Scrap the full-body x-rays – there’s a better approach

The US government is starting off 2010 the way it has so often in the past – with a knee-jerk reaction to something that occurred the previous year.  This time around, it’s the response to the not-so-bright Nigerian would-be terrorist who ignited himself instead of explosives hidden in his underwear aboard a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.

The reaction thus far by the federales involves plans to purchase and install hundreds of supposedly high-tech full-body scanning machines at airports.  Everyone from Capitol Hill to former and current secretaries of Homeland Security is calling for hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to be spent on not-yet proven “back-scatter” x-ray machines.  Despite legitimate questions about the privacy-invasive nature of these all-revealing machines, the pressure for their purchase and installation is likely to be irresistible.

Yet serious questions remain unanswered regarding the capability of these back-scatter x-ray machines to even detect the type of low-density, liquid chemicals the Christmas Day would-be bomber employed.  One defense-industry firm in the United Kingdom, for example, already has determined through studies and tests that these whole body x-ray machines the US government is bent on installing, are ineffective.  Testing conducted by the company, QinetiQ, found “it was unlikely that the body scanners would have picked up the current explosive devices being used by al-Qaeda,” because while detecting shrapnel, heavy wax and metal, the scanners reportedly cannot detect plastic, chemicals and liquids.  (Other devices that employ so-called “stand-off” scanners, which pose no privacy problems and which may do a better job of indicating liquids hidden in clothing, are being tested currently.)

The rush to install these back-scatter x-ray machines brings to mind the boondoggle just a couple of years ago, when the government spent millions of dollars to install “puffer” machines at airports around the country.  Where are these snazzy machines now?  They’re sitting in warehouses.  Why?  Because they didn’t work properly and kept breaking down.

It’s one thing for a parent to rush to Toys R Us to plunk down a few dollars for the latest toy fad; only to discover a few days or weeks later that their kids have broken or lost interest in the devices.  It’s quite another for the US government to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to buy equipment supposed to ensure the safety of the citizenry without properly testing and ensuring it will in fact – and over the long run – do what it is supposed to do.

The rush for technological gadgetry obscures continuing deficiencies in our government’s ability and indeed, willingness, to do what it ought to be doing to help ensure commercial air safety.  No, it’s not the nonsensical new regulations that would prohibit passengers from using the on-board lavatories or which prohibit covering oneself with a blanket because many airlines insist on keeping their cabins five degrees cooler than the outside ambient air temperature.

It’s called practicing good “intelligence.”

Airport security devices that detect weapons and explosives are fine and necessary (if they work and are not overly invasive); but they are – or should be viewed as — a last line of defense.  The first – and best – defense is good, sound and timely intelligence that is then acted on by the right people at the right time.  This means using such intelligence on known and would-be terrorists to develop intelligence-based criteria as a basis for conducting legitimate airport screening.

This is not “profiling.”  Profiling of all or a segment of a racial, religious, ethnic or national group is a fool’s errand.  It may sound nice to talk-show hosts, but if we spend time and resources searching everyone who fits a pre-conceived “profile,” all terrorist groups need do to escape such scrutiny would be to enlist persons to carry out their deeds who don’t fit that profile.

On the other hand, employing intelligence-based criteria is neither a static nor an artificial methodology.  It relies on coordinating your foreign intelligence operation globally and domestically, and focusing on the ever-changing methodology employed by terrorist groups.

Such an approach is much more cost-effective than rushing to buy the latest technological bells and whistles every time there is a problem or a security breach.  Yes, detection devices can and should be a part – an important part – in our arsenal of tools with which to thwart terrorist attacks.  But such technology must be employed responsibly, and only after they have been thoroughly tested, and then in a manner consistent with our Constitution and legal system.

The underlying foundation for our entire terrorist defense system must be and remain sound, timely and actionable intelligence.  And that should include the use of intelligence-based criteria for airport and port-of-entry screening.

