the last line
This, at least, I agree with. If terrorists have gotten this far without attracting the attention of a dozen local, national, and international anti-terrorism organizations then it's already too late.

Question for you, how many terrorists have been caught at security versus how many have only been caught after boarding the plane? Every time an incident occurs we change our policies to try to defend against that exact method of attack and every time the next attack occurs in a different way.

It's security theater and it's a waste of time and a waste of money. Designed from the ground up to make people feel more secure while doing little to nothing to actually make flying safer and the stupid thing is that it isn't at all dangerous. Since 9-11, your odds of being on a plane where a terrorist incident occurs are 1 in 16 million per flight, and the vast majority of those incidents were failures.

We don't need racial profiling because if the bomb is at the airport you've already lost. Give the intelligence and investigative agencies more money and manpower to chase down leads and fire the director of any agency that doesn't cooperate fully with the others, which is about 50% of the time the only thing stopping arrests being made.


RE: Profiling
By Reclaimer77 on 1/4/2010 11:12:14 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
Give the intelligence and investigative agencies more money and manpower to chase down leads and fire the director of any agency that doesn't cooperate fully with the others, which is about 50% of the time the only thing stopping arrests being made.


The man who planned the "underwear" operation was a prisoner of war, held in Guantanimo, and was released by President Obama.

My point ? All the money and funding and cooperation on the planet isn't going to matter when we are purposely releasing known terrorists ! This administration and congress seems to think that if they act as if there is no problem, then it will simply just go away.

quote:
Since 9-11, your odds of being on a plane where a terrorist incident occurs are 1 in 16 million per flight, and the vast majority of those incidents were failures.


Yup. And we'll never know how many were stopped before they made it to the execution phase of their plan.


RE: Profiling
By Torment on 1/4/2010 11:21:51 AM , Rating: 2
Yea for more republican rewriting of history! HE WAS RELEASED BY CHENEY IN 2007. And in secret, no less.


RE: Profiling
By Iaiken on 1/4/2010 1:56:53 PM , Rating: 2
Reclaimer77,

You're making up "facts" again.

Obama had NOTHING to do with his release and this is by far your weakest attempt to bolster a Republican banner.

People might take you more seriously if you would stop making things up to support your argument and stupidly at that.

In conclusion. :P :P :P


RE: Profiling
By foolsgambit11 on 1/4/2010 9:49:21 PM , Rating: 2
Not only that, but the story he's referencing really stretches the facts. The facts actually stated in the article are these: Two Yemeni detainees released from Guantanamo Bay have appeared in propoganda videos with known leaders of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Penninsula (AQAP). AQAP has claimed responsibility for this attempted act of terrorism.

Here are some additional facts: One of the two former detainees is suspected of actually being a high-level AQAP leader, while the other is apparently in a Saudi Arabian rehabilitation program (again), and has been for some time. There doesn't seem to be evidence actually linking either detainee with the actual planning or execution of this plot, although it is probably likely that the suspected AQAP leader knew something of it.

And, like you said, the two detainees were released by Bush, not Obama. As far as I can tell, no detainees have been released to Yemen since 2007. I think I read somewhere that some other former Guantanamo detainees had been tied to Yemeni terrorist groups, though. But again, most of those were released by Bush, who was firmly in favor closing Guantanamo, returning most detainees and trying the remainder in US courts. That was the Bush Administration's position for the last two and a half years of his tenure, at least.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/5102528.stm

When it comes down to it, Bush's and Obama's positions on Guantanamo (now that Obama has indefinitely extended his timetable) are identical, except one has a 'D' after his name and the other had an 'R'.


RE: Profiling
By Nik00117 on 1/4/2010 12:24:15 PM , Rating: 2
A terriost with the intention of bombing a plane or something is going dress completely normal, if anything he may even wear a casual suit most likely fly first class etc etc etc.

We cannot relay on our airports to protect us if the terriosit makes it that far we are already too late.

Perfect example, a friend of mine was a body gaurd, he had very little training in fighting people compared to his training teaching him to avoid conflicts.

Example a photographer was photographing a cient of his, he approached the photorgrapher and went "I'm going give you $200 and I'll never see you around my client again, agreed?" to which the guy left.

Point being, stop the terriosit from even getting to the airpport in the first place.

Those scanners are good though, we don't want to drop all secuirty. I mean last thing we want is to let poeple with guns and knives on planes because that's just stupid.


RE: Profiling
By Solandri on 1/4/2010 3:53:11 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The problem I am having is that this fellow had a powder hidden in his crotch which is not normally detectable in a pat-down search. Is the idea that we are going to start cavity-searching anyone that looks non-western? If you are willing to pack high exlosives next to your bait-n-tackle, then you are probably willing to cram it (gently) where the sun don't shine.

There was a good article on how Israel handles security at its airport. Despite being the most obvious target for terrorist attacks, their airport is actually one of the safest in the world.

http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/744426--...

Basically, it says that good interviewing techniques are much more effective than scanning and x-raying everything.


RE: Profiling
By radializer on 1/4/2010 6:48:57 PM , Rating: 2
This is most probably true of other international airports also - when I have traveled through most European airports, there are security personnel asking sets of questions. These questions themselves appear quite harmless and mundane, but the real trick is the training of the individual listening to the answers and assessing behavioral traits such as anxiety as well as consistency of the reports (usually there are 2-3 such mini-interviews at various stages of airport transit).

What this points towards is that, when it comes to assessing security, a well-trained individual may very well be worth a dozen sophisticated machines!

Could the problem be the standard US attitude where designing a better machine to do the job is considered superior to training an "expert" to do the same? The "better mousetrap" is a great motivator for innovation in the free market - but maybe it is not suitable for security??


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