Unsurprising News

In addition to being expensive and compromising privacy, the new full-body scanners that the TSA is installing don’t work.

“I don’t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747,” Rafi Sela told parliamentarians probing the state of aviation safety in Canada.

“That’s why we haven’t put them in our airport,” Sela said, referring to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, which has some of the toughest security in the world.

We’ll still buy dozens of these quarter-million dollar devices for every airport, and we’ll soon be treated to stories of TSA agents fulfilling their back-of-the-comic-book, X-ray spectacle fantasies, because that’s just how we roll. We might be able to have a rational discussion about airport security after another decade has passed since 9/11, but right now we’re still hysterical, irrational and willing to spend anything to purchase the appearance of safety.

(via James Fallows)






39 replies
  1. 1
    Keith G says:

    But…but…last night on CSI…..

  2. 2

    I wonder how much the companies who make those machines have donated to Congresspeople and Senators, and who’s gotten the lion’s share?

    Although there’s more to it, of course. The general population has as much faith in technology, perhaps more, than they do in their god or gods. It’s the thing that’s supposed to be beyond reproach, even though we often can’t figure out how to program our DVR or set the clock on the microwave. I’ve grown a bit fatalistic about this sort of thing, I suppose. Then again, I fly about once every two or three years, so I don’t dwell on it.

  3. 3
    Monty says:

    But but but the manufacturer says full body scanners at airports are a valuable tool in fighting terror!

    They wouldn’t lie! Besides…pfft, Canada.

  4. 4
    jeffreyw says:

    Gives a whole new meaning to “security theater”-complete with surreptitious video cameras recording bootlegs. “Psst! Wanna buy some hot tapes of some hot babes?”

  5. 5
    BR says:

    It’s another step in us trying to solve our problems by adding another layer of complexity. Just like this:

    These three smoke plumes, interestingly enough, have a factor in common, and it’s the theme I want to discuss in this week’s post – not least because a great many of the crises we’re likely to face as the age of cheap abundant energy comes to an end also share that factor. All three of them resulted when people in a situation of high complexity tried to solve the problems of that situation by adding on an additional layer of complexity.

    Goldman Sachs, to begin with, has been in the business of making complex problems more complex for a very long time. One of the chapters of John Kenneth Galbraith’s excellent The Great Crash 1929, a book which ought to be required reading for all those people who think they understand the stock market, is titled “In Goldman, Sachs We Trust”; it’s an account of the preposterous investment vehicles – it does violence to the English language to call them “securities” – that Goldman Sachs floated in the 1929 stock market bubble. Very little has changed since then, either. In 1929, Goldman Sachs sold shares of investment trusts that speculated in shares of other investment trusts; in 2009, they sold tranches of CDOs composed of tranches of other CDOs, and in both cases they served mostly as a means by which a lot of people lost a lot of money while Goldman Sachs did quite well.

    It’s an interesting article at Energy Bulletin.

  6. 6
    zhak says:

    @Monty:

    That’s it. The manufacturers are pretty well-connected aren’t they?

    Look at how we’ve conducted our wars: ongoing & perpetual stimulus for the few & well-connected.

  7. 7
    WereBear says:

    You are just reacting like a typical Liberal (rational thinker) who is against the Free (Bribed) Market (Lobbyists)!

    Which is more important; actually doing something even if it’s not dramatic, or being seen doing something that’s big and splashy?

    You hate America.

  8. 8
    Seanly says:

    Yes, yes, buy lots & lots of scanners. AND CUT TAXES! Coz we’re taxed. enough. already. (get it – TEA)

    Oh, the government is running a huge deficit? Cut aid to kids, widows and the disabled and cut taxes! And buy more scanners. Strip search everyone except older, whiter people. Coz when did a white person ever do anything bad?

  9. 9
    bkny says:

    We’ll still buy dozens of these quarter-million dollar devices for every airport

    and that’s the rationale right there for the installation of these peeping NSA portholes. and the national security state wins with the additional dose of fear and control imposed over the citizens of this greatest democracy the universe has ever known.

    oh, and then, there’s this little conflict of interest:

    WASHINGTON – Since the attempted bombing of a US airliner on Christmas Day, former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff has given dozens of media interviews touting the need for the federal government to buy more full-body scanners for airports.

