Edward Luttwak, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has a must read op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal… In short Mr. Luttwak lays way waste to the fallacy of body scanners in airport security screening:
All males have a body cavity. Females have two body cavities. In prisons, these body cavities are habitually used to smuggle drugs and improvised weapons past body searches, including complete nudity strip searches.
Given the power of widely available explosives, the amount that can be carried inside a body cavity—let alone two—is sufficient to destroy ordinary pressurized airliners at normal flight altitudes. That makes “pat downs,” or indeed any form of physical inspection that is remotely feasible in any airport of any normal country, entirely futile. That alone rules out scanners as a solution unless they are both very-high definition and pat downs are not allowed as an alternative.
Futility has not of course deterred the United States from creating and operating a vast Transportation Security Administration apparatus critically dependent on metal detectors. At enormous cost, and by inflicting enormous inconvenience, it almost guarantees the detection of any explosive device—so long as it is firmly attached to a nail clipper.
Reliance on metal detectors was dubious from the start not only because they cannot detect explosives as such, but because they cannot even detect knives if they are made out of ceramic. Some manufacturers of ceramic knives add metal to them specifically to allow detection. Others do not and their knives are just as lethal—certainly more so than the short box cutters used by the 9/11 terrorists.
Our current airport screening system is destined to fail for the simple reason it places to much emphasis on screening for and finding things. If we really want to improve security we have to invest as much if not more resources in screening people and identifying potential threats as we do in finding weapons
The body scanners currently being pushed as the best way to prevent another “underwear bomber” only perpetuate that “things” mentality… Our enemies aren’t stupid, and as Mr. Luttwak points out the body scanners can be easily defeated.
It’s time we faced reality and realized that invading our physical privacy at airports isn’t going to make us safer, we need to focus on people not just things.