Social Question

shilolo's avatar

How do you feel about full-body scanning in airports?

Asked by shilolo (18085points) December 30th, 2009

Apparently, the recent attempted airplane bomber hid the explosives in his underwear. Now, some news reports suggest that the TSA is going to expand the use of full body (read: naked) scanners. An agent in another room will see you fully naked, to assess if you are hiding anything dangerous. Does this violate your privacy, or are you OK with this security measure?

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93 Answers

ChocolateReigns's avatar

I think it would be fine as long as the person seeing you “naked” isn’t getting any of your personal info, such as your name. I wouldn’t mind doing it as long as it is quick, easy, and not stressful. I don’t like flying because it’s just so stressful! I’m glad they’re trying to prevent terrorists succeeding.

pearls's avatar

As long as the TSA use females for females and males for males, I wouldn’t have a problem with it at all, if it keeps me and everyone else on the plane safe.

faye's avatar

Shades of x-ray vision glasses sold in the backs of comic books! If the moldable bomb material was discreetly wrapped around you somehow would it be able to differentiate? I wouldn’t care about the scan except for wishing I had my old figure back. Poor scanner reader guy, what sights he will see.

nikipedia's avatar

No, I would definitely not be okay with this. And I don’t have anything to hide. I am not a terrorist plus I look good naked.

Full-body scans are just unreasonable. I would sooner not fly than go through that.

andrew's avatar

Are you talking about millimeter wave technology, like they already have in place at SFO? Can you link me to this “naked” technology? Because if it’s anything like what I’ve seen, that’s like saying an X-ray is “seeing you naked”.

Edit: Yeah, that’s like seeing you naked.

Well, as long as we don’t have ridiculous bans on carryons and electronics, I suppose I’d be all right with that. It’s not like people haven’t seen my junk before on stage.

casheroo's avatar

I really don’t like this idea at all, but if it’s the final option because nothing seems to be stopping people from getting on planes with terrorist devices…then I guess I’d deal with it.

I was tested and accepted as an employee for TSA, the person who basically watches the xray scanner of your belongings at the airport. Without training, they test you to see your abilities (you do get to see some pictures before hand, but it’s timed) and then you review many scans of luggage and have to identify multiple devices. (like digital cameras, computer parts, lighters, anything of that sort) Then, after passing that, you do more training.
I guess that part of the scan isn’t the problem at all, it’s what is on the persons body?
It’s frustrating, and a complete invasion but I don’t know of any other options. Thankfully, I don’t fly often so it doesn’t affect me greatly.

Cotton101's avatar

Really think it would be a good thing. Not like Pearls, want a woman to take my picture…lmao!

Certainly think with the climate today that could become a reality. When you can get on a plane and feel comfortable, that is worth a “little trouble!”

andrew's avatar

After really reading the whole article, I think it’s summed up very well here:

“Let go of your fear of nudity. In the age of pubic powdered explosives, we can’t let you board a plane without somebody scrutinizing your naked body. But we can offer you a different kind of privacy: Nobody who sees your naked body will see your face. That’s how the TSA system works: The naked image shows up in a separate room without facial detail. The officer who sees you in the flesh never sees you on the monitor. The officer who sees you on the monitor never sees you in the flesh. It’s like the blind men and the elephant: Nobody has the whole picture.”

faye's avatar

@andrew I’ve not heard it expressed that way. So I would have no problem with it.

philosopher's avatar

They need to find a method to better protect the Public. Does this method expose people to excess radiation ? Can they find a better way using technology ? Can MRI technology some how be changed for screening use ?

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It does not bother me at all.

shilolo's avatar

@andrew I always thought those machines at SFO were designed to test for explosives (i.e. the little puffs of air are designed to shoot off any explosive particles on your clothes for detection). Now I realize that they are the same scanners mentioned in the article and your quip, and that the little puffs of air are probably to move your clothes just enough to “see” underneath…
As for seeing your “junk” on stage, remind me to skip that show….

andrew's avatar

@shilolo I’m not sure about the puff of air one— I know there’s one gate in the international terminal where you step with your hands above your head and it swirls around you. The clarity of the images it showed was nowhere near as details as the examples in the slate article though.