    What he has made little mention of is that the Chertoff Group, his security consulting agency, includes a client that manufactures the machines. Chertoff disclosed the relationship on a CNN program Wednesday, in response to a question.

  10. 10
    stevie314159 says:

    I predict that the day after someone explodes a device on a plane after going through a full body scanner, we will say it was all a government boondoggle.

    If a Democrat is president, of course.

    If a Republican is president, then “why do you hate the troops so much?”

  11. 11
    zed says:

    Wait wait wait wait wait, you’re saying Total Recall was a lie!?

    http://www.wired.com/images_bl.....eleton.jpg

    Take it back!

  12. 12
    John Quixote says:

    The people who live in constant fear of terrorism will never feel safe at the airport unless all people of color in said airport are all roped off and subjected to full body cavity searches. You know, like at the airport in Pheonix.

  13. 13
    JGabriel says:

    Mr. Mix:

    We might be able to have a rational discussion about airport security after another decade has passed since 9/11, but right now we’re still hysterical, irrational and willing to spend anything to purchase the appearance of safety.

    I don’t know. If I remember correctly, hysteria and irrationality were pretty much hallmarks of the 20th century too, at least the latter half. Maybe it’s just the modern American way.

    .

  14. 14
    gnomedad says:

    willing to spend anything to purchase the appearance of safety.

    Unless the money is going to pay attractive salaries to skilled security people. Then, not so much.

  15. 15
    danimal says:

    It’s all a plot by the pron industry. Those bootleg tapes will be worth a LOT. Especially the famous people. Also, too.

  16. 16
    bkny says:

    in other unsurprising news — via texas:

    State Rep. Leo Berman this week said he’s planning to file several immigration-related bills once Texas lawmakers get back to work in January, including one that requires presidential and vice presidential candidates to prove their citizenship to the Texas secretary of state before their names are added to the ballot.

    This is similar to one provision in the immigration law recently approved in Arizona.

    “We’ll do it,” said Berman, R-Tyler, and a former Arlington mayor pro tem. “We’ll do it from now on. If he can’t prove citizenship … he won’t have a place on the Texas ballot.”

    Berman was referring to President Barack Obama, whose birthplace has been questioned by some since before he took office. Although his campaign produced a birth certificate that shows Obama was born in Hawaii, some speculate that he was actually born in Kenya, where his father lived.

    Last weekend, Berman told a crowd in Tyler that he believes “Barack Obama is God’s punishment on us today, but … we are going to make Obama a one-term president,” according to a report in the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

  17. 17
    Ted the Slacker says:

    I’ve been through Ben-Gurion airport on several occasions, and they have none of the stupid technology we think will make a difference.

    You go through a metal detector, your luggage – all of it – gets searched, and you get a pat down. Then you go check in, go through immigration control and they leave you alone.

    No profiling, no private security goon in sight, just properly trained and properly paid gubmint employees doing the job. It used to be the case that you gave yourself an extra 45-60 minutes to go through Ben-Gurion than you would with other airports, but now it makes no difference. We just have stupid fucking technology and even stupider rules to slow up a fundamentally simple process which the Israelis manage to do with people and so far with a 100% success rate.

    Ps. Got me an extended family in Iran so if anyone were to get a proper shit-kicking from the Israelis it would be me. But never happened.

  18. 18
    Evolutionary says:

    Do the explosive sniffer booths work? I have been through those at several airports.

  19. 19
    Violet says:

    Security theater, bitches!

  20. 20
    Glen Tomkins says:

    A renewable resource

    “We might be able to have a rational discussion about airport security after another decade has passed since 9/11, but right now we’re still hysterical, irrational and willing to spend anything to purchase the appearance of safety.”

    More than six decades after WWII ended, we still haven’t gotten around to standing down the massive military establishment we raised to fight that war. After all of our previous wars for which we had raised massive armies, we then promptly disbanded those armies, and reduced our forces to the corporal’s gaurd needed to defend our shores between these temporary threats.

    We didn’t disband our military after WWII because we had a very deliberate, ongoing policy of stoking and extending the terror of suitably nebulous foreign threats needed to get the electorate to support the ruinous expense of a permanent war footing.

    We’re seeing the same policy of deliberate electoral terrorism with the GWOT today. The war on “terror” is simply the latest, in many ways the most ingenious, refinement of the policy of terrorizing the electorate. “Terror” is the perfect imaginary enemy for an endless “war”. We can never win, because there is no actual enemy military force to defeat, so the gravy train of voter terrorization never ends.

