There has been a lot of coverage in relation to the new TSA full body scanners at our nations airports. I haven’t personally had the pleasure of air travel since the implementation, but I look forward to seeing what all the fuss is about when I venture to Las Vegas in Jan. for the Consumers Electronics Show. Invasion of privacy, all the way to long term health concerns, have been cited as a reasons to despise the new security devices.
The question that hasn’t really emerged is, do the scanners actually work? According to two retired imaging specialists who were professors at the University of California, San Francisco, the answer is that they don’t. They base their skepticism on their modeling of the scanners performance, and conclude that a correctly shaped piece of plastic explosive can be hidden in garments and pressed upon a passengers body to avoid detection. In essence it won’t detect bombs hidden in undergarments.
The findings of these retired professors will come under much scrutiny as they don’t actually have a scanner to test their theory on, and the Journal of Transportation Security, in which the study is published, has not been established for a very long time. That being said, lets take a look at what they do know, as any doubt on the effectiveness of Homeland Security should be at least explored.
The two scientists, Leon Kaufman and Joseph Carlson, acknowledge that the figures needed to calculate the effectiveness of the scanners are still unavailable, however there is plenty of published information to determine “performance parameters”. According to Carlson, “The solid angle for the detectors can be reasonably deduced from photos and floor plans available on the web from the manufacturer of the Rapiscan 1000,” with other information coming from the digital images that have been made available. All this information can be combined, and evaluated, to determine if an effective scan is possible. The two professors then used a physics simulation software called GEANT4, which models the interactions of energy particles and photons in relation to how effectively they pass through matter such as clothing.
If nothing else this study asks the question as to how effective the controversial scanners actually are, not that the TSA needs another reason for the mainstream media to poke fun at the security measure. With all the outrage from the public in relation to the use of these security devices at our airports, the least that needs to be done is due diligence and answer all the publics concerns.
All this information leads to the questions of effectiveness. Are the scanners really needed to protect against terrorism, or are they just another form of “pseudo security”?- Security that is implemented simply to make us feel the governing bodies are taking the appropriate measures to protect us, but not really accomplishing anything. What are your thoughts on these security measures? Do they do what they are intended to do or not?
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