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Security and Full-Body Scans
A Transportation Security Administration officer views a full-body scan during a demonstration of passenger screening technology, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009, at the TSA Systems Integration Facility in Arlington, Va. (AP)

A Transportation Security Administration officer views a full-body scan during a demonstration at the TSA Systems Integration Facility in Arlington, Va., on Dec. 30, 2009. (AP)

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The Christmas Day terror attempt on a flight to Detroit has thrown airport security and explosive underwear into the headlines.

It has also thrown a spotlight again on the technology for full-body scans — and the question of whether they should be the norm. Routine.

These aren’t x-rays, but scans that look at the body beneath the clothes. Proponents say it’s foolish not to look — and say Christmas Day was naked proof of that.

Critics say it’s a virtual strip search and an offense to dignity and privacy that is not worth it.

This hour, On Point: privacy, air security, and the call for full-body scans.


Joining us first from Baltimore is Benet Wilson, online managing editor for Aviation Week, where she’s reporting on airline security.

Joining us from Reno, Nevada, is Douglas Laird. He was director of security for Northwest Airlines from 1989 to 1995, and previously served 22 years in the U.S. Secret Service. He is currently president of Laird & Associates, an aviation security consulting firm.

From Washington we’re joined by Michael German, a 16-year veteran of the FBI, where he was a special agent in domestic terrorism and covert operations. He is now policy counsel on national security for the American Civil Liberties Union, a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, and adjunct professor for Law Enforcement and Terrorism at the National Defense University.

Also from Washington we’re joined by James Carafano, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies. He is a 25-year veteran of the Army, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

And from Napa, Calif., we’re joined by Kate Hanni, founder of Flyersrights.org, a consumer advocacy group she started in 2006 to represent airline passengers.

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  • Todd

    At least one of the body scan (scam?) money trails lead to…


    And, speaking of safety, what about the GENUINE concern for safety of airline passengers from being exposed to the radiation produced by these body scanners—especially business frequent fliers?


  • cory

    If you don’t like the security measures, just don’t fly. Flying free of inconvenience isn’t a right or even a necessity. I’ve flown on occasion and the entire thing is uncomfortable. Long waits, tiny seats, etc… Maybe we should board people in the buff and hand them a paper gown before they reach their seat.

  • http://www.ournewoldhouse.com Kelli

    From what I’ve heard the body scans probably wouldn’t have picked up plastic explosives like what was sewn in the Nigerian man’s underwear.

    What’s stopping airport security from using bomb sniffing dogs? They can detect types of explosives machines don’t catch. Plus they’re portable and can fly in the cabin when needed. I’d imagine potential bombers thinking twice knowing there was a good chance that a bomb sniffing dog would be riding in most international flights.

  • http://www.anythinganywhere.com Bob Reis

    My dignity is in no way impaired if my body happens to be naked. I realize that the world is full of silly people but grew up. My dignity is in the things I do and the way I do them, not in phyical circumstances like is my body covered or not. It is harder for women but so is everything and it is still the fact of the matter.

  • Kristi Kuklinski

    It will not deter me from flying. I feel that anything that will possibly keep me safe while flying is worth it. It’s about keeping us safe and people need to realize that.

  • Nelie

    I have a couple of concerns about these full body scans. First, I wonder how this will affect transgendered people. I have a relative who is a F-to-M transexual. Is he, or others like him, going to seem suspicious if they don’t have genitalia matching their gender? And even if the answer is no, it does seem like a real violation of privacy that some screener would be apprised of that.

    Second concern is, I have a swallowing problem and I have a g-tube coming out of my stomach because I need to feed myself through that to get adequate nutrition. Because I bring liquid food for the tube with me on plane flights, and declare it to the TSA, I usually get an extra thorough screening anyway so I’m sure they would run me through this scanner, if it were available to see the tube itself. I’m not sure I’m thrilled about someone seeing me without clothes just because I have this disability–I’d rather lift up my shirt to where they can see it but not the rest of my body parts!

  • Ani Lack

    My issue with the full body scanners has nothing to do with privacy, it’s my health. These scanners use X-rays which, cause DNA mutations which can lead to cancer. People who travel often will be putting themselves at risk if they go through these machines on a regular basis. I have no problem with a strip search, and from now on at the airport, I will ask for a strip search rather than risk my health.

  • frances

    So glad you’re talking about this today!! I’ve been wondering all week how they justify spending millions (billions?) on these new scanners but we pulled all the U.S. Marshals off of flights for budget reasons. I suppose paying actual people to make flights actually safer isn’t worth it.

  • John

    I’d rather be seen naked by someone I am never going to see again than be dead. I am generally in agreement with the ACLU on privacy issues, but I don’t think this is a big violation of personal privacy.

  • David

    The two main types of scanners are “millimeter wave” and “backscatter” machines. Millimeter wave units send radio waves over a person and produce a three-dimensional image by measuring the energy reflected back. Backscatter machines use low-level X-rays to create a two-dimensional image of the body.

    Don’t go through the x-ray ones. They are dangerous to you.

    Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chernoff (Dr Scare) will make money selling these to the government.

  • Tim Marugg

    Until I can board an aircraft without having to worry about the Swiss Army Knife in my pocket, I will view airport security as an unforgivable insult to my liberty and a waste of my tax dollars.

    All of the elaborate screening at airports was supposed to be a temporary measure to prevent passengers from carrying tools capable of breaching the cockpit of aircraft and repurposing it as a missile.

    With the reinforcement of cockpit partitions and locking procedures, it should no longer be necessary for air travelers to submit to Nazi-like screenings.

    Since the aircraft is no longer available as a force multiplier, the most a terrorist can hope to accomplish is to bring down the aircraft in an inconvenient location, like a runway, and kill all of its occupants.

    I submit to you that the screening lines at any airport or theme park represent a far more easily accessible target for a terrorist attack. The screenings do not protect me and my family, so much as they protect the capital investment of the airlines, while increasing our vulnerability in the security queue.

    The prospect of full body scans, seems to me a colossal waste of my tax dollars, a worsening of the already unsavory experience of air travel security, and an ineffective detector, should the terrorists decide to conceal bombs similar to the Christmas bomb, in breast or beer-belly implants.

    We need a better, less intrusive solution than what has been so far proposed. At the very least, I want my Swiss Army Knife back.

    At best, I want a Swiss model homeland defense, not this slide into intrusive fascism.

  • http://onpointradio.org Deborah

    Is anyone taking a serious look at using trained dogs to sniff out explosives and comparing the effectiveness of this method to the full-body scan method? Some people will undoubtedly have issues with either method but it could possibly be a very good alternative.

  • John

    I wonder how the burqa wearers will like the scans.

  • http://WBUR Gwilym

    I love the fact that many European’s think nothing of nude sunbathing, but are aghast at the thought of someone seeing their scanned image.

  • David

    Just use dogs. And scare all the children. Much better for the rest of us.

    But in America it always is about the money. Some connected cronnies will make millions and that’s what counts in America.

  • George Vaida

    To: tsa-contactcenter@dhs.gov
    Subject: Intracavity Concealement
    Date: Mon, 28 Dec 2009 20:54:56 +0000

    I recently visited the International Spy Museum in Wash DC with my daughter and on display was a rectal concealement capsule very similar to this one I have pasted onto this email for you. It contained a number of potentially dangerous items. Do you think it appropriate that such a device should be on public display? Are you aware and/or taking steps for this possibility? In addition, although I do not have any special knowledge of the subject, would it be possible for a deranged individual to employ this method of concealement for incendiary &/or explosive materials? Are steps being taken to protect us (the flying public) from this threat? While we are on the subject, I suspect that any and all techniques that have been employed to bring contraband drugs into our country might also be used for this purpose. This is quite alarming. I don’t envy the challenge you face. Good luck to us all!
    Rectal Concealment capsule

    A plastic model of the type used by secret agents. (Image from H. Keith Melton’s book, The Ultimate Spy).