36 comments Add your comment

jt

January 6th, 2010
6:49 am

“And that should include the use of intelligence-based criteria for airport and port-of-entry screening.”

First, one must find intelligence among the federal workers. Easier said than done.

TnGelding

January 6th, 2010
7:35 am

But anyone that doesn’t fit their profile would not carry out their deeds. They’re insane with hatred. The full body scans should be available to those that don’t object to hasten entry. I would suggest increasing the use of bomb-sniffing dogs. The rest of the Muslim world has to join us in identifying and eradicating the Jihadist.

jt

January 6th, 2010
6:49 am

I worked in all sectors, and federal workers are as intelligent as any others. It’s the policy that is insane. When I was asked to take off my shoes I replied are you kidding? They weren’t. How many more trillions of dollars are we going to waste because of 09/11?

Chris Broe

January 6th, 2010
7:41 am

Why not a dog on every plane? The answer is that the dog would never survive the airline food. The shoe/BVD bombers were rogues. Jay Bookman thinks they were Al Queda masterminds intending only to frighten passengers, not blow up the plane.

Jay deduced this by postulating, “why would a bomber return to his seat where passengers could prevent him from igniting the explosive?” Because the passengers didn’t prevent anything. The trigger was pulled on those bombs. The clothing bombs were duds. The rogues were incompetent, thank God. The passengers were in as much danger as the Roadrunner was (from the Coyote and his ACME IEDs).

Thank God coyote don’t wear underwear, eh? Oh, brother!

These failed bombs are not from Al Queda. The 7 CIA casualties in Afghanistan are Al Queda. Let me introduce you to the survivors of the Cheney blitz into Iraq, people. Al Queda. Osama Bin Laden. These are not fools, or cartoons, or anything you want to trust cartooned-fools to guard against.

Harry Potter and the Klingons and the BVD bomber all used a cloaking device, and that’s how much the passengers helped in preventing the disasters.

We are a species that stand in awe of a spaceship with wings and landing gear. The shuttle requires 3 (count ‘em) three rockets to lift off. Smoke comes out of my ears when I think of the ignorance of such a concept. A spaceship with wings. Triple the risk of a rocket failure on every launch. An incalculable reentry-risk increase with the exotic angles on the wings and wheel houses. Real Flash Gordon. (OMG another cartoon!)

We live and think and act through our cartoons. We entertain cartoonish conspiracy theories. “Avatar” is the new Rush whipping boy. Any questions?

We are sitting ducks for the real world enemy. Glenn Beck just closed his last show with this patriotic rally: “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me Disney or give me Darth (Vader).”

Craig

January 6th, 2010
7:45 am

Bob I have to disagree with you here on your view on profiling. While your point makes sense that they would recruit people who dont fit the profile, when it comes to suicide bombers, I think only muslims will apply. In regard to terroristic acts over the last 10 years or so, the overwhelming majority have been performed by muslim men 18-44 years old. Its time to take political correctness out of this situation and to realize that these are the people we need to be focusing our intelligense efforts on. We dont need to body search granny just to “make it fair”.We need common sense.

I agree (and disagree)

January 6th, 2010
8:25 am

I think that your comment “This means using such intelligence on known and would-be terrorists to develop intelligence-based criteria as a basis for conducting legitimate airport screening” is dead-on. We need to get past the political correctness mindset and focus on protecting live. So what if every dark-haired tanned guy gets frisked a few extra times a year when the option is 300 people free-falling from 36,000 feet?

I do disagree with your concerns aboout scans being overly invasive. Again, who cares if someone sees an image of my “pee-pee” or my wife’s “boobies” on a monitor in another room when it might save lives? Big deal. We need to get focused on RESULTS, not the minor inconveniences and intrusions that might occur in getting those results.

Ridgerunner

January 6th, 2010
8:47 am

Something even more simple …………. place a little pig in a cage in the front of each plane for all to see as they board. Allah don’t like pigs.

