Who really benefits from body scanners?
Do we, the passengers benefit from the peace of mind that a terrorist might be impeded by scanners? Do the airlines benefit from scanners, or the airports? Our governments and media may like pushing the idea that everyone is happy with electronic strip searches, but who is really calling for scanners to be deployed at all transport hubs?
The idea is that passengers are both protected from potential terrorist attacks and/or at least are reassured that their safety is being considered. In 2010, the BBC lauded the results of a survey that found that the majority of the flying public was in favour of the measure. But can we trust the results? What the BBC failed to mention was that the consulting company which carried out the survey, Unisys, had financial interests in the body scanner industry.
The UK Secretary for Transport, Justine Greening also claimed that most passengers were in favour of the scanners. Her claim was based on a survey carried out at Manchester airport by the airport’s own management. Anyone in Market Research will tell you that this would be an invalid study as the many of the same passengers questioned in the study would have already had to convince themselves that the scanners were OK in order to buy their ticket in the first place.
So, are passengers really reassured that the scanners have been put in place for their protection? The only ‘official’ UK survey into public opinion was the Department for Transport’s 2010/11 public consultation on the code of practice for body scanner use. That one came back with a startlingly different opinion – an estimated 80% against scanners. Greening, however, chose to ignore what the public wanted on this occasion and simply reiterated Manchester airport’s survey results.
And are passengers any safer with the scanners? Health issues aside, as the risk to health has never been adequately evaluated, there is always a risk to our fundamental rights when any new security measure is introduced, especially the right to privacy. But, as everyone knows, there must be a pros-and-cons balance between the risk to our rights and the risk of not having the security measure. The UK has continually exploited a loophole in European law which allows for “more stringent measures” to be adopted due to the government’s claim that their terrorist attack risk assessments come back as being a “high”. However, they have never published, or so much as hinted at what this risk may be or how they came to their conclusions, always citing “National Security” as the reason for their secrecy. Nonetheless, others put the risk of death through an international terrorist attack as being “hardly existential.”
We must also consider the practicalities of these security measures. From removing our shoes and belts, throwing away the expensive perfume and bottle of water, opening our laptops, tasting the baby food to demonstrate it is not a bomb, passing through a body scanner, having our phones swabbed for traces of explosives etc, etc., we are forming ever longer queues at airport security points. Heathrow has been advising passengers to arrive three hours before their flight ever since they introduced scanners due to the extra time it now takes to be screened before we enter the departure area. Passengers at Domodedovo airport in Moscow learned that all these time consuming checks can be fatal when 15 months ago a suicide terrorist with explosives strapped to his body killed himself and some 35 innocent airline passengers waiting to pass through security. That airport also has scanners.
So, if passengers are not benefitting from the scanners, what about the airlines?
Since the introduction of mass scanning at US airports began in 2010, followed by the new “enhanced pat-down” for those who opt out of the scanning process, the US airline industry has seen a massive drop in sales as travellers have taken President Obama’s advice and seek less intrusive means of transport.
Ryanair’s chief executive also has spoken out against the scanners claiming that the scanners do not improve security, but pander to the fears generated by politicians.
So, perhaps airport operators are seeing the benefit from scanning millions of their customers each year?
It is impossible to ignore that fact that Heathrow’s retail revenue has soared since the introduction of these “more stringent” security measures. Not only are sales of already overpriced liquid products such as drinks, perfumes, toiletries and alcohol undoubtedly rising due to not being permitted items at security points, but also during those three hours of waiting before a passenger’s flight, the constant marketing of food, souvenirs and luxury goods has seen a notable increase at the London airport as at all other airports.
But sales of Toblerones and ‘I love London’ t-shirts are not going to cut it for an operation as gargantuan as Heathrow.
Mike Fazackerley, the ex-head of security at Manchester airport, stated there would be great savings for airport operators that adopt scanners. He claimed that the scanners were neither more efficient than conventional pat downs, nor quicker, but he did allude to a saving through a reduction in staffing. Mr Fazackerley was, however, wrong. We estimate that each new scanner deployed at an airport would need between 3 and 6 extra members of staff per scanner. Added to that the fact that each scanner only has a limited useful lifespan of about five years before it needs to be replaced, and we are talking about a serious additional cost.
