The naked truth about scanners
By New Year’s Day, there will be 500 airport full-body scanners in use nationwide.
AP Photo Close“It’s not an explosive detector; it’s an anomaly detector,” Clark Ervin, who runs the Homeland Security Program at the Aspen Institute, told the Post. “Someone has to notice that there’s something out of order.”
Which means those security employees who stare at the screens have to be sharp enough and well-trained enough to detect things that are abnormal. (And some experts think that if the explosives are flat and pancake-shaped and taped to your stomach, they could not be detected anyway, because the picture would look too normal.)
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The machines cost $130,000 to $170,000 each, and by 2014, the federal government will have spent $234 million to $300 million for them.
Which would be a bargain if they actually did something besides embarrass people. In May, a TSA screener at Miami International Airport who went through a full-body screening as part of his training was arrested for beating a co-worker with a police baton after co-workers made fun of the size of his private parts.
The solution for passengers? Get used to it.
Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, was interviewed Sunday by CNN’s Candy Crowley, and Napolitano said nothing was going to change “for the foreseeable future.”
“You know, we’re always looking to improve systems and so forth,” Napolitano said. “But the new technology, the pat-downs, is just objectively safer for our traveling public.”
But Crowley decided to screen and pat down that assertion.
Citing an ABC report, Crowley said, “There are some major airports who had a 70 percent failure rate at detecting guns, knives, bombs, that they got through in your tests…. So how good can it be when you have major airports with a 70 percent fail rate?”
Napolitano dismissed those results as old and questionable and said, “Let’s set those aside.” One of the real successes of the machines and procedures, Napolitano said, is that they discourage terrorists from even trying to get on planes.
In other words, the machines keep us safe even if they don’t work at all.
“What we know is that you can’t measure [how] the devices … are deterring [terrorists] from going on a plane,” Napolitano said.
“Just people who just are discouraged, thinking they’d be found out,” said Crowley.
“Exactly,” said Napolitano.
In which case, we do not need machines that cost upward of $130,000 each.
All we need are archways made out of $30 or $40 worth of sheet metal that are labeled: “Official Destructo Machine — If You Are a Terrorist, This Machine Will Not Only Zap You, but Put a Picture of Your Private Parts on YouTube.”
That ought to do it.