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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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RE: Profiling
By Reclaimer77 on 1/4/2010 11:12:14 AM , Rating: 1
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.

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

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.

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'.

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