    Thank you for your attention to this matter.


    George A. Vaida

  • Art Fleck

    Why is there no discussion of the risk of radiation exposure from the full body scans? The radiation penetrates clothing, and it doesn’t stop there. The amount of exposure on each incident is considerable. As I understand, the wave length is a little longer than x-rays — what is the data on the long term damage to human tissue?

  • BHA

    I find it funny that the choice is full body scan or full pat down. Are the TSA people really going to be groping ALL body parts? I really doubt it and as such, there are places that will be hidden from either the full body scan or full pat down.

    I have no problem with full body scans, they will at least deter a lot of ‘regular’ terror ‘tools’.

    I agree with Kelli – the kinds of things found by pats and scans are big. Dogs (and why NOT machines) can scan for explosives that will never be caught in a pat or scan.

    Consider that a person setting off a bomb in a plane is planning to die. What is to keep them from having bomb making materials surgically stored inside their body? Is that a breast implant or an explosive material? A man could get castrated and have ‘replacement parts’ designed to carry explosives ‘attached’. Neither a pat down or body scan would find either of these but a chemical scan might.

  • Peter Hagstrom

    Please note that the Dutch will use a software application to interpret the scans, i.e. no human inteface in standard siuations.

  • Lauren Roberts

    How is this worse than any number of medical situations where your body is seen (and touched) by a medical technician who is a stranger? It seems less invasive and personal than mammograms for instance, not to mention certain “scope” procedures in a room staffed by several people.

  • Tom (New Hampshire)

    What danger is there with a full body scan? How does it “see” through your clothes? i.e. CAT scans use X-Rays which in large doses can be dangerous or even lethal.

  • David

    Show up hours in advance of your flight. Scanned. Strip searched. No water. No food. On the flight not allowed to read or go to the bathroom.

    What a start to a vacation. No thanks fascist America. I’ll drive or stay home.

  • meranyrae

    It’s really a no-brainer, your privacy or your life? What’s more important to you?

    The reality is that we do not live in a Utopian society, there is no second chance with a bomb. If you’re concerned with your privacy then take alternative transportation. If you want to gamble then go to Vegas.

  • John

    Wouldn’t the use of dogs interfere with the rights of those who are allergic to dogs?

    Actually the dogs sense of smell only works for a small window of time so they aren’t good for long searches.

    I would like the safety of the rays addressed.

  • http://www.wksu.org/ Mark Snyder

    Seeing images is one thing, interpreting those scans is another. Think of the rate of people passing this scanner and how long someone can study the image and I doubt it will be too successful. Add in the variety of returns you will get from various clothing materials, jewelry, medical devices, and other paraphernalia and it will be just as hit and miss as what we have today, i.e, ineffective.

    I already avoid flying, and if they go to full patdowns or these invasive scanners, I won’t fly again.

  • Barbara

    I feel that had the bomber been successful, we wouldn’t even be discussing whether or not to use full body scans. The discussion would be, how soon can we start! I feel that we are too reactive rather than proactive. We Americans need to get over our Puritanical fears of our bodies. What I’ve heard is that the images are not saved and truly, could you even tell that it’s you should you happen to see the image, most likely, No!

  • Geane

    There is also a safety concern here. What about the radaition exposure, particularly for the frequent flyer?

    I would like to know why this technology is any more effective than a well trained dog which can dedect explosives?

    Geane in Tysons, VA

  • mogl

    Everyone keeps saying “the images are viewed remotely”. Most pornography is viewed remotely.

    When pressed supporters argue, “there is no identification attached to the image”. Assuming any of us believe that (what use is an image of a weapon bearing passenger if it cannot be linked to an individual in court?) … most pornography is anonymous.

    There is a demand for the abuse of this sort of image.

  • http://aledadigginsart.com Aleda Diggins

    Why didn’t the clerk and other airlines personnel find it suspicious the Christmas Day suspect paid in cash, checked no luggage, and bought a one-way ticket? It seems this collection of traits should have triggered a pat down search and a query to intelligence agencies who compile the no fly lists…common sense is a low tech *real* solution.

    But it is easier to spend big bucks on machinery so personnel don’t have to use common sense…? It’s overcompensation to cover up incompetence at the taxpayers’ and flying public’s expense!

  • John

    Logical fallacy: We can’t subject everyone to a scan without cause. We can’t profile. Pick one.

  • Jason

    Why don’t we do what has been proven to work for the last 20+ years… Stop treating 90 year old grandmas from Iowa the same as a 20 year old man from Kenya. We should profile. it works and it is less intrusive.

  • alison

    what about internal devices? obviously that will be next.

  • David

    America is falling prey to hysteria once again.

    Give up your rights so someone can make money.

    There are cheaper and better ways. But no, Americans will once again fall for this crap.

    If a bomber wants to get through they will. Fools.

  • Kathleen Narland

    Why don’t they ‘re-inact’ the bomb in the underwear and have this person go through various full-body scan machines and see if it is picked up? Why keep guessing?

  • Victor in Cambridge

    With the exception of “exhibitionists”, most individuals are embarrised of having their body scans viewed by unknown security personel. Simple solutions…

    1. All security personell would of course have to go thru viceroys background checks.
    2. All images displayed will be of the highest detail possible but the head / face to be “replaced”.
    3. All image face replacements to be random from a pool of known individuals to security personell. Eg. Family, colleages and known terrorists.
    4. Also, since the viewer will not physically see persons being scanned – possibly located in another city, the machine should randomly create bomb images to test security personell – the pressing of the “Stop” button would not be noticed by persons at airport.

  • Mari

    An individual who is still unconvinced that foreign terrorists brought down 3 buildings at the WTC in 2001, I sincerely doubt that full body X-rays will influence or deter another deadly attack in the US.

    Looks like another revenue enhancement scheme (for the makers of these surveillance devices) so I shall refrain from all commercial flying. I’ll bet that those who really seek to do this nation harm have already determined to do the same. There are many other ways to enter and exit this country, just ask somebody who is here illegally, already.

  • David

    So, they can’t detect small amounts?

    What’s to stop 5 men from each getting an amount through that when put together in the plane makes a bomb?

  • BHA

    Posted by Tim Marugg: “At best, I want a Swiss model homeland defense, not this slide into intrusive fascism.”

    Last I was in the Zurich airport (it was 20 years ago) the security people were carrying fully automatic rifles. I’m not so sure we all want that sort of ‘defense’.

    In addition to that visual jolt, the people cleaning the mens’ restrooms were women and they were cleaning while all the men were using the stalls and urinals. Not a lot of ‘privacy issues’ there I guess.

    My wife was in Japan a few years ago and saw everything from squat toilets to unisex bathrooms where EVERYONE walking to a stall passed the urinals on the way. Maybe we in the USA are a bit too paranoid that someone, EVERYONE, is just waiting for a lurid peak.

  • Vinny D

    I do not a concern about full body scans in general.

    I do have a concern though about the privacy aspect.

    While viewing the reports on TV, passengers’ images were shown on the TV as they exited the scan, with only their face blocked out.

    So much for privacy!

    What happened to the explosives detectors that were to be employed?

    How do the Israelis manage to avoid terrorist incidents?

  • Bill Luzader

    Please stop saying “virtual nakedness”. My understanding of the image seen by the screener is an outline of a generic human body with symbols indicating a gun or a blob of explosive material and so on. The machine does not show a naked body – if it does, software could be developed to NOT show the nakedness and only the object of interest and it location.

  • cory

    One functional problem with the scanners will be the sleepy, underpaid, under-trained TSA agent who has has already looked at hundreds or thousands of these images on any given day and could easily miss some small detail. There may be no fail-safe method to prevent desperate individuals from committing desperate acts.