It was a brilliant staging of Equus. I got a lot of compliments after the show, not just about my performance.

pearls's avatar

@Cotton101 Maybe they will give you a choice. Show off!!!!

wundayatta's avatar

Only if it’s done by a very beautiful lady. In a private room. Then I think I could whip up some excitement about the idea.

shilolo's avatar

@andrew You’re right. The “puffers” are probably different than the scanner. I’ve never been in the scanner shown in the article.

I guess in a naked version of Equus, I’d have to play the horse (ahem)...

butterflykisses's avatar

I read (not sure how true it is) anything other than clothing whould show up as a grey mass, including sanatairy napkins and the like. That makes me a bit uncomfortable if it is true. I would also like to know how they would be able to tell the differnece between a tampon and a powder bomb inserted into a cavity. Will every woman that is on her period be pulled aside? (assuming this is true) Someone please correct me if I am wrong. I would love to know just what it actually sees. Sorry if this sounds vulgar, but I have read it a few times.

XOIIO's avatar

They are coming out with special X-Ray type devices that render a G-rated image of people and higlight any weapons, and they can be put up in place of security cameras, so full body scanns will soon be a thing of the past.

Civic_Cat's avatar

As long as I don’t have to show a passport, nothing’s recorded, and can wear my turban, I’m okay with it.

Keep in mind, the next big threat is likely surface to air missiles and WMD.

The fight is ideological, and unfortunately, no one in the government is fighting them on it.

(Such as this )

trailsillustrated's avatar

I don’t think the puffer thing is that, is it? I get puffed almost everytime I travel. And I don’t care if it looks naked so what.

Cotton101's avatar

@pearls LOL….....just a little humor in the situation!

shilolo's avatar

@Civic_Cat Surface to air missiles have already been fired on an Israeli plane in 2002. The plane employed countermeasures and avoided getting shot down.

pearls's avatar

@Cotton101 Well they certainly would find humor if they scanned my body.

Cotton101's avatar

@pearls modesty will get you Lurve’s!

Cotton101's avatar

@daloon could you cover your “arsh” with a towel! loll

pearls's avatar

@Cotton101 I’m feeling the Lurve!!!!

Silhouette's avatar

I’d be caught. Busted! My boobs are registered lethal weapons.

Pazza's avatar

Pointless, whats to stop that person panicking and the blowing him/herself up in a cue/croud of a hundred people at the airport?

This is all rediculous, are planes the only mode of transport people use to get around????
Before you no it, you’l be strip searched going through your own front door.

I said this in another thread: stop invading countries we have no right to be in and there will be no foreign terrorism!

ccrow's avatar

If it looks like the links from the Slate article, I wouldn’t care. Anyway, I’m no spring chicken; nobody’s likely to get any jollies from looking at me(hopefully w/the exception of my husband!!). I decided 10 years ago that I didn’t want to fly anymore, so maybe I should be disqualified from answering. ;-)

Pazza's avatar

No I think that’s a good Idea, lets all just not fly for six weeks and tell these stupid politicians we won’t go back on a plain untill they stop being so intrusive.

Lets see how long it would take before they binned all that stupid anti-terror legislation.

People have the power to say no. And by doing nothing they can instigate real change, but the have to have solidarity and not adopt a seperatist attitude to achieve it.

Civic_Cat's avatar

I haven’t been in a plane in 20 years.

shilolo's avatar

@Pazza Hey, what a great idea ~ Let’s all not do business, see our families/friends or carry on with our lives… That will show the politicians!

