Are Body Scanners about to Become Extinct?
Something is amiss in the Body-Scan plan. Governments appear to be backing out of scanner deployment. Do they know something we don’t?
Directly following the Underwear Bomber farce in December 2009, the UK jumped up like a yapping dog after a bone to the US’s call for body scanner implementation. Heathrow and Manchester airports had already begun trials with the scanners and the UK Department for Transport immediately announced plans to install more scanners at Gatwick and Birmingham airports. There was a slight amount of opposition at the time from the likes of the Equality and Human Rights Commission as well as the Islamic Human Rights Council, but generally speaking, all the usual Rights Campaigners kept quiet. After all, who had the balls to dare question the US-led War on Terror?
The US made no bones about their “need” to embark on a mass-scanning programme and ploughed ahead installing body scanners at all their international airports, all at the behest of Scanner lobbyist Michael Chertof, of course. Initially they all scrambled to buy Rapiscan’s Backscatter Xray machine just like Heathrow and Manchester airports in the UK for its superior imaging abilities.
Europe was blackmailed into toeing the line to the minimum requirements of Janet Napolitano, head of the US Department of Homeland Security. The then Spanish Development Secretary had already stated that scanners would not be installed in Spain, and then a few weeks later after meeting with Napolitano, he back-peddled and said that scanners were going to be “inevitable”. France, Germany and Italy all followed suit and pledged to run trials, while Holland and the UK promised to add even more scanners to their arsenal.
However, in spite of the Brown Government in the UK expressing a drooling eagerness to spread the Scan-Plan all over the UK, reticence rapidly set in. Gatwick quietly and tentatively installed Millimeter scanners in June of 2010, but Birmingham airport was eventually left untouched. Why? And why is it that no other UK airports have been forced to buy scanners since then?
A curious side note: I happened to be travelling through London Luton airport days before the Underwear Bomber incident took place in December 2009. In the arrivals hall, just after Passport Control and before Baggage Reclaim, I noticed a large, wardrobe-sized blue box placed against a wall. Even though this was before I had taken an interest in the body scanners and this campaign, I instantly and inexplicably knew what it was. Two weeks later I was able to put a name to it: The Rapiscan Secure 1000 Backscatter body scanner. What was it doing there? Why has Luton airport never used scanners since then? Was it in transit from one airport to another?
So, what happened to the Scan-Plan UK? The US was still salivating over scanners and buying hundreds of them, but. the UK stopped dead in its tracks and appeared to be waiting, but waiting for what? None of it made any sense.
Eventually, the European Union felt compelled to get involved and the European Commission took what seemed an eternity to bring out a new bill on scanners. Meanwhile, France, Germany and Italy had already run trials at their airports so to keep their deal with the US government and had all finally concluded that the scanners were slow, inefficient and “useless”.
All the while, the UK made no move whatsoever in either direction. Although they had run no efficiency tests on the scanners, or at least they had not made the results of any testing public, they neither made good on their pledge to install scanners at all UK airports. But on the other hand, nor did they retire any existing scanners. Whatever it is that is holding the UK government back is also deterring other EU states from scanner installation.
The UK was the only country in the EU permitted to use Backscatter scanners in that it was one of the few European states that does not have constitutional rules banning the use of ionising radiation for anything other than medical purposes. The Backscatter scanner was clearly the better product in terms of under-clothing image quality, but there was now more trepidation over using it as more than half of US airports were, by late 2011, tending to opt for the lesser effective Millimetre wave scanners.
The European Commission took almost two years until they finally sneaked in their new legislation banning the use of the Backscatter scanners installed at Heathrow and Manchester airports. In spite of this and in spite of a public consultation which gave a reported 80%+ opposition to the scanner use in the UK, the Secretary of State for Transport remained as hard-headed as ever and pledged to continue expanding the compulsory Scan Plan and therefore blatantly breaking EU law. But almost one year on, no more UK airports have received delivery of scanners. Do you get the feeling yet that we are missing some vital information here?
Last September, The European Commission called upon its scientific committee SCENIHR to examine the risk of backscatter scanners to public health. This incompetent and arrogant committee couldn’t be bothered to even run tests on real scanners and only used existing data based on medical Xrays. Even though their report appeared to suggest that the scanners were “safe”, even for pregnant women and children, the UK government, who had been waiting for the report’s publication before progressing with their scanners plan, failed to react in any way to the report. Nor did the EC or the European Parliament.
The EC’s new rules had also given the green light to all EU airports to use Millimetre wave scanners, but none have taken the opportunity to use them.
Simply said, the UK government has not furthered its scanners plan in more than 2 years in spite of publicly and politically favourable terms while other EU countries, including Finland, France, Italy and Germany have all since rejected the scanners due to their enormous inefficiency.
Backscatter scanners? Is there something we should know?
Under pressure from (“ahem”) their customers on their website, Heathrow decided to stop using backscatter scanners in favour of the less dangerous and less effective Millimetre Wave scanners, even though the EC’s science committee had declared the Xray scanners safe.
For the last six months, the TSA in the US have been phasing out Backscatter scanners in favour of Millimetre Wave scanners with Automatic Threat Detection (ATD), a computer algorithm for automatically detecting possible “threats” hidden below passengers’ clothing. The TSA is well aware of the fact that the Italian air authorities have declared this technology “ineffective” and that the German Transport Police have called it “useless” and they are very well aware that blogger Jonathan Corbett very publicly demonstrated that the technology is far less effective than traditional and cheaper metal detector arches, but they still continue replacing Backscatter scanners with this “useless” and expensive equipment.
Considering that each of the Backscatter scanner unit costs between 120 and 180 thousand pounds a pop (well over $200,000), why has the UK’s faith in this technology waned? And why are the TSA trying to phase it out less than 2 years after they began deploying them all over the States? What’s wrong with this technology? And the fact that they are trying to replace the Backscatter scanners with the obviously pointless ATD scanners that are less effective than metal detectors, must tell us something about the real agenda and the real threat level.
I smell a damage limitation exercise in use here. Millions of men, women and children have been scanned in the backscatter scanner with cancer-causing ionising radiation. On top of that, no one has expressed any interest in the latest slimmed-down version by the original scanner inventor Steven Smith. So what’s all the reticence now?
Considering that the ATD Mmw scanners are uselessly ineffective, could we be witnessing the death of the body scanners at our airports?
I think its time to add up the cost of these scanners and decide whose heads must roll.
Scrap the Scanners