So far, no one is really benefitting from these scanners, are they?
There can be no doubt that 9/11 made a lot of millionaires into billionaires. Fear sells security systems far better than mere prudence, and according to the press and governments, the threat level never drops. There is always another looming threat around the corner and another medicine show of security solutions is thrust into the faces of leaders in every hotel lobby of every capital city.
The London CounterTerror Expo, for example has grown disproportionately to the apparent threat level in the 3 years since its first appearance in 2010, the number of exhibitors has grown from 250 to more than 800, all peddling the latest in scanning technology, detection and hidden recording equipment. From body scanners to iris scanners, facial recognition, puffer machines, etc., all proven to be flawed, all what the politicians refer to as a “layered approach to security”, and all what the American Association of Pilots refers to as nothing more than a “patchwork of band aids“.
So, the next time one of these inept loons boards a plane with something vaguely resembling a bomb in his underwear and all your rights are suddenly rescinded as yet another new gadget is introduced to strip you naked, ask yourself who really benefits. And ask yourself who could have had the resources, connections, motives to fund, train and put that idiot on the plane in the first place.
The European Commission has finally released its long overdue report on the health risks of using body scanners at airports. They did so in typical fashion late last Friday so to avoid any debate in the press. As expected, the report concluded that there was no threat to health. ‘Expected’ because the Commission’s science committee (SCENIHR) recently admitted to Scrap the Scanners that they had never actually run any physical tests. Their studies were purely theoretical and based on existing information regarding xrays, even though their mandate is to find ‘new and emerging health risks’.
The report was a stitch-up from the outset. The Commission has been seeking to legislate scanner use for 4 years and all their efforts to date have been, at best, underhanded and clumsy.
But what will this mean for the travelling public? Let’s take a look at the current trends and try to read between some of those lines.
The dubious success of OSI Systems
Following buying the patent for the Secure 1000 backscatter (xray) body scanner from its inventor, Steven Smith, the California-based OSI Systems formed its security branch Rapiscan Systems and used the name to market the first full-body scanner which would eventually become its best-selling product. Sales were slow at first as the military and prison services (original target market) showed little interest. So, with the help of the Chertoff group headed by the then US Secretary of State for Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, they began marketing their product as an airport screening method.
Airports and governments alike were apprehensive of the scanner at first, not least because it emitted ionising radiation which is known to cause cancer. The European Commission, however, was all for the idea of scanners and sung their praises in their 2008 report on airport passenger screening. They attempted to push through a new bill on scanner use, but MEPs hated the idea and rejected it. As a direct result, OSI System’s share value plummetted to its lowest value since the creation Rapiscan (see red X) – practically zero! OSI/Rapiscan needed a miracle.
After the conveniently-timed underwear bomber incident at the end of 2009, sales began picking up as the UK and US pledged to buy the Secure 1000 , egged on by Chertoff.
However, the Commission bided its time and sneakily presented its second scanners bill in 2011 by way of the Comitology process. The Comitology process has been frequently accused of being undemocratic and technocratic in that it can be used to introduce new legislation simply by it not being voted down by Parliament. The EC presented the bill and gave MEPs the possibility to reject the proposals at the beginning of the summer when most were already leaving for their holidays.
Nonetheless, OSI System’s investors showed uneasiness at the possibility of the body scanner being rejected by Parliament again and the share price took another hammering (purple X). OSI and their investors knew only too well that Europe was always key to the future of scanners in that if the European Union embraced them, then so would the rest of the world.
Only after the bill got through did the ever inept Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas call on SCENIHR (Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks) to evaluate the health risks. At this point, you would think that the markets would have trembled at the thought of the science committee’s findings … but no. In fact since the study was commissioned, OSI’s share value has doubled! (green X) So, what were the investors privy to that we were not? It makes no sense, especially when you consider the recent rumours that the Transport Security Administration had been on the verge of abandoning the Rapiscan Secure 1000 due to health fears. Investors in OSI have shown particular confidence in the future of the scanner manufacturer in spite of the odds.
So, OSI/Rapiscan are celebrating the fact that their machine has been called “safe” by what they call “another independent study”, conveniently ignoring the fact that at least three other independent studies have concluded that it is not. One such report even claimed that 100 people per year in the US were likely to suffer cancer as a direct result of passing through a backscatter scanner, and that was not counting those who have to work alongside the machines on a daily basis.