Every country uses security measures to counteract terrorism. Some try to use technology (like Western countries) and some use other means (i.e. intelligence and behavioral profiling). Making the system more open isn’t likely to encourage people to travel more, and is much more likely to attract more would-be-attackers and hijackers. If your mom/dad/brother/sister/wife/husband/child were killed on an airplane because of lax security, would you feel vindicated?

timtrueman's avatar

Perhaps we’re doing it wrong? I thought these guys figured it out decades ago…

Civic_Cat's avatar

Why not buses, trains, or cars.
100 years ago they used horses and buggies.

shilolo's avatar

@timtrueman Indeed. The screeners in Israel are like high-stakes poker players. They are trained to use psychological methods to identify unusual behaviors. In fact, last time I researched this (and flew through there, which admittedly was a while ago), they only used female screeners because they found they had a better 6th sense (or bullshit radar) and also were less susceptible to the wiles of the opposite sex (“oh, hey pretty lady, you can go through…).

Oh, and before people start yelling “profiling!”, this isn’t true profiling, it’s looking for unusual behaviors. The last time I flew through Ben Gurion, a tall, blonde woman was getting the equivalent of a strip search in a section just next to mine. Meanwhile, several “Arabs” (or maybe they were Sephardic Jews) waltzed through security in my lane since they posed no threat.

faye's avatar

@timtrueman How good that sounds to me. Remember the movie ‘Midnight Express’? His nerves were sure showing.

UScitizen's avatar

I don’t care. The airlines, and our corrupt US government convinced me many years ago that I should never again fly on a commercial air carrier.

ETpro's avatar

If we put the question like it really should be asked, it becomes, “Would you object more to somebody seeing through your clothes or somebody blowing up the plane you are flying in.” Asked that way, it’s a no brainer. I’d walk through the heart of Times Square in broad daylight with a bathroom plunger sticking out of my ass if that’s what was required to avoid being blown out of the air in an airplane.

ccrow's avatar

@shilolo , Pazza said ‘for six weeks’. You can’t survive that long w/out flying?

Civic_Cat's avatar

More the certainty of the former or the minor possibility of the latter.
Besides, the Islamic wacko failed.
Times have changed.

shilolo's avatar

@ccrow No, I cannot, and neither can a significant proportion of the world. Say I need to fly around for job interviews, or meetings, or to visit my family? I’m supposed to stop because someone feels the security (which may or may not be effective) is intrusive? That is illogical.

Civic_Cat's avatar

What ever happened to the whole VR thing?

shilolo's avatar

@Civic_Cat Can you tell me what you mean by VR? I’m not familiar with that acronym.

Civic_Cat's avatar

Virtual Reality.

In this case, virtual travel, or as Isaac Asimov’s “viewing”—virtual 3-D interaction. He described it his novels in the 1950’s.

ETpro's avatar

@Civic_Cat We were VERY lucky. You want to bet hundreds of people’s lives on being that lucky every single time an airplane takes off? I’m not that worried about modesty.

I can’t find a copy on YouTube but yesterday a news show broadcast a test with 50 grams of PETN being set off on an airplane. That’s about the amount show-bomber Richard Reid had. This guy was carrying 80 grams of PETN.

50 grams of the stuff blew a 30 foot hole in the side of the plan and tore off most of one wing. It would have definitely caused the mid-air breakup of the plan if it had not misfired. And the plane with its aviation fuel would then have showered down on a busy urban Detroit neighborhood.

skfinkel's avatar

This is ridiculous. This man who was attempting to bomb the plane had so many red flags that were ignored, it makes our system look like a bad comedy show as we strip down and tiptoe through the beeper machine. And having even more machines would have found him making some excuse to get a pass, while the rest of us shlubs march like idiots through each and every silly way they are supposed to catch terrorists.

First, we have to use the huge system we have competently. And secondly, we need to do what we can to change the minds of those who hate us—otherwise, they will multiply like the wizard’s broom, and there will be no way to stop the terrorism from the sheer numbers of people who will be loaded with explosives on planes, trains, boats, everywhere. We still have a chance, though. We need to take it. It will require some smart political action, but I think we could do it.

And, by the way, are these new machines really x-rays? If so, what is the expected long-term health consequences of stepping through such machines on a regular basis? being a tad nutty about x-rays myself, I will be avoiding them until I know the answer.

ETpro's avatar

@skfinkel There are two styles of machines. One is a low-energy backscatter X-ray and the other uses high-frequency low-neergy RF. The X-ray style appears to be the one the TSA prefers. It gives you less X-ray radiation than you will get from 2 hours of flight on a standard commercial jet, so I would guess it’s one heck of a lot safer than sharing passenger space with suicide terrorists packing explosives.

