won’t somebody please think of the children/terrorists!

Posted on 16 October 2009

airport_xray_scannerI’m pretty thrilled. Two of my favourite items of hysteria have collided and provided much confusing amusement – or confusement, if you like. The very people who are meant to keep us safe from the terrorists might actually be paedophiles hell bent on leering at our bald and naked children through new full-body airport scanners.

In fact, the scanner is so advanced and intrusive that under UK law the images it produces will very possibly qualify as child pornography. As a result, Manchester Airport will need to seek legal advice on whether or not it is able to allow under-18s to be scanned by the new machine when it launches next week.

I object to these new machines on the basis that they are unnecessary and invasive – especially if they are compromised by something as simple as having an under-18 be exempt. I’m also pretty sure that airport security remains incredibly easy to defeat by someone with enough motivation.

For instance, check out this article in the November 2008 edition of The Atlantic, it’s called “The Things He Carried.” Aided by Bruce Schneier, a regular and vocal critic of airport security and “security theater” in general, a journalist managed to board aircraft with fake boarding passes, wearing jihadist slogans on his clothing and on various occasions smuggling through pocket knives, toothpaste, bottles of water, nail clippers, scissors etc. etc. etc.

I think this quote does a pretty good job of summing it up:

“In some ways, if we’re relying on airport screeners to prevent terrorism, it’s already too late. After all, we can’t keep weapons out of prisons. How can we ever hope to keep them out of airports?”

It’s from Schneier himself on Airport Passenger Screening.

Meanwhile, how many times have airport screeners found that pair of scissors you forgot about in your bag – only it was on your return flight? Or your third or fourth flight? Everyone’s got a story of that sort and that’s when people have brought through prohibited items by accident.


1 Response to won’t somebody please think of the children/terrorists!

  • Ofir says:

    I disagree. I think the machines are less invasive than pat-downs and less likely to be used for pervy purposes due to the fact that the operators will not actually be able to see the person being scanned.

    I agree that there is a whole lot of hysteria and over-reaction surrounding airport security, and that the real solution lies well before the boarding gate. However, due to the fact that it’s very much about making people feel safe rather than actually making their flight safer, there’s demand for it and it’s not going to die down any time soon.
    So if we have to have security measures, I’d absolutely prefer a machine that shows a blue-tinged picture of my wobbly bits to someone 500m away to a vigorous pat down by an overzelous security officer.

    Good article, though.

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