Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Full body scan - shield or show?

Semi-Originally posted 06/14/2011 on lubbockonline.com

Due to technical problems, this is a repost from January 4, 2010

Full body scans in airports - they're getting a lot of attention again, both for and against. One blog feels that just by agreeing to fly we are consenting to scanning. Another story on Canada.com agrees. It asks the seemingly reasonable question, "Do we need to see hundreds or thousands killed for the privacy objectors to back off?"

Privacy groups are against the full body scanners, saying they are invasive and demeaning. Flyersrights.org and the ACLU are both against the scanners. In a release on its website the ACLU says:

"We should be focusing on evidence-based, targeted and narrowly tailored investigations based on individualized suspicion, which would be both more consistent with our values and more effective than diverting resources to a system of mass suspicion," said Michael German, national security policy counsel with the ACLU Washington Legislative Office and a former FBI agent. "Overbroad policies such as racial profiling and invasive body scanning for all travelers not only violate our rights and values, they also waste valuable resources and divert attention from real threats."

I have to admit, I lean more toward the ACLU position. Yes, I know that a full body scan might have caught the explosive in the bombers undies - although there are claims that the bomb would have made it through a scanner. But that isn't really the issue. The issue is that we don't need to add any new security measures, we need to properly use the ones we have.

I can't say it enough. The system is broken. People are saying, "We need full body scans to keep anyone else from getting through." No, we need to start making full use of the intel we're gathering. Bush dropped the ball when he didn't follow through on his order that the U. S. intelligence agencies, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. share information, and Obama is following his example.

The point in this is not that a scanner would have stopped this guy before he could turn himself into a eunich. It is that he should never have made it to the point where he would have to go through a scanner. We had more than enough info to forbid this guy to get on a plane. He was on a watch list, then his father notified the U.S. Embassy that he had been radicalized and might do something dangerous. That would have put him in a "watch very closely" list for me. Not for the U.S. government. According to examiner.com:

"On November 20th the embassy sent a "Visas Viper cable" to the State Department which detailed the father's warning.  The information was then given to the Counter-Terrorism Center in Washington D.C. which ruled that their was insufficient information present to revoke Mutallab's visa."

While people are screaming for more measures to limit our freedoms and take away our rights, the real problem is that the information we are gathering has everything we need to stop these terrorists, if we would only use it. Putting scanners in the mix will not make us safer, it will only be one more layer of false security.

No matter what methods we devise to detect explosives at the airport, our first and best line of defense will always be gathering data to stop terrorists before they can get a ticket. And the evidence shows we're doing a good job of gathering it, we just aren't using what we're getting.