Zaku's avatar

It’s totally unnecessary and a ridiculous invasion of privacy, insulting, outrageous, cowardly, etc.

I want all of the people who think this is OK to organize into certain nations, and I will choose to live in a different society.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. Scare the sheep enough they will believe being turn into lamb chops is better than the wolf getting them. I say it will slow air travel down even more but I don’t fly so it won’t affect me . If people submit to “naked xrays” what next, cavity searches? Maybe they will end up giving culture swabs of their skin incase some new explosive was created that acted like body jell or something. How young a person will you make go through the xray? Even if male to male or female to female are you comfortable with some guy looking at your 10 year old son that way just for him to board a jet? And since the people hell bent on bringing down a jet don’t care about anyone one it infants in strollers could be used. You would have to xray everyone because the one group you don’t becomes the weak link.

Pazza's avatar

If we first understood why these people commited these acts of violence, we could prevent them happening in the first place. Oh hang on, we already do. Plus I’ve already said in another similar thread, why not just put sniffer dogs at the boarding gate?

Although I think that would ultimately be futile as the would be terrorist would just find a different target ie, the airport lobby! And if you think about it, if the terrorists were smart enough, they would target the lobby, theres more people there, and a detonation in the lobby would probably shut down the whole airport.

So how long will it be before all modes of transport require a full strip search?

Like I said, this legislation is ultimately pointless.

To answer your origional question, I would not be looking for vindication or revenge, I would most probably target the government with a barage of verbal abuse, and become a political ativist. As I’m capable of critical thinking my actions would reflect what I’ve learned and seen.

Pazza's avatar,CST-NWS-scanners30.article

So as we can see from the artical, a job well done, scanners will be deployed soon enough, problem reaction solution works again.

Problem – You want to install naked body scanners in all airports.
Answer – Create an invironment where terrorism will happen, and use the msm to constantly vreate fear amongst the populus that airports are the only target, giving the terrorist the idea that this is the best target.

Reaction – The public react to the attack by asking the government what they’re going to do about these terroist threats “we need protection!”
Answer – the government critisises its own departments to save face “I know we were lax, but I’ve ordered a full investigation!”.

Solution – Investigation complete, legislation is brought in to make naked body scanners madatory in all airports.

A job well done.

And so it came to pass that all airports had full body scanners and everbody felt safe. Right up untill the terrorists chose a new target.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@ETpro I have yet to be convinced that these x-rays are as safe as they are saying. For the longest time, we didn’t blink at CT scans, now all of a sudden we hear that the machines are emitting more radiation than we thought.

Bottom line, we only have the word of the FDA that they are safe. These are the same guys who brought us Vioxx. As @skfinkel said, the existing measures would have caught this guy if they had actually been applied by competent people.

ETpro's avatar

@Dr_Dredd I think it’s patently obvious that the machines are safer than ter terrorist that may board aircraft in their absence. And @skfinkel is not correct in suggesting that a metal detector would have sufficed if properly used. There was no metal to detect in the explosive underwear. It was just cloth and PETN plastic explosive.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Actually, when I said that existing measures would have sufficed, I meant that: 1) actually paying attention to the watch list; and 2) physically searching someone on it; would have caught him.

As for machines being safer than a bomb, well, let’s take a look. How many people do you have to expose to how many x-rays to prevent one terrorist bombing? (In medicine, it’s called “number needed to treat.” We’d ask how many people do we have to treat with a side-effect producing drug in order to prevent 1 case of disease?) I’d want to see that data before commenting on the relative safety of the x-ray backscatter machines.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

I just looked at the headlines from today’s New York Times. One of them was, “U.S. Spy Agencies Failed to Collate Clues on Terror: N.S.A. Had Intercepted Talk of Nigerian Plot Four Months Ago.”