LibraryJim

January 6th, 2010
8:48 am

Why not just require that everyone who flies board the plane in a bathing suit (hopefully not a speedo, however!)? For those who are concerned about body shape, a Hawaiian-style shirt or robe could be provided in the dressing area.

Problem solved.

LibraryJim

January 6th, 2010
8:49 am

@ Ridgerunner: If I ever fly again, I plan to carry a bag of fried pork rinds with me, in plain view.

El Jefe

January 6th, 2010
9:15 am

There seems to have been plenty of red flags on the crotch commando, enough to make him look like the daily special at the big box store.

Why is it that the State Department issues entry visas without checking Homeland Security – oh, wait, that’s right Napolitano only thinks we have to worry about DOMESTIC terrorists, not foreign.

I would think that with 30+ intelligent agencies(or those that think they are) within the beltway, we would have a better handle on our enemies. Maybe, we over think it?

jconservative

January 6th, 2010
9:59 am

“The first – and best – defense is good, sound and timely intelligence that is then acted on by the right people at the right time.”

Here is the problem with “good intelligence”. Remember the pre-9/11 intelligence the US had? Two of the 9/11 guys followed by the CIA for 2 years, but the FBI, State, Defense or NSA never told. Top Secret!
Guys learning how to take off & fly but not to land. FBI agents sent in the reports, all buried. The dots were not connected.

The administration swore that we would overhaul the system, that in the future the dots would be connected. Page forward 9 years. We have all the data on the Nigerian but do not connect the dots. Do you see a trend here?

Look guys, you cannot blame the politicians on something like this.
The problem is more fundamental, it is a reliance on Government.
Do you really believe that the “Government” is efficient enough to
keep terrorists attacks from US soil? If you believe the government cannot handle health care, why do you think they can handle terrorism? If government could not handle Katrina, why do you think they can handle terrorism?

Government will do what it can and some attacks will be stopped. Maybe most attacks will be stopped. But not all! The American people need to realize that we are in a war, and in war you always take casualties.

We need to take the war out of politics. Politicians only set policy.
The execution of the policy is by career bureaucrats. And the war on terror is a war of execution, as the last nine years has proved.

Ridgerunner

January 6th, 2010
10:33 am

LibraryJim:

LOL !! ………….. and wear one of those little pig noses.

Jess

January 6th, 2010
10:37 am

For this president and congress, unless you can spend billions of dollars on a fix, it ain’t a fix. This is all these people know how to do.

rdh

January 6th, 2010
10:51 am

It is true that the full body scanners would not have detected this Christmas Day bomber. In fact, the ONLY current technology that would have detected this bomb is a strip search and then someone inspecting the guy’s underwear!

That’s what we are currently down to: strip searches with underwear inspection.

The minute some terrorist sticks a bomb up his rectum, are we going to have to strip, bend over and spread our cheeks for the TSA?

Fix-It

January 6th, 2010
10:57 am

A lot of Americans have become so insulated from reality that they imagine America can suffer defeat without any inconvenience to themselves.

Absolutely No Profiling! Pause a moment, reflect back, and take the following multiple choice test.

These events are actual events from history. They really happened! Do you remember?

HERE’S THE TEST

1 1968 Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by:
a. Superman
b. Jay Leno
c. Harry Potter
d. A Muslim male extremist between the ages of 17 and 40

2. In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and massacred by :
a. Olga Corbett
b. Sitting Bull
c. Arnold Schwarzenegger
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

3. In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by:
a. Lost Norwegians
b. Elvis
c. A tour bus full of 80-year-old women
d . Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

4. During the 1980’s a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by:
a. John Dillinger
b. The King of Sweden
c. The Boy Scouts
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

5. In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by:
a. A pizza delivery boy
b. Pee Wee Herman
c. Geraldo Rivera
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

6. In 1985 the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked and a 70 year old,
American passenger was murdered and thrown overboard in his wheelchair by:
a. The Smurfs
b. Davey Jones
c. The Little Mermaid
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