  • Leyla Keough (pronounced LAYLA KEY-O)

    A few years ago, I was directed to go through one of these scanning machines at an airport in the U.S.. I was leaving the country to go abroad. I agreed, not knowing — or being informed — that I had a choice to go through the regular scanner. I was also not informed that this scanner showed me naked. As I was directed out of the machine, the young male security guard in front of me, looking me up and down, made the comment “Nice” in a very lewd manner. I was so shocked and felt so violated, I honestly didn’t know what to say or do. One thing I knew — as enraged and upset as I was, this disgusting man had far more power than I in this situation. I made a quick decision to not call in his superiors or other authorities or draw attention to myself or the situation. I simply got my things and went to the gate. This decision was enhanced by the fact that I am a Turkish-American (an American citizen, not Muslim), and an anthropologist who travels to Turkey frequently for personal reasons and work. While Turkey is not on the current list of countries for special review, it is still known as predominantly Muslim. For these various reasons, I felt I could not jeapordize missing my current flight — or risk getting on some sort of list for being a trouble maker. To this day, I regret not (at the very least) getting his name and writing a letter of complaint.

    I am definitely the type of person who resents the whole security process in airports as it exists. Taking off my shoes in the middle of winter to stand there on the cold marble floor in particular really irks me. It hurts my sense of dignity and makes me really sad — because this dignified feeling was a privilege of living in what was supposed to be a country that protects my civil rights, and clearly these are now being violated by my state.

    ***I am much more afraid of the state’s infiltration into my privacy and liberty, than of the minute chance of a terrorist’s infiltration onto a plane.***

  • Audrey Roth

    Why don’t we use the system that Israel uses? They are extremely effective in psychological profiling before any kind of physical searches. Of course, we’d have to train and pay qualified personnel–not like the current TSA employees.

  • http://asinapicture.blogspot.com/ Murl Aldridge

    Michael Chertoff works for the company that makes the scanners being discussed. This is the reason Lieberman wants to buy these units. It is why these scanners are being held up as the principal answer to this problem.

  • mogl

    Re. Cory at 10:01 ….

    If you don’t like the RISK, just don’t fly. Flying free of RISK isn’t a right or even a necessity. Your “arguement” is pure hyperbole.

  • Peter from Newton MA

    Mostly, this is hysteria.
    Before this program is over 2 Americans will be killed, probably inadvertently, by a combination of ethanol and gasoline.
    15,000 deaths a year, 5 World Trade Centers, right here in the good ol’ US of A.
    Why isn’t everyone concerned that their kid, spouse, mother is, right now, in the gunsights of a drunk driver? Put more resources into this low-hanging fruit, and a real, annual death list will quickly shrink.

  • Scott

    We are fighting a totally reactive war. We need to become pro-active. We are doing exactly what Al-Quada wants us to do. We are reacting dramatically to small but relevant attempts on their part to ruin modern civilization. I do not degrade the relevance of the success Al-quada had on 911 and at other times but is fighting this threat worth loosing civil liberties and the bankrupting of the world?
    How much does a gallon of gasoline really cost? When factoring in our true expenses, a gallon of gasoline costs many times what we pay at the pump, yet by fighting the way we currently fight, all we do is prop up foreign dictators who suppress the people further and promote more extreme behavior. I’m not saying we are supporting terrorism but studies show without a doubt that there is a direct relationship between the price of oil and the dictators ability to suppress its people.
    If we instead, invested our resources into finding alternatives, invested in technology, rebates to purchase that technology, invest in infrastructure to make alternatives available across America and across the world, we could cut the supply of funds to the middle east and reduce the power of those who oppress their people. This is the only way we can beat extremism.
    I could care less if I am seen naked by a full body scanner. But, are we any different than the frog in a pot with the heat just turned on? Will we realize things are getting hot before the water boils?

  • Terry

    If the software in the scanners can blur the “naughty bits” would it be possible to modify the software to subtract out the reflections from the skin? Anything the machine drtects would be seen floating in space. No modisty issue.

  • mogl

    JESUS!! Tell that one guest to stop talking over everyone !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Marsha

    The terrorists are adept at figuring out how to move forward, how to “navigate” around new measures such as these machines.

    In this instance, if the machines don’t take pictures of what’s in an anus or a vagina, or has been swallowed, the terrorists will use these places to hide weapons.

    And if somehow a machine could truly detect all weapons, then the terrorists would quite easily, I should think, figure out a different locus for terrorizing–in the airport parking lot?

    Additionally, Israel doesn’t use such machines and has great good fortune with screening. I think Israelis are trained as to how to use thinking and common sense. Maybe the U.S. could start doing the same?

  • Scott

    Wasn’t this man already on a watch list? So what if that list contains 1/2 a million. Make life difficult for them, not the entire travelling public.

  • http://ravenatyournextevent.com Greg L

    I think we’re totally off point today, focusing on whether or whether not to use body scanners.

    We have just started down the road of giving up our liberty, privacy, treasure, and convenience for the sake of “safety.” How far will we have to go, before we begin to understand that no matter how much we give up we cannot prevent terrorism with technology.

    Let’s say we take the leap and install these scanners everywhere at a cost that is an order of magnitude greater than our current detectors. Then a suicide bomber gets on a plane with explosives internally, which he successfully detonates on the plane and this method becomes the state of the art in terrorism. Do we then deploy a new type of body cavity scanner across the country, at unknown cost?

    And let’s say we do install body cavity scanners. Now we’ve finally, maybe, plugged up the airline hole. Now instead of airplanes, the target of choice becomes commuter rail. Then what do we do?

    We face a losing battle by trying to plug up all the security holes in our OPEN, FREE society. I can’t imagine the locked down “safe” version is one we would want to live in.

    When this is all done I think we will have recognized that it’s not hatred of our freedom that terrorists are willing to give their lives for, rather it is our (and other imperial power’s) obnoxious, rapacious meddling in their part of the world. This has been going on for at least 150 years in Afghanistan.

  • David

    The privacy issue is not what we should argue.

    What we should argue is what is most effective.

    And this is not it.

    They do not x-ray our checked bags in the vast majority of airports. That’s where they will put bombs next. Come on. How stupid do you think the terrorists are?

    It is so obvious this is just another way to control the public. Make them afraid. Make them sheep. Make them obey authority.

  • http://onpoint David Morrison

    How about the question of religious freedom, which may trump the issue of privacy. Does it violate freedom of religion to full-body scan a Muslim woman in her burka? Perhaps certain other religious communities may have strong scruples against nudity.

  • Stefani

    I am opposed to further intrusions – especially the proposed virtual strip searches. Given that young Moslem men between the ages of 18 and 35 account for ALL the terrorist activities, I don’t think its unreasonable to single them out as potential threats. Yes, I know that profiling is un-American, but we are at war and during war with limited resources. let common sense prevail. As a business traveler, seeing TSA resources focused on an 9 month old baby girl carrying a bottle with milk borders on ridiculous.

  • http://p-sdesign.com Justina

    I’m pro-body scan for the simple fact that it can prevent explosives and weapons being brought onto airplanes. It may not be the perfect scanning device, but the sheer fact that it can save lives is the sole reason behind it’s design and use. For the people who believe that this is too invasive…. I can’t comprehend why your modesty should effect hundreds of other innocent passengers from being as safe-as-possible.
    We need to look out for each-other, and really, really try to come together on the subject of safety and trust in this unsure day in age.

  • http://philyguitars.com Phil Saulnier

    For eight years security has told us that searches would make us safer. Now with machinegun toteing police searching our cars we are told to take our cloths off , by virtual search. Why not go house to house? Won’t we br safer? It’s pathetic, reactionary, small thinking.