Let me get this straight. They’re already missing things in the vast amounts of data they’re collecting because of some of these new rules. So we’re going to increase the number of rules and give them more data to comb through? It doesn’t make sense. We need to find a way to increase the signal-to-noise ratio, not increase the noise.

Pazza's avatar

As far as I know they use microwaves, but of the scalar variety, not Xrays. They only penetrate through the cloths and then bounce off the skin.

I think also though, that they use the same radiation as the active denial systems due to be deployed in the US for crowd control.

My thoughts are, what happens when you turn up the juice on these things?

XOIIO's avatar

He hid the package with his package!

Pazza's avatar

But the package cointained jewels, an now the jewels are spoiled!.....

ETpro's avatar

@Pazza There are two types currently available. One uses low-energy backscatter X-rays and the other uses low-energy, high-frequency RF. The TSA evaluated both, and decided the X-Rays did a better job. So if they are deployed nationwide in the near future, it will likely be the X-ray variety.

Pazza's avatar

@ETpro – Thanks for the info.
In that case, if I am due to get on a flight, and some security guys pull me to one side to go through the scanner I will refuse, and not get on the flight.

Also I will ask whilst booking the flight if my flight contract requires a posible scan, if not, I will be asking for a refund.

People seem to forget that when you book a flight, you are entering into a simple contract with the tour operator/flight operators. These airports seem to get labled as some sort of government check point that all serfs ‘MUST’ have checks to go through.

If your contract specifies a possible, or even mandatory search before you can get on the flight, then you are obligated to do so, but only to get on the flight. You will always have the inalienable right to refuse the search, but this will cause you to dishonor your contract and the tour operator will be quite within their rights to refuse you your flight.

All purchases create contracts with obligations, these obligations are nothing more than contractual agreements, nobody, not even your government has the right to force you to do something you do not want to do.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Actually, I think customers can request a full-body pat down instead of the scanner. I intend to do so.

ETpro's avatar

@Dr_Dredd That luxury probably goes away the first time a bomber gets on a plane with a condom full of plastic explosive stuffed up a body cavity. They have already done it to blow up a mosque where Muslims didn’t worship quite like the fundamentalists thought they should.

philosopher's avatar

Why can’t a technology be developed that is not harmful but will ensure our security ?
Isn’t there away to use MRI technology ? We can send people into space but we can not solve this problem.

ETpro's avatar

@philosopher An MRI takes a highly trained medical technologist to operate and evaluate, is very time consuming and brutally expensive. It’s great technology for medical imaging where needed, but not ready yet for prime time for this application.

How about thought probes. Anybody think THAT would be an invasion of privacy? :-)

philosopher's avatar

I just wish they would come up with something .

rottenit's avatar

No, the TSA is a fucking joke and I would bet money that a fair number of the “professionals” they have hired would try to take the images of people.

Remember a good chunck of these “professionals” were making just above minimum wage prior to the TSA taking the private contracts over, just because they make 50k+ now and have standardized uniforms does not imply they will be “professional”.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@rottenit Can you imagine the temptation to “accidentally” save and distribute the image of a naked Brittany Spears or Heidi Klum?

ETpro's avatar

@Dr_Dredd The machines do not include the capacity to do that. As with most things, architecture is often the best control to human temptation.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@rottenit Somehow, celebs, and government officials will be given a pass, it will be just the average Joe who ends up going through them. Chances are images of children will end up being found in someone’s computer down the line. IF celebs had to do it and these just above minimum wage screeners leaked a nude scan of an Eve Longoria, or Taylor Swift etc to the tabloids (or any other highest bidder) the airport will get sued and end up having to dump them anyhow to pay for the judgement against them so it would have all been for not.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@ETpro Really? Not even for “training” purposes? —Like we sometimes hear, “this call may be recorded for training and quality improvement purposes…”

Anyway, someone who really wanted to could take a digital photo of the image on the screen, bypassing the machine entirely.

Pazza's avatar

I just heard on an English radio station yesterday that because of the plain attack over Xmas, that people from countries ‘BELIEVED’ to have links with terrorists with have mandatory patdown searches and have their bags searched.

I wonder if the legislation that will follow was written before or after the attack?
‘coughs’...Patriot act!.......