    No doubt another 9/11 would be useful in maintaining the terror. But this recent Underpants Bomber episode is a clear demonstration that actual threats of any magnitude are absolutely not necessary to terror maintenance. Even the publically released version of events, incomplete as it is, is still sufficient to categorically exclude the idea that this was a serious attempt to blow up an airplane, a near miss. These “terrorists” are either simply too stupid to apply the tried-and-true method of detonating plastic explosives, the blasting cap, in which case they are no threat, or existing measures must be adequate to keeping blasting caps off of airplanes.

    Yet this act of an obviously mentally disturbed person, who had no more chance of bringing down an airliner with PETN lit by a match than he would have by using brain waves, has been sufficient to spark another wave of such completely pointless measures as these scanners. Well, I shouldn’t say pointless, because the very sharp point of precisely the utter pointlessness of these scanners, is that the reality of this unreal Terror is simply impervious to any rational oversight. No episode that supporters of the GWOT care to portray as a potentially deadly terrorist strike can be questioned, at all, and must be accepted on all hands as proof that we need to not only keep our guard up, but raise that guard to ever more absurd new heights.

    We obviously don’t need a string of more 9/11s to maintain the Terror. If the Underpants Bomber will do, then this thing will never end, because it can be sustained on nothing. If only we could find something so effortlessly sustainable to run our cars.

  21. 21
    fanshawe says:

    So, you’re saying we shouldn’t base air-travel-security procedures on the fears of 85-year-old ladies who fly once every 12-15 years?

  22. 22

    No shit, Sherlock. More money wasted, and yet, sure to be eagerly defended by the same souls who decry the waste of taxpayers monies to pay for healthcare for everyone. I have said for some time that we need full-body strip searches, every piece of luggage hand-inspected, no stores on the inside the security area, and then and only then might we be something nearing safe.

    @Violet: Security theatre, indeed! Where’s my popcorn?

  23. 23
    Ash Can says:

    @bkny:

    What he has made little mention of is that the Chertoff Group, his security consulting agency, includes a client that manufactures the machines.

    I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

  24. 24
    fucen tarmal says:

    its real simple, everyone flies naked. carryon items go the way of the smoking section.

    at check in, before you disrobe, the airlines will sell you a cosmetic prosthetic to cover your “inadequacies” male or female…or non gender specific….if you so desire….

    if you choose to purchase the prosthetic, you will be whisked by airline personnel to a fitting room, your clothes will be taken and put with your luggage, if you don’t care to purchase a prosthetic, you will get naked in the terminal, put your clothes in your bag and hand the bag to be checked…..

    real easy, at the end of the flight you surrender your prosthetic to airline personnel at the baggage claim “unfitting” room. where you get your bags and put on your clothes away from the rabble at baggage claim/dressing.

    i trust this country to make fake realistic naughty bits more than i do, to make real security.

  25. 25
    mellowjohn says:

    wife and i flew out of key west recently. as a person with many metal parts, i was subjected to the usual “operation window dressing” pat-down and was also treated to a free, extra — a finger swab (to see if i’d washed my hands, i guess).
    we then went down to the departure lounge, where there was a wide open door to the outside, with people coming in and out. as far as i could see, there was no separation between passengers who’d been thru security and those people just passing thru to the restaurant/bar/gift shop.

  26. 26

    @fucen tarmal: I like it! I would be willing to follow your instructions.

    And, just to mention, the last time I went through the security beepy-thingy, it did, indeed, beep at me. I went back through, took off my pedometer and earrings and walked through again. It beeped yet again. The guy asked if I had a belt or a necklace or something else. I said no. I was tempted to tell him I had on an underwire bra, but no. Then, he stepped back and told me to walk through again. I did, no beep. So, apparently, he was setting off the beepy-thingy. Nice.

  27. 27
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Incertus (Brian):

    I wonder how much the companies who make those machines have donated to Congresspeople and Senators, and who’s gotten the lion’s share?

    Although there’s more to it, of course.

    I think that explains about 99.97% of what there is to explain. This is a country where the federal government imposed mandatory testing in schools because the president’s brother owned the testing company.