The UK halted its plan to extend the scanners programme to all UK airports in 2010 and last year UK Secretary of Transport, Justine Greening, stated that she was waiting to see the SCENIHR report before taking any further decisions on backscatter scanners. Now the science committee has claimed that the scanners are safe, everyone seems convinced that the UK will continue to oblige airports to install scanners, in spite of the fact that most airport operators seem against the idea.
And then there are what look to be the worst Olympic games ever, with all attention being drawn away from the games and onto the ludicrous ‘security measures’ being put in place. London 2012 currently resembles a war zone more than what it should be – the greatest show on Earth. The UK government has already laid plans to install surface-to-air missiles on the roof of one residential block near the Olympic stadium, even though no one really knows what they will be targetting. We already know that there will be body scans for workers and artists at the events and we also know that Rapiscan has been awarded the contract to be the supplier of security technology. I’m betting on there being scans for visitors as well.
The rest of Europe will likely follow suit and accept the radiation scanners too. In spite of French laws that rule that ionising radiation can only be used in medicine, even the government there has been considering trials with backscatter scanners.
While the threat of transnational terrorist attacks remains ‘hardly existential‘, the scanners are still considered by legislators to be a balanced response. The question still remains after the SCENIHR report to how existential the real risk to public health is. Personally, I believe the real risk to air travel this year to be a tragic accident involving land-to-air missiles and the already overcrowded airspace over London – far greater a risk than any would be underwear bomber, especially when we consider that the latest underwear bomb plot was found to be a CIA hoax.
Duff technology? Who cares?
A recent report out of the US has highlighted the serious failings of the technology and its detection capabilities. This was demonstrated by blogger Johnathan Corbett when he recently managed to pass freely through two types of scanner with a simple metal box in his pocket – something the scanners should have detected with ease.
The report highlighted 8 areas for improvement of the system. However, these recommendations remain ‘classified’. But I do not want to be too negative about this and so I would like to offer the Department of Homeland Security my own 8 reommendations to improve airport security. Let me know what you think Ms. Napolitano:
1) Switch the scanners off and send them to be scrapped.
2) Hire professionals to run airport security instead of offering the job to absolutely anyone via pizza box ads.
3) Sack the current head of the CIA and get someone capable of the job.
4) Investigate previous security failings before taking kneejerk decisions on what should be done.
5) Leave airport security decisions to the experts rather than uninformed politicians.
6) Investigate scanner manufacturers and their lobbyists.
7) Make security inclusive of the public rather than the exclusive to Homeland Security
8) Never buy untested and unproven technology to do the job of professionals.
SCENIHR, the European Commission’s scientific committee on emerging and newly identified health risks is poised to present its report to the Commission on the possible health risks of using full-body scanners. The future of scanners in Europe as well as our fundamental human rights are in the balance and this report is likely to tip that balance one way or the other. With rumours rife of scanners being installed at the Olympics this year, the stakes are higher than ever.
But can we trust the politicians to get it right this time or will they follow the UK’s lead in whitewashing over the health risks with political loopholes and secretiveness?
In 2006 when the UK’s Heathrow airport first began trials with backscatter (xray) body scanners, the UK Department for Transport claimed that radiation from these devices was incapable of penetrating human skin. They maintained this claim until early 2010 when the country became the first in the world to introduce a no scan-no fly policy. By then the scanners were featured continuously as part of the fervor caused by the underwear bomber and images of body scans donned the pages of every newspaper.
Viewing the images, people began to ask “if the radiation does not penetrate the skin, then why can we see areas of the skeleton on the scan?” The DfT quickly deleted their claim from their FAQs page. Later on, Steven Smith, the inventor if this type if scanner said that radiation absorption in fact played a fundamental role in the image making process.
However, the DfT were not ready to give up on their investment and promoted the idea that the scanners emitted so little radiation that they could not be any kind of threat.
But can we really take their word for it? Is the risk balance between the radiation dose and that of exploding terrorists really that justified?
Let’s take a look at the validity of the claim that body scanners are safe.
Do you trust the UK government?
