Chertoff Argues for Whole Body Scanners
Former HSA Secretary Michael Chertoff has jumped into the fray over whether to use full body scanners with an op-ed in the Washington Post. He urges that Congress fund "a large-scale deployment of next-generation systems."
Most airport security checkpoints use metal detectors. Al-Qaeda has shown that it knows how to avoid detection by using an explosive device that contains little or no metal, such as PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, used by Abdulmutallab and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid in 2001.
It will only be a matter of time before terrorists figured out how to avoid detection with these machines as well. One reason: The Government's publicly available list of which machines have been purchased for airport use. Each one carriesthe name of the company that makes them, and the company's website has all the particulars about the machine, including in some cases, what a particular machine doesn't screen. [More...]
Alternatively, by searching various scanners' web pages, which anyone can find using google, they will see which ones are Government certified. For example, the Rapiscan WaveScan 200, advertises that "the WaveScan 200 millimeter wave sensors do not image anatomical details, thus protecting privacy."
How much of a leap is it from that advisement to figuring out hiding explosives in one's crotch will not be detected?
I can't tell if TSA is using the Rapidscan 200 yet, but it has been using the RapidScan 1000, whose web page contains this notice:
The United States Department of Homeland Security has certified the Rapiscan Secure 1000 as an approved product for homeland security. Please visit www.safetyact.gov for more information.
If you go to Safetyact.gov, you'll find all sorts of helpful information, such as this list of approved HSA airport equipment:
The following "Approved Product List for Homeland Security" is provided pursuant to 6 U.S.C. § 442(d)(3) (the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002, or “SAFETY Act”) and 6 C.F.R. § 25.7(j) (2004) (Regulations to Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies):
You can then peruse the list and find, for example,
Rapiscan Systems, Inc.: Secure 1000®
December 18, 2006 – Rapiscan Systems, Inc., provides the Secure 1000®, a non-intrusive personnel screening system designed to detect both metallic and nonmetallic objects (such as ceramic, plastic, metallic, and organic matter, including liquid and solid explosives) concealed under a person's clothing. This Designation and Certification will expire on December 31, 2011.
Or how about the Smiths Detection, Inc.: Sentinel II
December 13, 2005 - Smiths Detection, Inc. provides the Sentinel II, a non-intrusive walkthrough portal that detects trace amounts of explosive material on the human body. This Designation and Certification will expire on December 31, 2010.
If you go to the website for the Sentinel, it says:
The IONSCAN SENTINEL II answers the need for screening people for trace explosives or narcotics. With it’s high throughput, the SENTINEL II is ideal for applications where large numbers of people need to be screened for threats quickly, such as at airports, customs, military bases, correctional facilities, at high profile facilities and public events.
Past security incidents, evidenced by the “shoe bomber”, show the lengths that terrorists will go when attempting to carry out their plans. Only the SENTINEL II from Smiths Detection dislodges particles from head-to-toe for sampling. By increasing the area from where samples are taken, the SENTINEL II is better equipped to help you determine whether explosives or narcotics may be concealed on a person, or when traces of these substances may remain on someone after handling explosives or narcotic material.
It even tells you what it's capable of detecting:
Technology: Ion Mobility Spectrometry (IMS)
Explosives Detected : RDX, PETN, TNT, Semtex, NG and others
Narcotics Detected :Cocaine, Heroin, PCP, THC, Methamphetamine, Ecstasy and others
The company conveniently lists all their security checkpoint machines on one page.
These machines do reduce our privacy, but they are unlikely to stop someone who made a concerted effort to find out what airport is using what machine, and what that machine shows and doesn't, and how to get around it. So former Secretary Chertoff's arguments don't hold much water.
The machines are very expensive. Relying on them to safeguard us is just playing into the terrorists' plans. They aim to invoke fear and panic, and they realize they can do so even when their attack fails, as in Detroit. They know our reaction will be to ramp up security and spend vast amounts of money on machines that won't make a difference in the long run.
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