  • Jemimah

    I love dogs and love being naked, so this is fine by me. Oh, and no one cares what your wife and kids, or you, look like naked…without facial features and from a remote locale. Come on. Either deal with it or don’t fly. I get the feeling that the biggest protestors here are Republicans. You can thank your party for getting us into this. jeesh.

  • tom w.

    People think thesefull body scanners will be the voyeurs’ dream. Think about it, 90% of these scans will not be pretty. Ever been to a nude beach? Definitely not enticing.

  • frank scott

    Re the full body scanning: which is more important to you – your modesty or your life?
    Ask the people in the security lines, and you’ll probably get answers different from those of the armchair pundits.
    Are the scanners perfect? No, but I’ll go with 95% or more. What is perfect anyway?

  • ned studholme

    Investigative journalism falls short again. There is a very clear and known relationship between the quantity of high explosive, detectability and destructive force.Yet this is NOT even in the discussion. The 80 grams of PETN used in the Detroit attempt is 1.6 tablespoons of white powder, and not suffiient to bring down a large aircraft.

  • David

    Justina you sound so naive I can hardly stand it.

    Come together and look out for each other?

    We are well down the road to a fascist state brought about by this territory hysteria.

    Lack of health care kills thousands and thousands more a year than territorial.

  • Robert

    I will refuse to go through body scanners and other such devices.
    If that means I never fly again, so be it.
    Such security devices are a smokescreen designed to keep the masses in line.
    They are also a massive waste of time and money.

    We need to solve the problems of terrorism at the source.
    We will not prevent terrrorism by violating the civil rights of billions of innocent people.

    The same sentiment goes for other entrenched security measures such as bag searches, bag x-rays, metal detectors and the more recent farce of shoe removal.
    These are all unnecessary and just another part of “security theater.”

    To paraphrase a great quote: “those who sacrifice liberty for safety, deserve neither.” I would add, “will get neither.”

  • David

    Meant to spell check to terrorism not territorial.

    My bad.

  • karen

    I think, where economically possible, airlines could offer 2 kinds of flights. If u want to submit to body scnning and enhanced security, you go on this flight. If you don’t want to have it done, you go on a different flight and must sign a waiver exempting the airline from responsibility should u get blown to bits. These scanners may not catch everything but personally i want everything done to help protect me when travelling

  • Annie Tye

    The people who would be monitoring the scanners would become so accustomed to seeing every size and shape of person. My dad used to say, “You’d appreciate more what people think of you if you think about how infrequently they think of you.” This isn’t the invasion of one person’s privacy. “YOU” are not going to be singled out in these scanners.

  • john from danvers

    The basic deal here is our public discourse assumes any additional security is worth it no matter the cost. I see such absolute statements in our press every day. We will therefore get more and more of this until we begin asking at what cost.

    Your guests rightly point out ways to do it better, but in the discourse we’re having, their opinions are, frankly, invalid, not admitted to the public space.

  • Todd

    “It’s really a no-brainer, your privacy or your life? What’s more important to you?”
    Posted by meranyrae

    Perhaps it is; for those with no brain. What is life worth when it’s lived enslaved to fear?

  • Tim Marugg

    I am not as concerned by the lurid peeking, or the presence of armed security guards.

    What bothers me is that the public is being conditioned to accept forced submission to authority figures.

    What bothers me is that the equipment does not detect implanted or ingested bombs.

    What bothers me is that the crowded security lines make me a target without protecting me, and waste hours of my life.

    What bothers me is my government squandering my tax dollars on false security while neglecting infrastructure and the general welfare of the nation.

  • Greg Lyons

    What really surprises me is that the attempts so far, by the likes of Richard Reed and the Christmas Day bomber, on airliners, have been so inept. It doesn’t really take a whole lot of imagination to devise a scheme whereby a would be bomber/bombers could sumggle a detonator and a sufficient quantity of high explosives on board an aircraft. A electric blasting cap is about the diameter of a #2 wooden pencil (1/4 inch diameter by 1.5 inches in length), quite small and difficult to detect if one is clever. A detonator to set off the blasting cap is easily made from readily available parts and can be made quite a bit smaller than the body of a typical wrist watch. Eight ounces or more of C-4 or Semtex (both very powerful plastic explosives) can be easily hidden in a body cavity. These materials can be prepared and hidden to defeat any means of detection currently available to our security apparatus short of whole body x-ray. Unless body cavity searches become the norm, expect that some clever maniac jihadist will eventually take out a commercial airliner. It’s only a matter of time.

  • Karen Miller

    Has anyone considered the problems body scanning poses for people who have been se ually abused. I’m a therapist.

  • Dennis Norling

    I’m a proud ACLU member but I do not understand the worry about privacy when the screener is located elsewhere and image is not retained.

  • Vanessa

    My only privacy concern is: what happens to those scans after someone has successfully gotten through security? Are they destroyed? Are they saved? I don’t care if someone in a distant room sees my naked image for a few moments, and the information is destroyed, but the possibility of that image being used or distributed at a later date is indeed troubling.


    EL-AL has a 100% track record in preventing terrorist from boarding airplanes for 25+ years. Why don’t we use their system?

  • David

    Exactly. Extracting billions of dollars of productivity from our economy.

    Look at all the money being spent just on the new entrance security in Federal buildings, courts etc.

    Billions I’m guessing.

    America. Fearful people who can’t think and eat too much and walk too little.

  • Rod

    For three years I have taken my wife and young children from Buffalo, NY to Los Angeles on the train. From invasive and time consuming security to lack of space, baggage fees to fuel economy the pleasure of train travel beats airlines hands down. If I can help it I will never use air travel again.

  • Rosa Maria Pegueros

    We should look at the security system used by the Israelis. They have a terrific system.
    What Israel can teach us about security
    At Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, screening is done in 30 minutes. The key? Look passengers in the eye
    Cathal Kelly
    Staff Reporter
    Published On Thu, 31 Dec 2009
    While North America’s airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification….

  • Jennifer

    It seems like the government is being reactionary rather than thinking this through on a different level. Why are we doing this? To put it simply, to try to stop/lessen instances terrorism and protect people. What we are utlimately doing is slowly taking away people’s rights. Aren’t terrorists winning on a completely different level when you think about it that way? Those who don’t want to be put through a full body scan are not going to travel, thus limiting their freedom of movement. Even if you don’t mind being scanned what about those people that do? Where does it leave them?

  • David

    Rosa Maria Pegueros

    Israelis are some of the most parionod people on earth.

    I don’t want to emulate them.

    Thanks anyway.

  • Shira

    How do the Israelis do it–and without all this expensive and invasive equipment? They use their heads, they train compentent people, and they aren’t afraid to profile. This technology that is being proposed is far more invasive than a few pointed questions by well-trained personnel who do profile. They have an excellent track record so far, thankfully, and we would do well to learn from them. But that would mean paying people, not paying for slick technology which won’t work anyway. I strongly object to being undressed by a machine. How dehumanizing.

  • http://www.hunterwillisphoto.com Hunter Willis

    I don’t think we should do full body scans but they are less of an intrusion on our privacy than getting our private parts groped by a tsa screener during a pat down. If you ask me they are both unreasonable procedures.

  • Todd

    “Come on. Either deal with it or don’t fly.”
    Posted by Jemimah

    @ Jemimah:
    The same sentiments can be used in reverse to make an argument against all these phony security measures: C’mon! If you can’t deal with the risk of flying without being body scanned, then don’t fly!

    All this BS isn’t about elevating your safety anyway. It’s about government elevating its control over you and getting you softened-up to accept it.

  • ralph logan

    The purpose of scanners and metal detectors is to identify persons who might be intent on creating serious damage or destruction of the airliner and passengers. A simple, automatic method of identifying persons who should be intensely scrutinized is: a one-way ticket paid for in cash, and no checked baggage. This data is available in the airport computers and would have flagged the Christmas Day bomber as well as the 9/11 terrorists.

