Our position on body scanners has been made clear on this site several times. They're an intrusive and unnecessary over-reaction to a threat (the Christmas Bomber) which could and should have been picked up using the intelligence available at the time – competent use of existing resources, not throwing money at new ones to be run by the same people whose incompetence led to the problem in the first place.
Still, I thought the following bullet points might be of interest:
- Hundreds of people in the USA have complained about them. The complaints range from concern about genitals being seen to the use of the devices on children, to anger over passengers not being told they could request a pat-down search instead [which doesn't even apply here in the UK], to potential health worries from the scans (which are debated here).
- It's interesting that in the USA, Airport Directors make a virtue of the fact that you can opt for another form of search. Shouldn't we have the same choice here?
- Authoritative confirmation has been obtained that they can store images.
- Even putting aside the cost of the scanners themselves (which here in the UK has been put at £80,000-£100,000 each and is the subject of a Congressional budget request of $1 billion) the cost to the USA in additional staffing costs is an eye-watering additional $2.4 billion. The cost to the UK is not yet known.
- All this expense, and yet the scanners had not been field-tested before their introduction.
- Federal authorities in the USA are now suggesting that, in the long term, everyone will have to go through the scanners – no selection of some individuals, no other option.
- Religious objections continue.
- An interesting legislative suggestion by an American politician would mean that scanners are not used as the first line of security, instead only once a concern has arisen via another part of the system.
- Scanners have caused long delays at airports. Totally unforeseeable…!
- There are other more productive security steps going undone as a result of this focus on body scanners, like improving security at small airports.
- In a world in which thousands of places are now demanding scanners… the EU still can't sell any. The proverbial in the brewery…
- There are apparently four main types of scanners. We in Europe have the most revealing.
- Beside the other points made about the fact that the scanners don't work, consider the prospect of bombs implanted under the skin of suicide bombers. In that last link and also in this one you'll see that MI5 has said there are credible fears that that is already being planned (it has been speculated about for some time). Easily done and renders all this false-sense-of-security-generating scanning equipment entirely useless.It's far from just theoretical, too – as the recent assassination attempt on a Saudi Arabian prince involved hiding explosives in a body cavity.
- Pakistan's Parliamentary delegation to the USA ended their trip in a protest against the scanners.
- The EU's position on body scanners is to be announced in June – i note that in 2008 the Parliament said that scanners were degrading and rejected them, so any change in their position will have to be explained. This is a big decision and Big Brother Watch will be watching.
- Final word to the good people at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC):
“They are uniquely intrusive as they allow the government to photograph air travelers stripped naked regardless of suspicion” Marc Rotenberg, EPIC Executive Director
By Alex Deane
Note that I've used the American spelling for Centre as, well, that's
how EPIC spell it. It's not a typo
Related posts elsewhere: The Lift ("legal issues in the fight against terrorism"), an extended, good Washington Post piece and a brilliant article in The Age by the IPA's Chris Berg: New airport security measures are overkill, since the risk of terrorism is already so tiny.