Scanners and European Reticence
The US Congress have just voted in a $37 billion addition to the already inflated Dept. of Homeland Security budget, a large amount of which will be invested in body scanners at US airports and train stations. Yes, that’s right, ‘train stations‘. A piece of news Obama was clearly not privy to when quipping at his State of the Union speech. But then why should he be? He’s only the president. The aggressiveness of the TSA ‘scan-or-grope’ plan as a reaction to one dimwit with a dud explosive seems to know no bounds as shoulder-shrugging acceptance seeps into the US travelling public.
So, while the US generously protects other nations from the potential attacks of the phantasmal al Qaeda by ensuring suicide tourists do not take explosives by plane into foreign airspace, what about those incoming flights like that on which Abdulmutallab set fire to his underwear? The good ol’ US of A is surely at threat from incoming flights as much as domestic and outgoing flights.
A quick trip around the world with scanners
One would think that Russia would be reconsidering scanner use, along with any other airport procedures that cause delays and accumulations of people in public buildings, after the recent suicide bombing at Domodedovo airport in Moscow. But no. They have just announced plans to introduce the scanners in their train stations too. But hey! There’s nothing like a good old terrorist attack to unify the voters behind the ruling party, is there? Just ask Bush and Cheney. Terrorism has its upside for some, it seems. Nonetheless, there has been little talk of more airport scanners in Russia.
Middle Eastern countries are still holding out, for obvious reasons, and don’t look likely to have the scanners on the table for some time yet.
… and Europe?
What happened to the scanners plan in Europe?
That ‘special relationship’ between the US and the UK was evident when Prime Minister Brown pledged full support in January of 2010. They already had the scanners on-site at Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Manchester and were already up and running at Heathrow (since 2006) and Manchester. In spite of the new Deputy Prime Minister Clegg’s bold promises to redress the imbalance of civil liberties in the UK, the scanner issue seems to have slipped his mind. Or has it? He has shown that, in spite of his initial bold speeches, he hasn’t got the balls to come forward and openly denounce the obviously offensive nature of scanner use, but then neither has the government tried to extend the scan-plan. I can only imagine that they are still awaiting the results of the public consultation they ran before last summer. My, it does take a long time to write a report, doesn’t it? They have given the go-ahead for operating a Millimeter Wave scanner at Gatwick, but that was a plan that already programmed before the fall of the Brown government.
Manchester airport’s operators are more than happy with their Backscatter scanners and have already announced an end to their trials. That means that now they are a permanent fixture at the airport. However, Heathrow airport, which has been running scanner trials since 2006, still has not declared an end to their tests and still has not been able to reduce the waiting time of passengers arriving at the airport from 3 hours. After 5 years of trials, you would think that they would have come to some kind of conclusion by now.
If the new coalition government in the UK had wanted to, they could have easily extended the scan-plan to other airports, especially when you consider the disastrous establishment charlatans heading the civil liberties unions there, such as Liberty and their acclaimed head Shami Chakrabarti, who willingly let herself be scanned at Heathrow and only managed to describe the experience as a “nuisance”.
Not even the cost to the tax payers can be used as an excuse in Britain as it’s the airport operators (and eventually the airline customers) who have to foot the bill for the implementation of scanners. So, what’s their game? Are they getting cold feet?
France too seems a little reluctant to implement a full scanners programme, even though Tweedle-Dum terrorist Richard Reid flew from Charles de Gaulle in 2001. Yet they still only have one Millimeter Scanner in Paris.
Germany played a shrewd game and waited for the noise and inertia of the anti-scanner campaigners to die down before introducing a ‘voluntary’ (yes, voluntary!) scan at Hamburg airport. What kind of perverted mind would actually volunteer to be electronically strip-searched in front of strangers? This is far beyond my understanding.“Hey! I might be a terrorist, I’m not sure. Perhaps you should scan me.”
The Italian aviation authority has already rejected the scanners for being ineffective and slow, but the Berlusconi government continue having their sights set on using scanners at train stations. They clearly think they can do it better that the Brits whose station trials failed hopelessly.
Spain has been on the verge of introducing the scanners for a year, but are still dithering. However, they do have what appear to be American TSA agents at Madrid’s airport training security guards in their new advanced groping procedures in readiness for a scan-or-grope coercion measure. One story recently out of Madrid Barajas is that of an elderly gentleman who was escorted off a US bound flight he had already boarded because the Spanish security guards apparently hadn’t patted him down enough. The Spanish guards were accompanied by their American trainers. 10 minutes later after his second grope, the poor old fellow returned to his seat limping and clutching his groin in pain. What next? A rabbit punch in the stomach for every passenger?
That just leaves Schiphol airport in Holland. They were the first in Europe to fully embrace the scanners and have a full set of L3 Millimeter Wave scanners. They learned an important lesson on the 25th of December 2009 – they learned that you need to switch them on!! But again… no plans to expand the scanner plan.
Does the EU want scanners?
The typical response of any Europolitico to questions on the body scanners is always the same: “We are waiting for the European Union to take a decision.” When the scanners were first proposed in 2008, the European Commission was called in to evaluate the technology. Their results were in favour of the technology and there was an almost immediate debate and vote in the EU parliament. But EU ministers were not buying it. They voted down a common policy on the scanners citing privacy concerns. Then, for no apparent reason, the European Commission was told to undertake exactly the same study again in 2010. This time Commissioner Siim Kallas’ report was more of a stuttering and pointless mess with no interpretable conclusions. Half the press reported it as a damnation of scanners while the other half presented it as a victory for the scanner industry. No one really understood what it was trying to say. Since its publication, no debates or bills on scanners have been presented in the EU parliament. Why??
In April 2010 in Toledo, Spain, Secretary of State for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano attended a meeting with EU interior ministers (home office) in order to sell her scan-plan to Europe. The scanning of air passengers all over the US would not make any sense at all if incoming passengers from foreign nations had not been irradiated too. Exactly what was said at that meeting remains a secret, in spite of being – supposedly – of benefit to the general public. There can be no doubt that her role was to remind the European Union that when Washington says “jump”, Europe jumps. But, the way that the old continent is dragging its heels on the scanners issue suggests that she forgot to say how high.
Never mind Janet. I’m sure some other dimwit is already planning a trip with duff explosives that will catapult Europe into line with the Empire’s demands.
SCRAP THE SCANNERS