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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: Finally some common sense
By callmeroy on 1/5/2010 12:08:55 PM , Rating: 2
My recent (and admittedly over sarcastic.. :) ) post about profiling as a good thing cemented what I already suspected..most people don't really know what actual profiling even is. They think its nothing more than randomly selecting folks based on their race or religion alone and for no other reason than 'well the other guy that did it was that religion or race too'...then you also have the folks who believe profiling is claimed to STOP dead everyone and anyone ....like the Tim McVeigh (which is a very common retort for those against profiling) ....

Then the blah blah about constitution and all....even though profiling when used as the investigative and law enforcement aid its supposed to be doesn't violate any constiutional rights whatsoever.

But back to McVeigh, if profiling was in existence back then it may have caught on to him --- but nothing (like much in life) is 100% certain. I can tell you using profiling as a tool....*the right way* would have analyzed things like why did McVeigh buy this that and the other thing -- gee that's the same stuff in the past that people used to build bombs....hmm look here he's scheduled to pick up a rented truck....hmm maybe we should put surveillance on this guy.......

Profiling is NOT looking at race and religion alone -- get that through your heads. Profiling is using intelligence about all the commonalities -- including behavor, buying habits, personality traits, history, etc. etc. that conforms to criminals who carried out like crimes in the past.


"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA














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