01 January 2010

Body Scanner Yes or No?

For my first blog of the new decade I thought I would fix on the issue of security and the body scanner debate. So I am going to dive into the fray on this one.

There is quite simply the implied consent rule.

We do everything around this every day. As far as air travel is concerned we explicitly believe that we are being protected - in the same way that we believe that police are responsible for law and order. The issue is not whether you like this situation or whether you approve of the police - you accept their role or accept the consequences.

To this end - we really have little choice other than to accept that the best possible solution is being utilized for our safety when we are traveling. This relates to not only air travel but indeed any form of public transportation can be so governed.

In my humble mind there is no conflict with privacy or profiling of individuals and indeed (almost) any other tool that will ensure our safety while flying.

Refusing the use of Whole Body Scanners on the grounds of privacy is frankly ludicrous. You accept that you have no privacy when you walk into say a Doctor's office and the nurse examines you with our without your clothing.

To simply discard this imperfect but the best we currently have technology on the grounds of some possible misuse of privacy makes no sense at all to me. Ensuring the proper use of the technology and preventing unauthorized use of the technology for nefarious ends (which is the reason the current nominee for the head of the TSA should stand down - read the Washington Post )is clearly something that can and should be managed.

So are you clear on the subject?

I am



geradin said...

I don't think we should be subjected to body scans. As with the original 9/11 bombings, the failure here wasn't lack of information or safeguards, it was lack of communication and failure to make proper use of the information at hand. Anyone buying one way tickets with cash would be suspicious, but this guy should have been pulled from the line and held for questioning at that point.

And it is disputed whether a scanner would have caught the bomb where he had it. Our best defense against him was our intel, and it was bungled.

Professor Sabena said...

I think you miss the whole point about Body Scanners. There is no silver bullet that does everything. As I have noted many times we need a multi level approach. Relying on just the Intel is frankly plain stupid. Indeed relying on any single solution is stupid. So yes sadly we need body scanners. I dont like them any more than you do but it if contributes to the safety and can detect explosives then they should be deployed. Actually the scanners are programmed for the explosive in question. As with any tool it is how you use it effectively that is important as the technology itself. Intel was there it was badly used. That is the dramatic failure. Lets see what Obama has to say on the subject today.


geradin said...

I don't think I miss the point of the body scanners, I just think there must be a better way. Also, the scanners I'm talking about cannot be programmed for an explosive, they use x-ray or radio waves to penetrate clothing and show what is underneath. They can show body contours, things strapped to the body, etc. The problem with body scanners is that there are some locations that can hide an object from them - it's the nature of the beast.

So what happens when the bombers start shoving explosives up their rectum? Body cavity search everyone? Swallowing the bomb? X-ray or ultrasound everyone?

Yes, we have to take steps, but to date when intel has been inadequate for whatever reason, only dumb luck has prevented disaster (shoe bomber, underwear bomber). Body scans don't actually increase security, but do invade privacy. What degree of privacy and dignity are we willing to give up for an illusion of increased security?

geradin said...

I wanted to clarify my position after that last post. I don't have a problem with full body scans so much as I do with the probability that they will be used as a patch. Instead of fixing the problems in our intelligence community (oxymoron similar to military intelligence) the scanners will be used in the hopes they will catch the people who slip through the cracks. Granted, even if we had perfect cooperation and communication within the intel community there would still be cracks to slip through - but we should make those cracks as small as possible.

I also believe improving the chemical sniffers makes more sense. They can detect bombs in places the body scanners can't see.