  • David


    See you are missing the point.

    Who would have made money on that approach?

  • Terry

    It seems that many of the opponets to scanning use the phrase “wirtually naked.” As I understand these machines don’t show any detail of your body.

    I know some folksnow that will not fly if they can avoid it because of the current system. Having to show up to or three hours early, take off your shoes and belt, distribute your posetionsin multiple trays for x-ray, etc. I’m looking at a choice between a 10 or 11 hour drive or spending 6 or 8 hours in airports later this year. I’m leaning toward driving.

    One war story. Back in the early 80′s ( way pre TSA) I had to fly to Huntsville AL a few times. I learned not to head to the departure gate in Huntsville too early. There was a female screener there who would turn the sensitivy way up on the metal decter during slow times. This gave her an excuse to wand everybody. She would do a very rigorus exam, spending some time on the groin area of the male travelers. If you waited until you had seen a few other people heading for that detecter. If there were a few folks waiting in line she would have to reset the sensivity on the metal decter and not wand everybody,

  • David

    Everyone should just refuse to show up so early.

    Airlines would have to adjust or go bankrupt.

  • Ani Lack

    I agree that Israel has the right idea, but their intelligence has had army training and basically, ours would need a lot more training than they have already. I have already accidentally brought liquid and a knife through airport security and they were never detected. Our security has a long way to go, and these scanners are not the answer.

    I have seen the scans from these machines and the pictures look like ultrasound images. They don’t show anything that is placed insidethe body, and they wouldn’t show anything that is shaped against the body. Also, ultrasounds have now shown to cause autism in children later in life. What will these x-rays do to people’s DNA, the DNA of their unborn children and their future generations. If we allow ourselves to be subject to this kind of genetic damage, then the terrorist have already won by causing American travellers and their offspring to die of cancer and have neurological problems.

  • Marc

    At some point, you’ve let the terrorists win by all these measures. We’re trillions in debt, now, in part, because terrorists spent a few hundred thousand dollars to blow up buildings on 9/11. We’ll spend more billions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iran and who knows where else, because these places may support terrorism in some way.

    I’m a nervous frequent flyer and so I sympathize with those who say we should pay anything to be safe in the air. But there is a cost to all this. Just focusing on airline security, it’s not just the scanning systems and security people. Long delays will hurt airlines, hotels and businesses as people reduce their travel. Maybe the cost is worth it given the potential danger, but we should have some estimates as to what these are. Especially because spending in one area, means other areas get reduced.

    We need to make rational decisions based on the data we have. What are the costs of all these measures? How many threats have the current politically correct ones stopped? How difficult is it for terrorists to shift from planes to vans filled with explosives who any of a few dozen other measures

  • jemimah

    Todd, you couldn’t be more wrong about me, and if you really think that the government doesn’t have any bigger fish to fry than trying to soften you up, you’re living in a very different world than I. And again, it’s not this government who’s trying to scare the dickens out of us all. It was the previous reign, and with Cheney’s rantings, they’re still trying to do it. What say you about that???

  • Mike

    Not all problems can be resolved by market economy, but this may be one. How about the TSA making full-body scanning available to the airlines, but not required. Spread the charges, if any, across all airlines, regardless of how much each uses the scanning. But also, require that each flight be clearly advertised in advance as “all passengers full-body scanned” or not. Then let travelers vote with their choice of which flights to take.

  • Jeff from Salt Lake City

    If chemical sensing cannot work, and it obviously cannot “see”, then optional body scans may necessarily need to be part of the *choice* we make to fly — so long as the human scan operator is not present nearby so they can look at my body and then peek around the machine to say “Eyy, Tiger.”

    ‘Twould be hard not, man or woman, to not be a little creeped out by this person no matter how pure their thoughts or noble their intentions.

    It would be more palatable if we knew they were a)optional like the other pull-aside measures b)that we did not know whether or not they were happening and c)done by someone somewhere we cannot see.

  • marjorie Wright

    I can’t understand why the issue of health, eg, radiation absorption, xray dosage, potentially cancer-causing exposure for no medical reason, has not been raised. The only caller mentioning this issues was fobbed off with meaningless jibberish. What is the dosage, what is/are the type of ray(s), how high per second one stays in the machine, is the exposure. Personal privacy is nothing compared with the endangering of personal health. Only very ignorant people would choose a scan over a strip search, which ironically is also the most effective way to ensure passenger safety. Where are the doctors in this discussion???

  • Paul

    Here is a question that is Off-Point.

    What was the song excerpt played at the break, approximately 18 minutes into this story?


  • Nicholas

    Nice to see that the current administration is not only taking a page from the last, but taking it up a couple notches as well. Goodbye personal freedoms, hello big brother. I expect this sort of invasion by Repubs but it looks like the Dems have run out of ideas of their own.

    Surge II, tough on terrorists, blah blah blah; why does it seem like this is just positioning for the next two elections? Obama is a joke!

  • Michael

    Man how this has been pushed on NPR by former Bush Lackeys. People do not realize that you can never be 100% safe. You have a better chance of dieing by car crashes.

    By giving up our Liberties and Freedoms for alittle security or perceived security we are allowing the terrorist to win since we are making such actions under fear. By profiling all muslims, blacks, arabs, what this new rule is meant to do under guise of a few country we create more disdain and hatred from the arab world and further making things worst.

    What is even more crazy is putting Cuba on the list, i guess this was done still we may be debating about the embargo we placed on it. If we are listing Cuba why not Northern Ireland were a terrorist attacked occurred a few months ago? why not the same screening for all Irish from that area? reason is people would (rightfully so) claim its against our constitution to spy and do such things.

    Also note when someone uses the Grandma analogy its code word for White.

  • Todd

    “…if you really think that the government doesn’t have any bigger fish to fry than trying to soften you up, you’re living in a very different world than I.”
    Posted by jemimah

    @ jemimah:
    We do indeed live in the same world. However, you fail to recognize just who the “big fish” is. It isn’t any ONE of us. It’s you, and I, and everyone else TOGETHER. There is strength in numbers; but, if you can control the individuals that comprise the numbers—then you can control it’s strength—or rather, weaken it. Either we all swim upstream together against this government nonsense, or we all fry.

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com akilez

    No one not even machines can stop a terrorist. They will find other way to kill us all.

    Full Body Scan? Please, What if the bomber put a bomb inside her/his ANUS or swallow a C4 explosive just like how drug traffickers do when the want to smuggle drugs in the United States.

    Possibility of an attack is inevitable.

  • Charlotte

    And how are the rest of us supposed to respect your privacy when we’re combing some field in order to pick up your body parts that were strewn across the countryside in the explosion?

    My concerns about these machines fall into two categories:

    1. Dangers to the health of innocents (radiation, etc.)

    2. Efficacy, i.e., are we using them as high-tech soporifics while we ignore pursuing human intelligence in the field?

  • Brett

    Complete strip searches with full-body cavity searches, full-body X-Rays and, additionally, a complete criminal, credit and background check, including complete histories of education, ideologies, group affiliations, etc., prior to boarding, in conjunction with a bar code, containing all important information about the individual, tattooed (with special ink only issued to the government) on the individual’s forearm, is the only way, really…let’s face it, people! [Being ironic]

    There were so many problems with what happened on Christmas day that had little to do with body searches. From the fact that the young man paid cash for his ticket (what was it, over $2500, I believe) to no luggage, to the man being on a watch list, to his father alerting authorities, and so on…

    These scanners–the intrusive nature of their use notwithstanding–most likely wouldn’t have caught this alleged terrorist suspect’s equipment, er, bomb material.