ETpro's avatar

Would a pat-down search have actually found the underwear bomber’s device? Can we count on the cooperation of Al Qaeda to not ever change their strategies? I know they used to change them routinely in the past, but now, knowing we are going to use pat-downs, they wouldn’t dare conceal explosives in a body cavity as they had done in the past, would they? I mean, if you can’t even trust suicide terrorists to cooperate with new security procedures designed to catch them, who can you trust?

Civic_Cat's avatar

@shilolo and all:

(1) I’ve yet to read the Wikipedia articles such as this one however, it’s suggested that the jet had flares— Huh? The Israelis now have flares on their passenger jets?!?

However, such flares fly over Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Kenya: countries whose people we really don’t care about; but what would us first-worlders think about flares falling over our wonderful selves?

Nor, do I know how Americans will deal with the “dumber rockets”.
Flares won’t work on those.

(2) I also wonder about how will the Americans deal with attacks on the airports themselves.

@ETpro and all:

(1) Eventually I’ll read the Wikipedia article on PETN.

(2) Again, terrorism is as rare in airlines, even US airlines, as are fatalities for other reasons, and I think most of it has to do with the more minimal protocols. So again, I refer to risk. It’s not: “would I rather be walking ‘through the heart of Times Square in broad daylight with a bathroom plunger sticking out of my ass’ as opposed to being blown to bits.” The latter is far less certain—“a million to one”, while the security protocol is 100% (or near 100%).

To me it’s like would I rather someone tap me on the forehead; or, say, being shot at with say 60 rounds from an M16, but from 2 miles, and I can walk after the first round is fired and the shooter has 1 minute to fire all shots.

(3) As for the rays used, I heard on the radio—CBC at that—that one is exposed to as much “ energy as a cell phone.” The problem here is the lack of “literacy” in science, sort of like a journalist referring to a power plant producing so many “Megawatts of energy”. Energy and power are not the same. Energy-wise, 50 grams of PETN might have less than 50 grams of butter. The difference is how quickly the energy is expended.

Now going back to the scanner, if the power rating of the rays were that of a cell phone, then fine, go ahead, nuke me; however, if all energy expended in the time interval that it takes to make one scan of me, is more or less equal to that of an even partially charged cell phone battery, then the rays might be lethal.

It’s the duration of exposure, distance, and number of times considered.

(4) Also, there is population.

Let’s say over 20 million American travelers get scanned over 100 times in 8 years (a time interval less than 911 and now).

Now let’s say that the chance of getting cancer from a scan, and dying of it, is only 3 in a million. Wha-lah! You now have twice the deaths of 911—and the deaths would likely be more expensive and painful.

(5) as per (2) and (3), I wonder if these rays affect sperm count.

(6) It’s not so much what is done—I at times, occasionally make a point of fondling myself in front of security cameras—but the necessity and involuntariness of it.

(7) As for air travel, I haven’t indulged in it for 20 years, nor have I left Canada at that same time—economic reasons —so I don’t know how bad, or, if you will, “not bad” air travel has become. I suppose the US State Department would assure me that it’s all professional and necessary—like the invasion of Iraq. Others have horror stories that sound as if the DHS was a Chinese or Iranian agency rather than American. Still others say it’s race: if you are a blond hair, blue eyed, Tory, in a business suit, flying to Disney or a Promise Keepers convention, and all you want to check is your laptop and copies of Christian Living, you’d be alright. If however, you are one of them darker-complexioned folks, who looks and talks funny, and have one of those Mooselem names; then it’s “STEP OUT OF THE LINE WITH YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEAD!!”

The way I figure it, if our ancestors did it, so can we: live without air travel, or even international travel. Indeed, most of them did until, say, the 1930’s.
Yet even here, it would be easier for us. Today’s railroad trains and cars are likely more comfortable. We have cell phones and some internet access. If something bad happened, you might be able to walk out of a train. You can sleep horizontally in a train—even do the wild thing in some cases. You would likely “rediscover” your country.
Also, there is the above described VR, tele-conferencing, tele-operating, whatever-name(s)-we-will-likely-come-up-with. Something of which I’m kinda doing right now.

