1. Ads events have shown in Germany, fear-mongering for political ends is not unique to the United States.

  2. I have to disagree with Ron Paul on a few points. First, the xray scanner machine gives a very small dose of only 0.25 microsieverts http://www.rapiscansystems.com/rapiscan-secure-1000-single-pose-health.html
    The manufacture puts this in terms most people should be able to understand: 1/60th of your natural daily dose, or 2 minutes on a flight, or like eating a couple of bananas.
    Personally, I think the dose is so insignificant as to not worry at all about it. The question then becomes does it work well or can it be fooled? Maybe time will tell the answer to that, but first, does the government have the right to do this? I think so. Flying like driving is a privilege where certain rights are exempt for everyone’s safety.
    Ron Paul also states that giving pilots guns and a reinforced cabin door are enough, and while that would have certainly thwarted the 9-11 high-jackers plan, a plane is still vulnerable to a bomb smuggled on a person or piece of luggage.
    Are these newer procedures inefficient? I think so. I don’t mind flying, it’s the security check that’s the hassle. When 99% + of the people are no threat at all, security becomes an exercise of searching for a needle in a haystack. I think it could be done better and more effectively but that doesn’t mean we should throw the whole process as well as the TSA completely out as some have suggested.
    People are getting way too uptight about the “naked” pictures. These are hardly pictures to be lusting after and the job of looking at these minute after minute must be quite a strenuous task. Anyone who has taken a sketching class with nude models will tell you the initial surprise or embarrassment quickly fades and the mind shifts its focus to the task of drawing. The same would go for the scanner operators who are trying to spot suspicious items. However sexy or funny people’s bodies look would be the last thing on their minds.

    1. I believe you’re missing Rod’s point, and to a certain extent Dr. Paul’s. The issue is not that people are uptight about it. The issue is the diminishing returns at tremendous expense we are seeing. Yes, a plane is still vulnerable to a bomb smuggled aboard. So what? I happen to agree with you that the radiation concerns are silly, and that it may be silly to be uptight about the “pictures.” But are we accomplishing with all of this money and the unprecedented assault on our freedom from unreasonable search and seizure? Considering how few airplanes explode and fall out of the sky, I feel that an invasive search of everyone who comes on board is certainly unreasonable. And the added costs in terms of time, equipment and all of the associated overhead certainly has a deleterious effect on the industry. Much like the effects of the excessive over-regulation of nuclear power does.

      1. Actually, I don’t think airport security and nuclear regulation are good parallel comparisons in respect to regulation. Humans are notoriously unpredictable, devious, and unable to follow simple rules consistently. Nuclear reactors are machines that are very predictable, well documented, and tended by a staff of highly trained professionals.
        How regulation is used in a manipulative fashion so as to create or protect particular markets or goods can be abused, there’s no question, but it can also be very beneficial for producer and consumer.
        9-11 may have not been a large loss of life in comparison to other senseless losses of life but it had far reaching psychological, cultural, economic, and political consequences that we are still reeling from. As things are now, we can’t just cripple the TSA and say airlines are probably safe enough, let’s just chance it that nothing will go wrong and no bombs, drugs, guns, or knives are brought aboard.
        We live in an extremely litigious society where lawsuits are ready at a moments notice when someone has neglected something that wronged someone else. Remember the plane Capt. Sullenberger safely landed and no one was harmed? Each of those passengers was given $5000 for their inconvenience and trauma. Some complained that wasn’t enough so the airline gave some $5000 more. And still that wasn’t good enough for some so they sued for even more. So even when a possible worst case scenario turned out ok, there are still lawsuits from very ungrateful and vindictive people I might add.
        Protecting many good people from a few bad people is an extremely difficult task but necessary in retrospect to what we’ve seen can happen. Has it gone overboard to extremes and seems nonsensical? Maybe. But I think their processes are continuing to evolve from what was sometimes casual relaxed security to very good security. If you’ve ever had a job dealing with the general public, then you can appreciate how difficult and stressing the jobs of these security professionals can be. I think this is a time were we should be cooperating with them as best as we can rather than making viral videos of the process by throwing a tantrum.

    2. I sometimes wonder if the “naked” body scanners intended to reduce the terrorist threat not by detecting hidden bombs or weapons, but rather by deterring Muslims from flying by offending their sense of modesty.

      1. CGarty – do you think that only Muslims are offended by intrusive searches? The Constitution that I swore to uphold and defend indicates to me that people have long been offended by intrusive and unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, places and effects.

        1. No, but Muslims are notorious for their emphasis on bodily modesty, as well as being the community from which the greatest terrorist threat currently emanates.