    The scanners are very costly; not every airport will be able to have them, anyway; the developers and manufacturers of the scanners are champing at the bit to make these scanners mandatory; other technologies (low tech and high tech) which sound like a better solution are being ignored in the process; intelligence agencies failed to communicate with each other in sharing information to thwart the latest incident; TSA security totally ignored all of the red flags at the point just prior to entry, and on and on…When I think about this, it reminds me of every ineffectual bureaucratic system I’ve ever worked for: a problem happens; instead of addressing the direct causes of the problem, authorities want to spend tons of money creating a solution that will not address the actual problem that occurred, giving rise to a lot of wasteful spending, nepotistic contracts, etc., as well as more loopholes for terrorists.

    I think the privacy intrusions, although somewhat a concern (albeit in the realm of academic on a certain level), are secondary. If body scans assured safety rather than produced another layer of a false sense of security, then I’d be all for them.

    Todd raises some good points about following the trail of money in this call for body scanner technology, as well as the health considerations in a frequent flyer being exposed to high levels of radiation.

    I like the term “security theater” in that people want to quickly latch on to anything that will make them feel safe, irrespective of how much in contrast with reality that is.

  • Lee

    If we use the full body scans, then can we keep our shoes on? :-) :-) :-) (it can see thru shoes, right??)

    What are the longterm health effects from the radiated energy of the full body scans?

  • ovg

    The image shown by the scanners is not porn.
    I’m surprised the the ACLU doesn’t have more of a problem with the scanners being used selectively – which usually means racial/ethnic profiling – as opposed to using them for all passengers. If the scanners are in use already in Europe, what’s with all the insinuation that this is corporate conspiracy here in the US?
    When they start doing rectal and vaginal searches, I’ll really have to reconsider flying!

  • Todd

    “And how are the rest of us supposed to respect your privacy when we’re combing some field in order to pick up your body parts that were strewn across the countryside in the explosion?”
    Posted by Charlotte

    By using an opaque plastic bag.

  • Todd

    “I expect this sort of invasion by Repubs but it looks like the Dems have run out of ideas of their own….Obama is a joke!”
    Posted by Nicholas

    Congratulations! You’ve awakened to the realization that the only difference to be found between the two political parties is in their names—the agenda always remains the same, regardless of which one holds office.

  • Nick

    Someone just called in stating she herself was scanned and was clean, but she had liquids and a sharp object in her carry on that was passed without being identified. I had a similar situation occur. I have a key on my key chain called a “Utili-Key”. Its a peared down version of a swiss army knife. 2 of the items on this are a 3 inch razor sharp blade, and a 3 inch serrated cutting impliment. I handed my keys to a TSA screener directly and it went unnoticed. I don’t see the point in spending all the $$ on full body scanners when our TSA screeners miss a 3 inch razor sharp blade that was literally handed to them for further scrutiny.

  • Anthony R.

    Another Obama failure!
    MI5 told the US about Detroit bomber’s terror links a year a go Downing Street has announced according to article in the Telegraph.

    Makes you feel good about how well these guys can run the banks, car companies, etc and the financial system.

  • Todd

    “The image shown by the scanners is not porn.”
    Posted by ovg

    Why, of course not; it’s art! And very soon, I’m sure, the US Supreme Court will rule that it is therefore protected by the 1st Amendment. In such case, the ACLU may even file an amicus curiae brief to defend the TSA’s right to “artfully” express itself!

  • mr. independent

    That’s nice, I was having trouble posting…

    I think this is all for naught. The reality of risk and the use of fear and over reaction to these events are not being dealt with rationally.

    My wife and I were going on a domestic flight and she accidentally put her boarding pass in with the all her stuff going through the x-ray machine. I was already through. When she told the TSA agent he freaked out and started to treat her like some criminal and threatened me with arrest when I tried to give them her pass. The reaction to what I guess must be a common mistake was so absurd. They detained her for over 20 minutes and did a through search.

    I was once in line at the Phoenix airport and I witnessed the TSA searching a young woman with a baby.
    The baby was crying and the woman was upset and the TSA just treated her with nothing more than contempt. The level of unprofessional staff in the TSA seems pretty high. They are not trained well and some seem to get off giving people a hard time just because they can.

  • http://www.lit.org/author/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    “This is just nutty” — James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation

    … was the deepest, most profound thought of the hour. And the reason is because the idea applies equally to both sides of this argument–or any argument, really–as long as we insist on treating the symptoms of disease while avoiding cures for the disease itself.

    Let’s think about the actual disease for a moment. Our national disease is, “How do we do (this or that) without actually paying for it? … on the cheap, in other words? Because if things like public safety start to become “too expensive”, you can bet that someone is going to be forced to give up acquiring that Italian villa they’ve had their eye on.

    Note also the fervor in the issue. Experience should be telling us that the greater the fervor, the greater the likelihood that personal stakes are being challenged (like money, prestige, fame) … everything except the supposed greater good that is being argued. Does it surprise anyone that a representative from The Heritage Foundation would be the one with his hair on fire?

    When we finally solve the problem, it’ll be a cure that the corporatists are going to hate because it will involve Americans flying less, with far fewer short range and intrastate flights. You may have heard the news–China is building high speed rail lines with a vengeance. (Oh, boy … China again.)

    Yeah, China again. It’s beginning to sound like that old song with China, isn’t it? … you know, “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better,” from Annie Get Your Gun. Well my advice would be, “Place your bets carefully, folks.” China is already testing rail cars at over 350 mph.

    Meanwhile, we in the U.S. will try to put high speed cars on our crumbling 200-year old tracks just to make high speed rail systems “feasible from a cost standpoint.” I guarantee it. And of course it won’t be high speed, not unless you consider a speed of 125 mph, “high.”

    China is planning dozens of lines, criss-crossing the country. America, by contrast, can’t muster the political will to authorize even two interstate lines, with the only ones under consideration being located in high traffic coastal corridors which would, of course, be devastating to the airline industry.

    China also has the “unfair advantage” of having started its Tortoise race from somewhere near the back of the pack. America, on the other hand, with its “disadvantaged” front row pole position is looking a bit like the Hare with its bad temper showing, even as it has for 50 or more years refused to spend money on infrastructure.

    I already don’t fly and haven’t for 20 years. But tell me I could go from L.A. to Chicago in 5-1/2 hours door-to-door at an altitude of just 4 feet and I’d probably go just to catch a Cubs game at Wrigley. Hey … d’ya think China might sell us …?

    Nah. Now you’re thinking nutty again.

  • Maria

    We already take off all shoes, belts, empty our computer cases, and now a body scan… This is just another distraction to make us feel safe. What has to be done is to tighten the processes. The Nigerian terrorist WAS TOLD ON BY HIS OWN DAD and we did nothing about it. Go figure!

    By the way, your guest from the Heritage Foundation is very rude. Not worth having him on again.

  • david

    Why have we not heard about the other individual who helped this terrorist get pass the gates? I have not seen nor heard anything about him on the main news. Why is this person’s actions not charged as terrorism but instead it is being treated as a common crime?

  • Todd

    “Why have we not heard about the other individual who helped this terrorist get pass the gates? I have not seen nor heard anything about him on the main news. Why is this person’s actions not charged as terrorism but instead it is being treated as a common crime?”
    Posted by david

    @ david:
    Very good question! And here’s the answer: Because if the MSM news investigated and reported the truth about the individual who assisted Abdulmutallab, then it would become crystal clear to everyone just how remote and contrived these so-called “terror threats” actually are. And, of course, it’s considerably more difficult to exert control over the masses using fear when the methods for manufacturing such fear is exposed to be false-flag fraud that it is. The individual in question will never be investigated, pursued, caught, or charged with terrorism, or any other crime—the head doesn’t cut off it’s own hand.