7. In 1985 TWA flight 847 was hijacked at Athens , and a US Navy diver trying
to rescue passengers was murdered by:
a Captain Kidd
b.. Charles Lindberg
c. Mother Teresa
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

8. In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed by:
a. Scooby Doo
b. The Tooth Fairy
c. The Sundance Kid
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

9. In 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed the first time by:
a. Richard Simmons
b Grandma Moses
c. Michael Jordan
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

10. In 1998, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzaniawere bombed by:
a.. Mr. Rogers
b. Hillary Clinton, to distract attention from Wild Bill’s women problems
c. The World Wrestling Federation
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

11. On 9/11/01, four airliners were hijacked; two were used as missiles to
take out the World Trade Centers and of the remaining two, one crashed into the US
Pentagon and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers.
Thousands of people were killed by:
a. Bugs Bunny, Wiley E. Coyote, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd
b. The Supreme Court of Florida
c. Mr Bean
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

12. In 2002 the United States fought a war inAfghanistan against:
a. Enron
b. The Lutheran Church
c. The NFL
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

13. In 2002 reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by:
a. Bonnie and Clyde
b. Captain Kangaroo
c. Billy Graham
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

No, I really don’t see a pattern here to justify profiling, do you? So, to ensure we Americans never offend anyone, particularly fanatics intent on killing us, airport security screeners will no longer be allowed to profile certain people. They must conduct random searches of 80-year-old women, little kids, airline pilots with proper identification, secret agents who are members of the President’s security detail, 85-year old Congressmen with metal hips, and Medal of Honor winner and former Governor Joe Foss, but leave Muslim Males between the ages 17 and 40 alone lest they be guilty of profiling.

Let’s send this to as many people as we can so that the Gloria Aldreds and other dunder-headed attorneys along with Federal Justices that want to thwart common sense, feel ashamed of themselves — if they have any such sense.

As the writer of the award winning story ‘Forrest Gump’ so aptly put it, ‘Stupid is as stupid does.’

JC

January 6th, 2010
11:38 am

Bravo Fix-It. Well said & funny. But alas, the Muslim male extremists are now brain-washing, recruiting and coercing their sisters, wives, girl friends and little kids to blow themselves up for the cause. Insanity in the name of religion or nationalism knows no bounds. When we stop sending our billions to the oil kingdoms so we can drive our SUV’s to the mall, they will lose the means to recruit and train these psycopaths. The oil despots have so much of our money they don’t care if 1/2 their population (women) are kept un-scooled and non-productive (except for manufacturing more male children to grow up and hate us.)

Rickster

January 6th, 2010
12:34 pm

Well done, Fix-it. I’m already copying & pasting.

As long as our security efforts are focused on weapons, and not on those intent to use them, we’re wasting time, lives and billions of dollars.

Enoughisenough

January 6th, 2010
12:37 pm

Soon we will all be asked to remove our clothing in a room supervised by TSA agents and we’ll be issued an orange jumpsuit to fly in. When we reach our destination, our clothes will be returned to us, and we can get on with our lives. How much freedom will we give up in the name of “safety”? How stupid are we? America is no longer the home of the free. I’m looking for a Delorean to take me back to 1950.

DAVID-AJC Truth Detector

January 6th, 2010
12:38 pm

SIMPLE…….FOLLOW ISRAEL’s MODEL……..

Swede Atlanta

January 6th, 2010
12:39 pm

The only solution is to have a layered approach using intelligence, profiling, technology and lastly human observations.

Obama rightly admits that the intelligence was there but there was a lack of sharing and “connecting the dots”. But there were other failures. I know for a fact there is a profiling system in place at least for U.S. domestic flights based on certain behavior associated with your trip. For example if you purchase a one-way ticket, purchase with cash, purchase or change last minute. Those are all flags that at a minimum get you subject to additional screening. That is a form of profiling just as geographic or other profiling.