The DfT’s claim was based on studies apparently undertaken by the Health Protection Agency in which a comparitive analisis concluded that the dose from backscatter scanners is equivalent to that received from cosmic radiation received from one minute of a flight. However, some in the scientific community disagree with the comparison in that the two types of radiation (backscatter and cosmic) act differently on the human body.
It has also recently come to light that the HPA has never actually done any testing on any scanner and their claim that the scanners were safe was based purely on information from a third party. This group has spent the last two years continuously trying to obtain information from the HPA, the DfT and the Health and Safety Executive on who did these apparent tests and what parametres and methodology was employed, but to no avail. The UK blankly refuse to reveal the source of their claim and therefore its validity and the impartiality of the third party is impossible to verify. Simply said, the DfT’s claim remains unproven.
The European Commission Debacle.
The Euro scanners debate has been raging since 2008 when the European Commission presented a bill to parliament which would create common rules on scanner use. The members of parliament were horrified at the thought of this technology violating the fundamental rights of air passengers and refused to play ball.
When the young fool Abdulmutallab tried to blow up his underpants on a flight to Detroit in 2009, the debate reopened and the EC revamped their pro-scanners legislation plan. It took until summer of 2011 for the EC to present their new scanners bill to parliament which they did through a comitology process. MPs had the chance to vote against the bill, but of course many were absent due to holidays. The bill was not so much as passed, but got through by not being refused.
On the surface, the EC’s rules appear to be an improvement on the previous situation in that they ban the use of backscatter technology (due to health fears) and demand an opt-out option for passengers, but the European Commissioner of Transport, Siim Kallas, showed enormous ineptitude and granted Manchester airport an exception just two days before the new laws came into effect, leaving Manchester to continue using their 19 £150,000 radiation machines.
On top of this, the EC Vice President did not commission SCENIHR (the EC’s science committee) to investigate the health risks of scanner use until after backscatter scanners had been banned. The results of their studies are due to be published this month (April 2012). However, we are no more confident about the objectivity of the SCENIHR results than we are of the UK’s HPA studies. According to recent correspondance between SCENIHR and this group, the science committee, like the HPA, has not done any real testing themselves and have also relied on information from third parties which they refuse to divulge the name of. Nor do they know the parametres of any testing or whether or not those third parties have any stake in the results of testing. Any claim that SCENIHR will therefore remain baseless.
The SCENIHR opinion is expected around end of April. For this work, the SCENIHR did not conduct any experimental studies but relied on data from third parties and modelling work.
Laurent Bontoux, PhD
Principal Administrator – SCENIHR Management Officer
Dear Mr Bontoux
Many thanks for your reply. Would it be possible to obtain a list of names of third parties used in SCENIHR studies on body scanners?
No, this is confidential.
Almost an exact mirror of what the HPA had done.
It was always essential to carry out tests on actual body scanners especially after it was discovered in the US last year that backscatter scanners were emitting 10 times the expected amount of radiation. I find it inconceivable that SCENIHR scientists made no attempt to run tests with a real scanner when only one kilometre from their offices in Brussels, the European Parliament building has 6 Rapiscan backscatter devices abandoned in a basement, paid for by taxpayers and never used.
So, we are back to square one and still do not know if the scanners are really safe.
Prepare to be irradiated at the Olympics this year.
Let’s just review the body scanning technology you will need to look out for with a quick look at the main scanning technologies being sold to airports and entertainment venues this year. As NONE of these machines have been tested by SCENHIR, they look unlikely to tell you as much as we will about them. If SCENIHR’s report to the EC turns out to be in favour of scanner use, we can expect a far greater deployment of all scanner types within the EU in the near future. It recently emerged that the UK government plans to deploy scanners at the Olympic games this year to screen workers entering the event zones. Also, Rapiscan, the main manufacturer of the EU banned backscatter scanners has just been awarded the contract for supplying security screening equipment to the games.
Backscatter scanner (Rapiscan)
This scanner, the most successful on the market, projects a beam of ionising radiation over the body from head to toe. The low-power radiation progressively loses penetrative power as it travels towards its subject. In theory, this gives it enough power to penetrate clothing, but not the whole body. Scientists at the University of California are concerned that this radiation not only penetrates clothing, but also skin and then is “deposited” inside the body and therefore doing untold damage.
