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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: Perfect Security Shall Never Exist....
By TheEinstein on 1/4/2010 2:58:41 PM , Rating: 2
How do we win then?

There are three ways we win.

1) Profiling

2) Armed 'passengers'

3) Guarantee to do more harm to them and theirs than they shall do to us and ours.


Profiling in the statistical sense is very sound math. You can determine the current patterns for specific crimes and you can reduce that crime using the profile data. In this case terrorism abroad is frequently done by Islamic males, young in age, who usually have gone to a Middle-Eastern nation for 'training'.

Using profiling seems to some to be wrong, and flawed, however in the statistical nature it reduces the probable false outcomes and increases the probable positive outcomes. Aka your more likely to find a bomb on that Arab male than that Asian grandmother. It also goes to the basic need of security, cost effectiveness. You could in theory pay for a security system so complex it reduces the chances of a crime to 1 in 100,000,000^100 but... at what huge and tremendous, and will never be able to be paid back of a cost? Security is about the least money for the most bang.

Profiling means yes... that hispanic male is more likely to be an illegal immigrant that that Irish haired female. It also means those who cannot speak English are a higher chance than someone who cannot speak another language than English...

Profiling is not evil, it is math. Math does not lie, people lie.

2) Guns on aircraft.
A single armed person, sitting who knows where, on an aircraft represents a threat to any would be hijacker or terrorist. They have to do their deed with worry that if they cannot get the job done quickly, and gain control quickly (if hijacking) they may get shot down with ease. This also would resolve a lot of out of control passengers with ease as well. A gun in your face when your flipping out cause you did not get rocks with your bourban? Yeah no more flipping out for you!

Modern ammunitions include rounds which while harmful to the person they are hit with, will not go through the skin of an aircraft. This means increased security all around in my opinion.

3) Who is the bigger a-hole?

I have two sayings regarding security:

Regardless... my sayings will always hold true:

"You can never have perfect security, you can just have affordable security".

"The only way to truly be safe from a fanatic is to show him you truly will destroy him, his family, his friends, his home, his valuables, his culture, his nation, his religion, and anything else he holds dear."

This time the second is in play, for this section specifically. So long as someone feels they benefit from doing an act of utter evil, there will be these acts of utter evil. There is no getting around this. The only way to stop them is to remove all benefits from doing that evil, then they will never commit that evil.

RE: Perfect Security Shall Never Exist....
By AEvangel on 1/4/2010 3:35:32 PM , Rating: 2
How do we win then?

The best way(other then changing our foreign policy) is to turn the Security over to the airlines since it's their responsibility to provide the traveler with safety since they bought the ticket from the airline.

The TSA concept is actually ridiculous, demanding I pay for security for a service I never use. It amazes me more people who don't fly are not upset about this waste of tax money.

By Omega215D on 1/4/2010 10:15:12 PM , Rating: 2
Because after watching some passengers questioned on the news the answer will always be that they "feel safer" no matter how much of an ordeal it may be.

I weep for this country.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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