Zaku's avatar

@Civic_Cat I lurve your post, but as I imagine you know, trains and cars are both statistically far more dangerous than air travel.

It’s pretty clear to me that the security measures we have in place (and ones proposed such as these body scanners) are not the best way to protect against terrorist threats, and they have many other undesirable side-effects (or even purposes): political, economic, societal, removal of freedom, which seem to me to be their main function, rather than their actual protective value.

ETpro's avatar

@Civic_Cat Points taken. I don’t think the rest of the world can chug right along foregoing all air travel. It’s a long train ride from Boston to London. Or boat ride for that matter. And blowing the bottom out of a 5,000 passenger cruise liner would be a lot more spectacular than even 9/11. But you’re right, if we’re going to set up security, as Ben Franklin warned us, it has to not take essential liberty away in favor of a little temporary safety; and more than that, it has to actually make us more safe.

Civic_Cat's avatar

@Zaku and @ETpro.
Thank you for your kind words.

Actually, I’m not convinced of the comparative safety, though admittedly I’ve yet to peruse the stats. If one goes by distance, air travel is arguably safer than cars or trains—though one could likely attest that if they are so safe, we don’t need the security drama.

If however, if one goes by time, then trains might indeed be safer. Ditto walking. If, say, 500 people flew 1 000 miles in a plane, that would take, say 1½ hours. If however they walked 5 mph, or 200 hours, the fatalities per mile could be 66⅔ times greater, yet the fatalities per hour would be half—though presumably, if this was a substitution for air travel, the fatalities per unit time wouldn’t matter as much.

I wonder what the difference between cars and trains would be.

As for ships, there is, of course, say, the cold of the North Atlantic and the sharks of the tropics, and perhaps worse, the wake of the sinking ship—assuming of course the sinking was not slow, and none of the sections could be shut off; but again, there is some mitigation.

The thickness of a jet’s hull is measured, at best, in inches; whereas with ships, it might be in the 10’s of inches. Tanks are unlikely as well armoured. With ships, you have time to react. With ships, you aren’t going to hit land or sea at +100 mph, or whatever the terminal velocity is—greater if you are in a diving plane.

Indeed, if the Titanic happened today, it would have the benefit of radar, satellite communication, better weather forecasts, helicopters, and better safety standards.

Further, attacks on ships it doesn’t seem to be as, if you will, “sexy,” and it seems that if one thing ‘ol bin Ladan loves it’s drama.

Further, some ships are as fast as trains, and likely more comfortable.

Presumably, with increased interest, and market share, the alternatives: driving, trains, ships, and whatever cyber stuff that’s possible is likely to improve. The airline lobby gets the agencies to ease up—or pay for more bailouts, the targets for terrorists difuse a bit, and with years, even decades passing, Al Qaeda and this whole Islamacist BS gets more and more dated. (“But Brother Osama, you promised the World Caliphate! You promised us an Islamic Republic or America by 2010! Why hasn’t it happened? You mean all our sacrifices were for nothing? You lied to us Osama. Heck, you must be a CIA agent planted to mislead the ulema! You deserve to die!!”)

ETpro's avatar

@Civic_Cat I am not trying to terrify everyone of Ocean travel here. Cruise Ships have a very good safety record. But even battle ships had a limit on hull thickness because the doggone things have to actually float.

The Queen Mary 2 is one of the worlds largest cruise ships. In some high-stress areas, such as the bowsprit that is likely to sustain impacts, the hull steel is a whopping 10 millimeters, (0.394 inches) thick. The M1A1 Abrams tank, in contrast, has a sophisticated composite armor of various steel alloys, plastics, composites, Kevlar and depleted uranium mesh. It is 940–960 mm (37–38 in) thick. But the tank, a relatively small object compared to the QM2, weighs 136,000 pounds and does not float well at all. :-)

I’m not going to go into the details of what it would take to sink a giant cruise ship. It’s not falling-off-a-log easy. But it is very within the range of what a single dedicated suicide bomber could pull off if they got on board well equipped.

andrew's avatar

Related (and granted it’s from the huff post): Full Body Scanners don’t actually find bomb parts.