Transmission Scanner (Conpass)
The radiation from this scanner is said to be 8 times the strength of the backscatter model and therefore capable of exposing internal organs. Until last year, it was only possible to find this product at high-security prisons and diamond mines. This year, Australia intends to transmission scan selected passengers arriving at Sydney airport for contraband.
Active Millimetre Wave Scanner (L3, Smiths Detection)
Millimetre waves are radio waves which can be found in the range between microwaves and those emitted by your mobile phone. in this device, a scanner rapidly rotates around the subject, gathering below-clothes information and forming a 3-D naked image. While it is generally believed that this type of radiation does not cause cancer, some believe it may agitate existing tumors as well as cause significant problems for pregnant women and those with pacemakers. Chicago O’Hare airport, for example, reportedly has signs warning passengers with pacemakers not to pass through the scanners, and recently a woman with a pacemaker died after she had to pass through a MMw machine between Gaza and Egypt.
The efficiency of this technology has constantly been called into question. The German police called it “useless” and decided to get rid of it. So did the Italian authorities and the British Transport police.
After more than 3 years of to and fro in Brussels, we finally have common rules on body scanners. In 2008 the parliament voted against European Commission proposals to legislate scanner use within the EU. MEPs were horrified at the thought of such contempt for fundamental rights and refused to back the EC. Barroso’s boys were not to be undermined this time round and chose to circumvent regular parliamentary process and push through their law via a new Comitology process so not to let Democratically elected members in on the plan. MEPs could have voted down the EC’s bill, but as it was presented over the summer, most were on holiday.
On the surface the law, which comes into effect on the 1stof December, is not so bad as it bans
backscatter scanners (x ray) and gives a choice to passengers to opt for a frisk instead of a scan. The reason for the ban on x ray scans quoted by Siim Kallas, European Commissioner for Transport was health concerns. A recent study in the US concluded that up to 100 people per year could die from cancer as a result of these scanners in the US. A better kill rate by far than al Qaeda, I’m sure you will agree!
However, it seems that the British are not as prone to cancer as the rest of Europe because, dangerous or not, Manchester and Heathrow airports have been granted special permission by the EC to continue trials with this potentially carcinogenic technology.
Either the technology is dangerous or it is not. The EC decided to allow Manchester to extend their scanners trial yet again only 2 days before they published the new rules on scanners, enabling MAN to keep their 16 £180 machines. Manchester security providers, including OCS (office cleaning contractor doing airport security), seem pretty unhappy about the new rules and latest reports from MAN are that elderly passengers are being forced get up from their wheelchairs and stand in the scanners.
Speaking of Manchester airport security, where scan selections are said by the DfT to be ‘random’, I recently read an interesting interview with their head of security in which it was admitted that scanning is no faster than frisking passengers and no more effective, and that the airport operators look to make huge financial savings from using scanners rather than trained security professionals. Another curio of this interview was his explanation of the ‘beep’ of the metal detector. It seems that the metal detector arches at MAN are set to beep automatically every few passengers whether the person is carrying a metallic item or not. That person is then led over to the body scanner. Now, if for example, the metal detector automatically ‘beeps’ every fourth passenger and then that person is scanned as part of their so-called ‘random’ screening process, the system can only ever reach a maximum of ¼ efficient. If it’s every second passenger, then it will only be 50% efficient, and that is before we have even taken into account the effectiveness of the technology or if the viewer of the image.
Airport security has become a joke in the UK:
- We no longer have trained professionals evaluating risk, we have cleaning companies.
- We have nonsensical security procedures that actually reduce real security rather than increase it.
- We are killing more people through cancer by using the scanners than we are saving from terrorists.
- The UK government is allowing anyone to enter the country and deliberately switching off terrorist watch-list procedures.
I’m putting money on backscatter scanners being widely deployed around all Olympic events next year. I’m also betting that the EC’s health risk evaluation, which they have only just initiated, will come back next March with favourable results for the scanner industry.
Scrap the Scanners
What are they looking for through the scanners?
What is it that they are looking for? It’s time to lift the veil of what they are telling us to fear.