  • Ricardo

    It is simple every person that has brought down a plane or tried to is a muslim radical. Profiling passengers would be less expensive and more effective. They do not need to be mistreated only asked more questions, and a more strict review of their passport stamps. Questions could be; Why don’t you have a suite case? Why are you paying full fair for a one way ticket? Etc. Let us face it profiling people is the best least intrusive, least expensive safest way to approach this.

  • Zaring

    The guest from the “flyer’s rights” organzation is paranoid. The fact she is not on a watch list and that she advocates for airline passengers does not give her any special exemption from examination.

    The furor over the (prudishly) perceived privacy violation by body scans is amusing to me. I have a prosthesis, and long before 9/11/01, I have ALWAYS had to go through a complete pat down. TSA is just trying to protect the public, and I don’t tke offense.

  • scott

    Even though they might not be a fix all what difference does it make. From what I remember the airlines are a private industry, and can do what they would like (within the law) to provide their service to whomever they want. Flying is a privilege not a right. I feel they can do what they need to, so everyone can fly safe. If you don’t like it drive, or better yet walk or bike :)

  • Dr. Ron

    Talking about privacy is largely a way to diminish arguments against a full body scan roll out that is in fact an extremely inefficient use of resources.

    Full body scans are a waste of what seem to be resources so limited that we are unable to act on intelligence that exists. Improving our intelligence communications would have revealed that the Nigerian with explosives in his underwear had already been identified by the U.K. as a danger. He paid cash (thousands of dollars) for a one way ticket.

    Thus, numerous problems were not noticed. Full body scans everywhere would be a waste of not just money, but the obviously limited attentional capacity to focus on real evidence of problems. One could easily argue that the responses we are taking from full body scans to throwing resources into Yemen is exactly what Al Qaeda had hoped we would do. One person with a little bit of money produces a huge waste of resources on our side. You don’t have to be a mathematician to calculate who will win, if we continue down the wasteful path we have pursued.

  • Michael

    Thank you for your show.

    1.While you questioned Mr. Laird about his potential conflict of interest re direct involvement in the sale of scanners – you overlooked the more telling conflict in the way he makes a living i.e. by advising airlines about security Mr. Laird founded Laird & Associates, Inc., in 1995 and between 1997 and 2002 was the Vice President of BGI International Consulting Services, Inc., Washington, DC., a company providing counterterrorism and aviation security advice to a variety of public and private sector international clients- conflict still there. ….. can ai keepwri4ring theiu f

  • chrischew

    if full body scan can’t detect liquid explosive, then wouldn’t x-ray machine alreay detect all other type of explosives and weapons?

  • Todd

    “If you don’t like it drive, or better yet walk or bike”
    Posted by scott

    @ scott:
    And you somehow think these alternative means of transport will be immune, and that they won’t follow down the same slippery slope that has been “greased” by our acquiescence to all this extra TSA “security” BS?

    Stay tuned my pedestrian comrade! When the airlines go bankrupt—because so few will be able or willing to fly—and Uncle Sam eventually takes over the U.S. air transit system (shades of GM?), THEN be on the look out for an increase of routine police checkpoints on your local streets, sidewalks, and bike paths. All for your security, of course!

    Think not? Then just have a gander at what the police state a la Scotland Yard has already implemented for the public’s added security in the U.K. The have a fine template for the whole world’s “value-added safety” being tested and refined there! CCTV’s watching your every move in public, fines if you leave your rubbish bin at the curb for longer than what the authorities think is appropriate, and one can hardly even take a photo on London’s streets these days without being harassed by one of those beloved Bobbies.

    So, hurry along and get your uninterrupted driving, biking, and walking in now—while you still can!

  • Jackson Johnson

    This is fine as long as one of the in flight channels is video and audio of the security theater with the passengers given the right to determine who does or doesn’t keep the job of looking at everyone naked.

  • Peter

    Nudity is no big deal. As long as an anonymous picture is evaluated out of sight and then deleted, I don’t see this as a privacy issue.

    Effectiveness is no big deal. Airport security is largely theater. It doesn’t do much to protect travelers from attacks; its real purpose is to protect politicians and law enforcement from liability.

    Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of cost and convenience. If full body scanners reduce the time I have to wait in line at security, that’s an argument in favor. If they noticeably increase the cost of flying, that’s an argument against. That’s the only trade-off I see here.

  • Michael

    too quick on the trigger…

    2. Innumeracy accounts for the tragic misconception about security – basically an emotion – hardly enhanced by extravagant human error based TSA scrutiny – like scanners and x-ray scatterers – when profiling and bathroom video monitoring are far more efficacious but culturally (correctly IMHO) verboten – The brit study about those who prefer scanning to pat downs…. I think you are ummm overlooking something perhaps – and I am not even pointing to the “private parts” redactive capabiltiy of the scnanner… (He’s looking at what??… see the wild radical David Brooks NYT 1/4/10 – just get used to this world – face reality – or don’t fly)

    3. Finally – the people who trash privacy rights – like Mr. Laird – need to get out your Aldous Huxley or Ray Bradbury if you so prefer. Privacy is the essence, the sine qua non, the actual cause of this country. Forgetting this puts our families and friends in existential danger and makes our commuitny a more miserable place to live. Expect a tremendous backlash against this intrusive misbegotten futility – or sheep that do nothing.

    now it can go

  • Dennis

    Airport Security: I’m for the Scans, though i’ve never
    flown; I’d be in favor in a Nude search, Nude Travel
    / far no better addmition of a Full Search. Of course only way to get really close, would be a Member Club of a AANR offiliated Travel Plan. i.e. when they schedule
    a Nude Crouse.

  • Craig

    We talk about scans and searches so much, but why don’t we bring in psychological profiling? When you go through security no one asks you anything, like where are you going? This is the way they do it at the borders going into Canada and Mexico. In fact, questions are the first line of defense.

  • Mike

    The nigerian man who attempted to bomb the airplane in Detroit evaded detection because someone, or several someones, in the intelligence community DID NOT DO THEIR JOB! Can someone please explain to me how these $200,000+ body scanning machines will help protect us from incompetence from the intelligence community?

  • JBG

    We had the shoe bomber. Now we all have to take our shoes off. We now have the underwear bomber. Soon we will all have to go through virtual strip search. All of the people who are saying they’ll undergo anything to make sure the flight is safe might change their minds after the rectum bomber shows up on a future flight.

    This was a simple failure of the process. The guy’s dad reported him as a problem well before the actual flight. Why do we need to spend billions on another layer of security in the airports?

  • Thomas Baumann

    Listening to all the options that passengers have to carry dangerous stuff on board – with or without full body scans – it appears to me that flying would be much safer if passengers would not be allowed on board airplanes.

  • Aaron Nydegger

    Maybe there should be separate flights for those willing and not willing to submit to full body scans. Those who are willing to take the risk get the extra safety. If you opt to fly on an unscanned flight, take the extra risk.

  • what happened to my country?

    The scanners are just more theater. A colossal waste of money and time, for literally nothing in return.

    To those who present the false dichotomy: “my privacy is less important than my life” or the related, “Anything that makes us a tiny bit safer is worth it, not matter the cost”, consider this: Shouldn’t we all submit to cavity searches? I mean, your privacy is less important than your life, right? Or really, shouldn’t we just ban flying? It would stop every attack on airliners, so it’s worth it, right?

  • What happened to critical thinking?

    If people wanted to blow us up, they’d bomb the crowd of people lining up to get through security. Or a mall, or a train, or a sports event. Because those places aren’t blowing up, we can reasonably conclude that no one’s really trying.

  • S Roberts

    I returned from Milan early in December via Amsterdam on NW flight to Detroit. I was given a thorough secondary screening by way of pat-down from a same-gender security person, which I found far more invasive than a full-body scan. European airports practice a THOROUGH pat down. I have also been subjected to full-body scans in US airports – I was slightly uncomfortable with the concept the first time, but got over it.