ETpro's avatar

@andrew Good point. And if breast implants are just fine and dandy, a dedicated female suicide bomber could have a pair fashioned from silicone covered PETN. That would be enough explosive for a massive bomb. The trick is how to detonate it without the detanator being detectable. Fortunately, that’s not as easy to solve, as the show bomber ant the Fruit-of-the-Boom bomber have amply demonstrated.

Zaku's avatar

@andrew – Nice to see an article pointing out the obvious and the comical about body scanners. No well-publicized security program like that is going to deter an intelligent and determined organization from messing with you if it is committed to doing so. It just costs a ton and messes with everyone, and catches other things and clumsy attempts. Take for example the recent shutting down of Newark airport for hours when someone accidentally walked backwards through the outgoing security passage.

I quite liked the comments:

Schneir on Security concludes, “Full-body scanners: they’re not just a dumb idea, they don’t actually work.”

Gizmodo’s take: “full-body scanners are equal parts creepy and ineffective, the end.”

Pazza's avatar

Just had a thought, since some drug smugglers use there stomachs to hide drugs, and since suicide bombers are going to die anyway, whats stopping them hidding explosives in their stomachs and detonating them by remote!

shit I hope theres no radicalised muslims listening in, I may have just given them an idea!

Civic_Cat's avatar

Oh yes, the war on drugs.
Drug smugglers learn how to counter anti-smuggling technologies and protocols.
This is passed, however unwittedly and indirectly to those who really want to hurt us.
Thank you DEA for making air travel a lot less safer.

Pazza's avatar

Re my other comment:

Just had a thought, since some drug smugglers use there stomachs to hide drugs, and since suicide bombers are going to die anyway, whats stopping them hidding explosives in their stomachs and detonating them by remote!

Terrorists ‘plan attack on Britain with bombs INSIDE their bodies’ to foil new airport scanners

Britain is facing a new Al Qaeda terror threat from suicide ‘body bombers’ with explosives surgically inserted inside them.

Until now, terrorists have attacked airlines, Underground trains and buses by secreting bombs in bags, shoes or underwear to avoid detection.

But an operation by MI5 has uncovered evidence that Al Qaeda is planning a new stage in its terror campaign by inserting ‘ More..surgical bombs’ inside people for the first time.


Dr_Dredd's avatar

@Pazza Oh, shit. I was afraid something like that would happen…

ETpro's avatar

@Pazza MI5 and the CIA need to crack the code on the trigger devices. Then it’s just a matter of flying a drone oveer the training camps and seeing who explodes.

Civic_Cat's avatar

Will we now have to go into small heavily fortified rooms where robot guards punch us in the stomach?
Will we have to do jumping jacks?
Will we have to eat mentos and drink chili-flavoured cola?
Will we be injected with deteonators before boarding planes?

Will female porn stars get more examined—due to implants?

Will Allah forgive the bomber who sticks a bomb in his you-know-where?
“Passengers tackle suicide bomber who tried to detonate bomb he hide in his anus. Blast of partial explosion was only enough to injure would be mass-murderer, necessitating partially effective reconstructive surgery for him.”

ETpro's avatar

@Civic_Cat Ha! I’d have to be REALLY dedicated to a cause to even consider hiding a pound of plastic explosives up my rear and detonating it. What a sh*tty way to go.

Civic_Cat's avatar

What if his “unit” was found in an arroused state?
Al Qaeda might never live it down!

ETpro's avatar

@Civic_Cat I can just hear the jokes. Man, no wonder you guys are such crouches if that’s what it takes to get you off.

bob_'s avatar

After wasting time going through airport security today, I wouldn’t oppose making all airports nudist. Don’t have anything to hide here.

Added benefit: Mexicana Airlines’ counter at JFK is next to Finnair’s. Finland? More like Fine-land!

<—- digs tall, blonde chicks

Civic_Cat's avatar

@bob. Nudity ain’t enough. You gotta get probed.

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