Is it rude to mention “liquid explosives” in public? The entire debate around the need for airport body scanners revolves around the subject, but hardly any media source makes mention of them. In security circles, is it the equivalent of farting at a wedding? Our beloved governments dare not mention liquid explosives when discussing the imperative need for scanning millions of innocent people with radiation emitting devices, and neither does the EU. They only dare refer to ‘Prohibited Items’. A more ambiguous objective for a multi-billion dollar scanner roll-out, I cannot imagine. Only the UK government admits that their scanner roll-out is in direct response to the underpants bomber debacle on the 25th December 2009. Still, they daren’t mention the weapon he was carrying – that’s taboo!
This was all born off the back of post-9/11 Terror Fever, so we know that it’s all about suicide terrorists. Who else would try to take a bomb aboard an aircraft? It’s unlikely to be an attack of the style we were told the Madrid bombers used, in which the apparent terrorists boarded overcrowded commuter trains, put their rucksack bombs down among the passengers and promptly got off again without their luggage and without so much as raise of an eyebrow from the soon-to-be victims (of course all of the scores of cctv cameras along the route and station platforms were switched off that morning). No, it would be impossible to perform that kind of attack at an airport, with or without the TSA. And it can’t be the style of attack that we were told Libya perpetrated against a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland. That bomb was placed in the hold and no passenger could possibly have had access. Nor are they trying to stop any airport workers slipping an explosive into the drinks trolley. No, no, no, the gin and tonics do not have to pass security scanners in 100ml bottles sealed inside transparent baggies.
So you see, we are definitely talking suicide bombers with bombs hidden beneath their clothes.
They are not looking for …
- Hand grenades – metal detector arches spot those.
- Dynamite sticks – sniffer dogs.
- Solid plastic explosives such as C2 – needs cables and batteries – metal detector arches again
They are primarily concerned with detecting LIQUID EXPLOSIVES. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
The underpants bomber carried liquid explosives because they do not require metallic parts that can easily be detected in traditional metal detector arches. He had TATP and PETN, which for those of you who have suffered seeing Die Hard 3, are the 2 magic liquids that, once mixed together, can explode with a simple shake of the wrist … apparently.
Richard Reid, the Shoe Bomber carried the same substances in the heels of his hollowed-out hiking boots, leading to the need to remove your shoes at airports over the last 10 years. Clearly (from this picture), he was not able to carry more than 100ml in each heel, so why do we have a ban only on bottles of liquids over 100ml? Either Reid was no real threat to his flight with his tiny amounts of explosives, or the airport liquids ban is a complete waste of time. Someone is not telling us the truth! In any account, the inept would-be shoe bomber had no idea of how to detonate the liquids and simply set fire to his foot.
And please ignore the likes of European Commissioner Siim Kallas who claimed in his report last year that the liquids ban should be lifted because most airports now have hand luggage scanners that can distiguish between PETN and shampoo. Less than 10% of EU airports have bought this technology and their screening processes cannot distinguish between different liquid substances. The airports are not buying it Mr Kallas. They don’t believe you. They still fear some other inept fool like Adulmutallab or Reid may still besmirch the name of their airport security staff. I’ll come back to Kallas and the real reason he
thinks the liquids ban should stop, later on.
Liquid explosives must be mixed on site. They cannot be practically mixed at home, dropped into several 100 ml bottles then put into a rucksack and casually tossed over ones shoulder to later be exploded at will. The final substance would be far too volatile, and could do just about anything while you are travelling to the airport. Everything from foaming up, letting off copious amounts of noxious fumes and/or even setting fire. Airport security might notice that one at a distance.
Once on board the aircraft, the terrorist would have to employ the following method … if destroying the aircraft were really his intention:
1. Very gradually, drop by drop, mix the two substances (PETN and TATP, for example) into a fireproof container. This process, it is said, would take around 5 hours considering the quantities necessary for the job.
2. Maintain the liquids and mixture at between 2 and 10 degrees centigrade. Any variation of this would render the liquids inert and inexplosive.
3. In the absence of adequate ventilation on board the aircraft, some sort of breathing apparatus would be needed as during the process as large amounts of noxious fumes would be produced.
So, if you happen to find yourself on a flight that lasts more than 5 hours and a passenger disappears into the WC for the duration of the flight with a couple of buckets of ice and a gas mask, and then the entire aircraft fills with chemical fumes, you should alert the cabin crew. If not, you have nothing to worry about.