  28. 28
    twiffer says:

    sensible security? my 2 year old still has to take his shoes off to go through security. cause, you know, i could conceivably get enough explosives to take down a plane into the soles of toddler sized shoes.

    i wouldn’t mind the sniffer machines if i didn’t have to go through them barefoot. what the fuck is the point of them, if they aren’t really going to detect anything? besides show, that is.

    sure, some of the more idiotic restrictions have been lifted, such as the lighter ban. over all, it’s onerous and ineffective. i still get my carryon searched nearly every time i fly, because TSA doesn’t know what a pipe tamper is.

  29. 29
    rdale says:

    “and bring in the machine that goes Ping!” -Monty Python, The Meaning of Life.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arCITMfxvEc

  30. 30
    YellowJournalism says:

    @twiffer:

    sensible security? my 2 year old still has to take his shoes off to go through security. cause, you know, i could conceivably get enough explosives to take down a plane into the soles of toddler sized shoes

    I can top that: Just before my oldest son’s first birthday, I was asked to remove his socks because they were decorated to look like shoes. I had already removed his actual shoes, which had been those Robeez booties. They also made me remove the little sweater jacket he was wearing, even though the TSA agent watched me remove his actual jacket.

  31. 31
    Tenzil Kem says:

    If you really want a laugh (or to get depressed), read one of the TSA Blog’s entries about these idiotic scanners. They won’t release what the scans look like, they won’t reveal what happens when the scans detect something, they won’t say if the operators of the scanners are searched to make sure they don’t have a camera or recording device, and they won’t acknowledge any security professional’s criticisms of the scanners. It’s beyond pathetic.

  32. 32
    Persia says:

    @jeffreyw: The transgender community figures there’ll be a lot of ‘spot the X’ games played. Which, you know. Eeeww.

  33. 33
    jayackroyd says:

    I really wish the idiot media would not use the word “tough” so much. Any word that can be applied to both idiotic laws permitting law enforcement to demand paper AND to a well thought out, effective security system is essentially meaningless. It may be “tough” to virtually strip search people, or to make them buy lots of little bottles to put their explosive liquids it, but it is certainly not effective.

    I spoke with James Fallows and Bruce Schneier about this idiocy not long ago.

    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/v.....s-fallows-

    Fallows is particularly clear on the bind that politicians are in. If they stop making people take off their shoes, and then a group of suicide bombers garrote the marshals with dental floss (add two toothbrushes, and that’s what you have), take their guns, and blow the cockpit up, it will be the absence of shoe inspections that will be blamed.

  34. 34
    Nutella says:

    Within two days of installing these in UK airports, with assurances that it was technically impossible that they could be misused since the images could not be recorded, this made the papers: Bollywood movie star going through security notices guards giggling and pointing and sees that they have on paper the image of him from the machine. He autographed it for them and told the paper that he didn’t mind since his package was of respectable size.

    I’m sure everyone flying through the UK feels much safer now.

  35. 35
    jayackroyd says:

    @fucen tarmal

    I know that is meant to be parody, but if they were serious about this stuff, then you would indeed strip to the skin, get issued a disposable robe and slippers, and board with nothing.

    All these stupid half assed, useless measures are purely security theater.

  36. 36
    ET says:

    I know why we buy these – security theater.

    These are just to make Americans feel better. Americans had gotten so used to feeling safe that when 9/11 happened and we realized that in truth we were never as safe as we thought, they wanted that feeling of security and invincibility back. Installing these is government’s way of making it look like they are doing something which in turn would make people feel safer. The fact that this won’t make people safer is irrelevant – it was never about making people safer only making them feel safer.

  37. 37
    Tonal Crow says:

    I’m boycotting nonessential air travel to protest full-body scans. We have given away far too much of our liberty. It’s time not just to stop the giveaways, but to reverse course and restore the liberties we’ve lost — like those that generally prohibit warrantless searches and seizures.

  38. 38
    Kyle says:

    @bkny:

    Last weekend, Berman told a crowd in Tyler that he believes “Barack Obama is God’s punishment on us today, but … we are going to make Obama a one-term president,” according to a report in the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

    Fuck East Texas. Just fuck them all. Redneck bigot violent inbred Xtian-fascist assholes.

  39. 39
    Dayv says:

    While he may be right, I think it’s worth noting that the same expert speaking out against these scanners says that he prefers behavioral profiling and preferred traveler programs, both of which are pretty deeply flawed.

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