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
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
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.
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
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."
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.
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.