I would prefer that we step back, assess what happened and develop a sustainable action plan. Let’s not throw money and technology at a problem unless we know the technology works. Trust me, the minute the full body scanners are mandated, the bad guys will get ahold of one of them or enough information to develop ways of disarming the technology.

I heard that one idea was fto insert the material into the person and then extract it in flight much the way that drug smugglers swallow condoms full of cocaine. I don’t believe these scanners x-ray you through. I think their observations are limited to the peripheral of the human body, i.e. whatever is on the outside.

There needs to be better linkage of intel so that a visa issued prior to someone becoming a person of interest, such as in this case, is revoked. The challenge is how to link the intel in a way that doesn’t bankrupt the country. Computers can only do so much and you can’t hire your way out of this problem either.

BS Aplenty

January 6th, 2010
12:46 pm

Question found on the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) hiring test for airport screening personnel.

When visually surveying Muslim passengers to determine potential high-risk individuals, which of the following responses would best convey the passenger’s peaceful intentions:

a. That bulge in my pants is not a chemicals stash
b. Yes, my boobs really are that big,
c. My chest is naturally asymetrical (so you can quit staring)
d. Any chance the cute screener over there can perform a full-body search?

Ray Pugh

January 6th, 2010
12:55 pm

I can’t wait to see the looks on the TSA officials’ faces when they scan ‘Ol Ray…

Chris Broe

January 6th, 2010
1:18 pm

I know, Porky Pig. Another cartoon.

Joan

January 6th, 2010
2:39 pm

I want to know the name of the company that makes the full body scanners–need to invest in it. Anybody wonder if there isn’t a little sponsorship going on here?

Rickster

January 6th, 2010
2:59 pm

Hey Fix-It… here’s an extra credit question for your test:

14. In November, 2009, 12 US Army soldiers were killed and 32 others wounded at their home base of Fort Hood, Texas by:
a. Charlie Brown
b. Snoopy
c. The Red Baron
d. A Muslim male extremist between the ages of 17 and 40

dewstarpath

January 6th, 2010
3:21 pm

C. Broe – 7:41 am

I did count the engines the Space Shuttle needs to lift-off:

3 – Main Engines (SSME’s) + 2 – Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB’s)

If rockets are engines, wouldn’t that make five?

Chris Broe

January 6th, 2010
4:08 pm

Thank you, Wernher Von Braun.

Rational Person

January 6th, 2010
4:38 pm

Gee, Mr. Fix-it, you seem to have overlooked:

The Unabomber
Richard Poplawski
Timothy McVeigh
Charles Manson
Eric Rudolph
James von Brunn
The KKK
Stormfront
The Virginia Tech shooter
The Columbine shooters
Scott Roeder
David Koresh

Not a Muslim in that bunch. If we profile, we miss a lot of potential killers.

tron88

January 7th, 2010
6:54 am

Rational Person. You suffer from exception to the rule syndrome. As well as Mr. Barr in this case, The idea that all possibilities of injury or death will be ended, is infantile, however to waste time by examining people who are not within a particular group, who is responsible now for all instances of terrorism. In Israel, its not profiling so much as it is a question of something called results. Their airlines have not had a terrorist incident in decades, and they do this by looking for cues, and some elements of profiling, mixed with technology. We should stop pretending this is going to go away, and also end the unibomber and Timothy McVeigh (both of which were not suicide bombers) comparison. Its not going to work as its been 15 years since 1995. I would gladly take my chances with those statistics.

MrLiberty

January 7th, 2010
12:12 pm

Let’s of course not forget the knee-jerk reaction to 9-11. First the Patriot Act, then the creation of the ever-failing Homeland Security Administration, then the TSA. Ring any bells Mr. Barr? I know you voted for all of them.

The problem is government. We have been slaughtering muslim men ages 17-40 along with their innocent wives, children, mothers, fathers, and friends, since we invaded and decimated the Phillipines in the late 1800’s. If clowns like Fix-It only want to do surveys about the perpetrators of crimes against americans, that might make their conscience feel better, but it does little to expose the true motivating factors behind those crimes.