That is what Mr Kallas at the European Commission must have realised just before he called for the lifting of the liquids ban.
That is why all the panic over liquid explosives is unwarranted.
That is why airport body scanners do nothing whatsoever to improve your safety.
And that is why unenlightened politicians exposed to the temptations of security industry lobbyists, or far too lazy to do a little bit of rational investigation into these so-called threats, should not be allowed to take human rights risking knee-jerk reactions after every inept would-be bomber sets fire to his clothes in public.
Currently, new legislation that gives the EU’s blessing to member states to use scanners, is moving slowly through the bureaucratic soup called Brussels. Not even the parliamentary members who have to approve the imminent new law know what they are voting on because the European Commission’s impact assessment which was finished in March 2011 has still not been published yet.
We have a copy though, even if the MEPs don’t.
I hope to post it on this site in a few days.
Scrap the Scanners
Liquid explosive list – http://www.aiexplosives.com/inspections_articles.asp?id=23
Liquid explosives impossible to mix on board a plane –http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=364×2011878
The improbability of liquid explosives – http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/faba743a-288c-11db-a2c1-0000779e2340,dwp_uuid=ac91a100-4fae-11da-8b72-0000779e2340.html#axzz1YuVTQtys
Schneier on the Implausibility of a Liquid Bomb Plot –http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/08/on_the_implausi.html
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
The following first appeared on the wall of “All Facebook Against Airport Full-Body Scanners“
From everyone at Scrap the Scanners, many thanks to Michelle for the story. We wish you all the very best with your treatment and hope you keep us up to date with all developments on this issue…. don’t let them get away with this!
Damage due to backscatter radiation – a first-hand account
While I was still in college I got a job with AS&E in Cambridge, MA.
I worked at their research facility on Mass Ave, a block away from the Orson Welles movie theater. Back then you didn’t have to buy pot to get high. All you had to do is to go to the movie theater. There was smoke everywhere. AS&E was a large four story beige building with huge lettering American Science and Engineering on it.
At that time AS&E had several grants from the Feds to develop scanning methodologies to be used at the airports. They had an interesting way of generating ideas. One of them was an ongoing interview process with literally hundreds of people who would come between 5 and 8 p.m. There was a team of 5 or 6 managers picking brains of all those scholars and physicists, and engineers. Many of the folks were either recent grads or worked at one of the many tech companies on Route 128. Managers would write reports after the interviews and argue pros and cons of all those ideas. Rarely did they extend a job offer.
One of my projects was to run comparison testing of different scanning methods, mostly backscatter and millimeter waves. Digital tech was still in its infancy and so most of the gear was analog.
I would vary the radiation dosages and place in the chamber cats and dogs with some weird clothing with lotsa pockets. I wore lead-meshed gloves to handle the pets and to protect myself from radiation.
Two or three weeks into the testing some of the dogs started shedding fur. I didn’t notice any changes with the cats.
After every experiment I would enter my observations into the journal. That would include time, day, dosage, pets name, intensity peaks, picture quality, etc. I also wrote about the shedding. My boss replaced the journals, and told me not to report any of that silly stuff.
Three months into the job, I noticed long white streaks on my arms and my chest. I showed them to my Physics professor who said that those are signs of the radiation poisoning. He suggested I quit working there. When I told my bosses at AS&E about my predicament they offered me money under the condition that I sign a waiver and a non-disclosure agreement. I was a student, poor, and foolish, and so I took the money.
Now, years later, those white streaks are still there.
Recently, I got admitted to the ER for an unrelated problem. Initially, the doctor who saw me said that they’ll fix me in no time. I had a CAT scan done all over my body. Two hours later the doc came to my room with several other doctors, and he looked grim. I was told that I have cancer spots all over my body, but the majority of spots were concentrated in the lungs. They asked me how long did I smoke. I told them I never smoked, and neither did anybody in my family.
They took pictures of my arms and my chest with the old x-ray burns. One of the gentlemen introduced himself as a clinical professor at the med school associated with that hospital. He asked me whether I’d be interested in their study. He’s offered me money to become a Guinea Pig, and said there will be more money later.
To be cont’d