    I am a frequent business and leisure traveler, both within the US and to international locations. While I don’t believe there is any single “silver bullet” solution to secure our skies, if full-body scanning is effective and efficient, it is a viable method of secondary screening.

  • XY Smith

    With the current security regime, the odds of dying from a terrorist attack are lower than getting killed while driving to the airport. This will continue to be the case going forward, whether these full body scans are in place or not.

    If the machines are installed, 99.99% of travelers will be getting what is effectively a strip search. Who is the 0.01%? That will be various elected officials and bureaucrats: Obama & family, Pelosi & pals, TSA staffers, etc. I wonder how any of these people who receive exceptions would feel if they’re weren’t exempt?

    Honestly, I’m not terribly worried whether they see my scrotum, it’s my twelve year old daughter and my wife whose privacy I want to protect. There will supposedly be policy in place where privacy will be protected. Such as operators being located in separate rooms. Here’s an idea to up the seriousness of these privacy policies: In the event that an image somehow gets out, say some TSA staffer pulls out their camera phone and taps a snap of the curvy gal and posts it on the internet, then in that case a full body scan of every elected and appointed official as well as their entire families will be taken and hosted on whitehouse.gov. Let see if that is included in the policy.

    The next thought is that the government has no rights. Everything they do is supposedly the will of the people. Shouldn’t the question of whether these things are worth the microscopic benefit they will bring and the fairly significant personal privacy that will be taken away? Seems a bit wonky that this is being pushed down by people who stand to benefit financially from the installation of these machines.

    Please remember that when the TSA first went into business, they “randomly” selected stewardesses and buxom women for pat downs about 2:1 over the average passenger. What makes you think this will be any different?

  • June S Taylor

    Re concerns about “porn”, “virtual Nudity”, etc.: To allay the fevered imaginations, note that it’s easy to make the display software render an image into a stylized, generic male/female figure, with highlighted suspicious objects – instead of the anatomical images that we’re familiar with from medical imaging. Anyone who saw some video of the Dutch scanner images did in fact see such a stylized image – no face, no porn value, no problemo. And yes, it could still scan groin area.
    Re “the sky is falling” nature of US media/politician reactions to security incidents: I have relatives who lived thru the Blitz, the German air attacks on Britain. Can we in the U.S. please “cowboy up” and just stop with the nervous-nellie freaking out? Everyone else on the planet lives with bombs on their trains, their subways. Get over it, people – life doesn’t come with guarantees of perfect security. And drunk drivers are a much bigger threat. Tom, I am disappointed in your pandering to this crapola.
    Re How do the Israelis do it? They have ONE airport, folks, that handles international flights. It was built with security in mind. Now, how many international airports do we have in the U.S., and really, how much do you want to pay in taxes to rebuild them all? Frankly, I’d rather pay for better K-12 and higher education, and maybe we could have more productive discussions than this hour provided.

  • Bob Brennan

    I’ve been looking at images of these scans and find the worry about privacy ridiculous. I’d be far more uncomfortable getting a complete pat down where there are hand of a real person touching me than this.
    I’m sure there are people who could get excited about these images but I doubt they would qualify for the job of reviewing the scans

  • wavre

    If people wanted to blow us up, they’d bomb the crowd of people lining up to get through security. Or a mall, or a train, or a sports event. Because those places aren’t blowing up, we can reasonably conclude that no one’s really trying.

    Posted by What happened to critical thinking?, on January 5th, 2010 at 10:37

    FINALLY SOME FRESH AIR!!!!Thank God, there is still some adults left!

  • mr. independent

    The TSA is a joke. This whole airport security thing is a joke. Taking off belts and shoes does not do anything to make the flights safer. There is risk in every thing we do in life. Becoming a society of paranoid idiots lets the the terrorist win. People need to be more rational as your far more likely to die from a drunk driving indecent than a terrorist attack on a plane.

    What I don’t understand is why the TSA is not more professional. I know for a fact of a student from a local college who works for them. This is an 19 year old kid looking to make some extra money for college. This is the TSA.

  • Janet

    An yet again, just like after 9-11, nobody in the federal government is held accountable. obama is just like bush..never fire anyone, in fact, they will get larger budgets, promotions etc…rewarding failure is not reassuring.

  • Mazaka Lacroix

    As I listen to the Tom Ashbrook’s interview with that security joker Douglas Laird and his enthusiam for instituting the body scanner in all airports I was amazed of the lack of challenging questions being asked by the host. My understanding of a journalist (if that is what was being done) is to provide analysis of the issue. I could understand the guest proposing the implementation of body scanners in all airports but the question of what would happen when this tool fails to detect a problem. I understand that the guest is all for giving away his privacy rights but where does he draw the line if he does? What will he proposed that the goverment do next?

  • Larz

    Ashbrook has these people from the security industry on his show who mostly argue for the scanners. Why don’t we hear the story of the passenger Kurt Haskell who witnessed a second man trying to get the bomber on the plan without a passport or that a second bomb suspect was arrested in Detroit.

    see here on metro Detroit local news and talk:



    So NPR may be better than some news sources, but a far cry from adequate or what we need.

    The move towards no privacy and disrespect of civil liberty seems constant and ongoing. When there is a murder in a town, the police don’t decide to randomly search everyone or tell people they can’t be out pass a certain hour. Society has to accept some level of risk. The US constitution allows for that because you could make the same argument that if the police could search anyone, anytime, anyplace it would help prevent crime, but it is realized that privacy trumps such in many cases. I don’t trust the govt or industry telling me the scanners are safe, that there is nothing to worry about regarding naked body images etc.

  • Amy

    I agree that if the scanners don’t make us safer, don’t waste the money and don’t bother making some people uncomfortable. However, if the scanners do make us safer, I’d rather have someone see me naked than die on the flight. My modesty is not worth mine or others’ lives, and neither is anyone else’s.

  • Ce Moore

    Well, shall we give up MORE of our rights to protect our freedom, or sacrifice our freedoms to protect our rights?? This is the same ball game that followed Waco, Oklahoma City, 9/11, and many others.

    Follow the money, folks. This is another “Chicken Little Story” to make you feel comfortable with paying more money for less freedom…

  • Larz

    I think there is a much greater threat to your health and well being from what wall street bankers may yet do to us in the next few years than your chances of being harmed by a terrorist attack in any way. When a terrorist incident occurs, the govt is quick to jump all over it and beef up security, but they have done a lousy job of protecting us from the bankers, big lobbiests, and military industrial complex, all of which probably benefit in some way from the security police state they are trying to build ..

  • Paco

    Every time I launch the WMP from the On Point player page it freezes Firefox 2 for one minute, occupying 100% of one CPU. This does not happen with NPR Text-Only:


  • Anthony Wienburg

    A great american president once said something to the effect of Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

    So for security purposes would you allow yourself to be chipped so your ever move can be tracked as well as what you buy and sell using that chip via credits. If you think its science fiction… it’s called the Verichip and its here.

  • ob1

    I find it intresting that the issue of long term health,to children,the unborn,
    dna, an assortment of cancers,and the refusal of sorts from TSA and special intrest groups to not let people of all ages protect themselves from radiation beamed at there body. This reporting is not fair and balanced.

Sep 1, 2014
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Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) recovers a fumble by Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson (3) in the second quarter of the NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh. (AP)

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Ukrainian forces guard a checkpoint in the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of the nation's security council and canceled a foreign trip Thursday, declaring that "Russian forces have entered Ukraine," as concerns grew about the opening of a new front in the conflict.  (AP)

War moves over Syria, Ukraine. Burger King moves to Canada. Nine-year-olds and Uzis. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
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