Here’s a quick 1 question test that everyone should be able to answer:

What country am I describing?

Invaded the Phillipines in order to suppress an independence movement of the people following the elimination of Spanish rule and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of citizens who had never even threatened the country in question; unilaterally supported the state of Israel both politically and miliarily since its bloody founding in 1948 including the veto of over 60 UN Security Council resolutions against them; invaded and now occupies Afghanistan in a move no different than the Soviet invasion of 1979 – despite no attack from Afghanistan against the country; invaded Iraq, destroyed the infrastructure and then imposed sanctions that killed nearly 1.5 million people, then invaded them again and now occupies them against the wishes of the people all under the lie of WMD; provided the weaponry Saudi Arabia used to launch its recent attack against citizens of neighboring Yemen; continues to illegally attack and kill innocent citizens of the sovereign nation of Pakistan against the wishes of that government; signed a treaty back in the early 20th century to prop up and support the royal family of Saudi Arabia despite the human rights violations they continuously commit against their people, all to secure easy oil rights for standard oil; and the list counld go on and on, and on?

Of course its the US.

Its the foreign policy stupid.

Any John Smith

January 7th, 2010
4:58 pm

I agree with Bob in scraping the full-body x-rays. Yes, there is a better way: That is, prohibit any flights entering the US from a muslim country (Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, etc, etc.). Station numerous undercover security personnel, ala El Al, in airports and remove and thoroughly question and search bodies and luggage of any arab-looking person or anyone with a muslim name. Employ bomb-sniffing dogs as well. Anyone who refuses to cooperate is put on a bus to the country’s national security headquarters for further interrogation. Regarding incoming flights, all airlines must comply with these safeguards. If not, they will be banned from entering the US. All terrorists have been muslims. Too bad about the profiling but without common sense, we will not survive.

Any John Smith

January 7th, 2010
5:02 pm

Dear Rational Person,
Just to clarify, the criminals you referenced did not blow up airliners.
Why don’t you take a stroll through the streets of Beheadistan and see how long you last there?
Cheers.

Jenkees

January 7th, 2010
6:17 pm

Chris Broe! You’re on the right track. Where are the dogs? I’ve seen dogs sniff out less than a gram of marijuana in a pile of cow poop! Maybe it’s because they have over 10,000 times the olfactory glands in their snouts. A BOMB SNIFFING DOG WOULD HAVE CAUGHT THIS GUY! (Sorry for shouting, but no-one listens if you don’t.)Anyway, the dogs can find anything the metal detectors don’t. They can even be trained to smell that you’re nervous! Oh, and they’re a lot cheaper!

Hard Right Hook

January 8th, 2010
9:09 am

I don’t want Mr. Liberty in my foxhole, that’s for sure.

Blame America first. Have someone else do the heavy lifting.

“Slaughtering?” Puhhleeeeez

MrLiberty

January 8th, 2010
12:36 pm

Hard Right Hook – Maybe you should look at web sites other than FoxNews.com and the AJC. The rest of the world knows what we have done. Sorry you have hidden in your fox hole and have ignored what your country has been up to. My comments don’t justify, but to ignore motivation – especially when our government’s action have been unconstitutional, illegal, and immoral, is to ignore the one thing in this situation that WE CAN CONTROL and CHANGE.

MrLiberty

January 8th, 2010
12:41 pm

Here are some images if you can handle them. Remember, these folks never attacked this country, never threatened to attack this country, weren’t happy with their leader either, never asked us to invade, did not have WMD (as everyone in the international community and the inspectors said many times), and certainly weren’t soldiers.

http://www.thefourreasons.org/victimsofwar.htm

Hard Right Hook

January 8th, 2010
4:02 pm

Oh, I’m so touched, Mr Liberty. You limp-wristed, anti-American coward.

Hide under your rock like a good bedwetter.

Did MoveOn.org or Howard Dean tell you to say all that tripe?