Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
Have they never heard of body cavities?
Look, not to be too explicit about this, but the use of full body scanners won't make a damned bit of difference to someone who wants to smuggle a bomb or bomb components onto a plane (or anywhere else.) Because there are these things called body cavities, where people have actually been known to insert and hide stuff.
The Dutch have already announced that henceforth all passengers heading to the US will have to go through such scanners. Yesterday on All Things Considered I listened to professional fear-monger and former Bush Administration Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff claim that full body scanners are the solution, but that the evil ACLU had thwarted their use:
Mr. CHERTOFF: Well, a couple of years ago we began the process of testing them to see, first of all, if they worked and second, if they could be deployed without unduely restricting the flow of traffic. And the good news is that we were able to demonstrate that they were successful. We could use them without slowing up traffic and we could also protect privacy.
The difficulty is the ACLU and other similar organizations began a very aggressive campaign to limit or prevent the use of these machines and it culminated frankly last year in a vote by the House of Representatives to be very sharply restricted of the use of these machines. So, although we have acquired these machines, they are not as widely deployed as they should be.
Yeah, as reported this morning on NPR, there are concerns about the scanners being "intrusive":
But lawmakers have been among those reluctant to deploy the machines. In June, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to restrict their use. The vote was big — 310-118 — and bipartisan. Members of both parties said they were concerned that the pictures were too intrusive and questioned their effectiveness.
That's what also worries privacy groups, which have mounted a major campaign against the machines, now being tested at 19 U-S airports. They say there's no guarantee the pictures won't be misused.
"There's nothing to prevent images from being retained even when they say they won't be retained," says Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group at the forefront of the campaign.
But above and beyond the privacy concerns, is the simple fact that just scanning what is on the outside of someone's body, or in their carry-on, or in their luggage, is insufficient. Because you can insert sufficient explosive into your rectum to do serious damage. In fact, it's already been done on at least one occasion this year:
On the evening of Aug. 28, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi Deputy Interior Minister — and the man in charge of the kingdom’s counterterrorism efforts — was receiving members of the public in connection with the celebration of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. As part of the Ramadan celebration, it is customary for members of the Saudi royal family to hold public gatherings where citizens can seek to settle disputes or offer Ramadan greetings.
One of the highlights of the Friday gathering was supposed to be the prince’s meeting with Abdullah Hassan Taleh al-Asiri, a Saudi man who was a wanted militant from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Al-Asiri had allegedly renounced terrorism and had requested to meet the prince in order to repent and then be accepted into the kingdom’s amnesty program.
* * *
But the al-Asiri case ended very differently from the al-Awfi case. Unlike al-Awfi, al-Asiri was not a genuine repentant — he was a human Trojan horse. After al-Asiri entered a small room to speak with Prince Mohammed, he activated a small improvised explosive device (IED) he had been carrying inside his anal cavity. The resulting explosion ripped al-Asiri to shreds but only lightly injured the shocked prince — the target of al-Asiri’s unsuccessful assassination attempt.
I've joked about this as the TSA's "Grab your ankles, please" moment - but as a matter of simple fact, unless we actually go to full body-cavity searches, we cannot prevent this technique from being used in the future. Anything short of that is nothing more than a minor annoyance for terrorists, and an intrusion into the privacy of all other individuals who fly. Do we *really* want to take that step?
(Cross posted to Communion of Dreams.)