          1. @CGarty – This is a gentle warning – I fully support and defend the entire Constitution including the part that says
            “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
            Religion is not the issue and will not be debated here. Freedom is the issue. One part of a free society that is very important is the idea that people get to make their own choices, have the right to not be pre-judged, and have the right to go about their existence peaceably.

            1. My apologies if I caused offence — I certainly didn’t intend to bash Islam or Muslims!

          2. Many Christian denominations have a strong emphasis on modesty as well. The idea that one group would be deterred from flying due to modesty concerns cuts fairly widely across society. Many deeply religious people will struggle with this issue.

      2. You bring up an interesting point. I read somewhere that the TSA has different procedures for Muslim women as it is not their custom to allow someone to touch them, thus that would divert them to the body scanner which they also would have an issue. But, bottom line, no screening = no ride on the plane.

  3. Rod,
    You hit it on the head, but not in the way you intended. The constitution states unreasonable searches and seizures are disallowed – its the question of the definition of ‘unreasonable’.
    Is it unreasonable to search people who may or may not have a bomb on their person before they go on an airplane? I don’t think so. You are not on your private property when you go on an airport. You are not expected to have privacy of your image, your voice, or your possessions.
    Frankly I think they should just do away with the patdowns and force people to go through the metal scanners – the government is giving you options here where there shouldn’t be any, and its causing problems from the people who opt out of the scanner.
    Make it a mandatory thing. If you don’t go through this, you don’t fly – just like if you don’t wear your seatbelt you don’t drive (at least without fear of getting a ticket). Your using a private service here – they have every right to screen you on a service THEY own.

    1. @Ed – you are mixing up a few things here. First of all, it is our government that is doing the searches. Secondly, we have been going through metal scanners for years and I have no real issue with that quick process, though I resent having to take off my shoes and I think the liquids rule is just plain silly.
      I have an issue with is the continuing ratcheting and fear mongering that keeps making inroads into personal freedom. I still miss the penknife I used to carry on my key chain. It was an incredibly handy tool for many years, but I forgot to leave it home before one trip and had to give it up at the security line.
      Freedom of movement and being secure in one’s person from unreasonable searches is a huge part of what makes America the place that it is. Where does the desire for more safety stop – should we eliminate the scanners altogether and just agree to take our clothes off in order to prove we are not carrying anything dangerous?
      As for choosing to fly or not to fly, I have more and more frequently during the past few years opted for a different mode of transportation. There is a reason why my 2002 automobile has 210,000 miles on it – they were not all commuting miles. I have also started riding trains again and I was intrigued the other day to learn about a relatively new bus company that is starting to run a hub and spoke bus system.
      By the way, I am not a big fan of seatbelt laws. I am old enough to fondly remember riding in the back of a station wagon and playing cards with my brothers while on long trips. Heck, one of my favorite activities as a kid was riding in the back of a neighbor’s pickup truck to get some ice cream. That is real freedom, hot sunny day with a double dip ice cream and shooting the breeze with buddies in an open air pickup bed at 55 MPH.
      I also allowed my own daughters to get out of their seat belts and play on the floor of the van once we were on an interstate.
      Life is not completely safe – in a world in which smoking cigarettes is still legal I also suspect that many of the nanny laws have economic motives behind them. Sometimes I wonder if the purveyors of the alternative transportation systems are not tacitly encouraging all the ratcheting at the airports.

      1. “I have an issue with is the continuing ratcheting and fear mongering that keeps making inroads into personal freedom. I still miss the penknife I used to carry on my key chain. It was an incredibly handy tool for many years, but I forgot to leave it home before one trip and had to give it up at the security line.”
        What’s worse is that none of this does any good.
        For example, I have snuck my full-size swiss army knife onto a flight, not once, but twice in the last five years. I didn’t do this to try to hijack a plane or to prove a point, but simply because I didn’t want to lose a cherished object, which I’ve owned since I was 15.
        The sad part of this story is that this wasn’t difficult to do. It wasn’t planned in advance. In fact, both times, I realized, in horror, that I had arrived at the security line with the knife still in my backpack. It was too late to check the item, so keeping my head, I quickly formulated a plan to get it through the screening process without being discovered. Needless to say, my plan worked both times.
        Now, if someone like me, who was improvising at the last minute, can sneak a two-inch, razor-sharp knife blade (complete with corkscrew) onto a flight in front of everybody without any difficulty, imagine what someone who is determined could do with a little planning in advance.
        The airport screenings are pretty much a joke. They’re a circus that is designed to make the passengers feel safe, without providing the protection that they claim to provide. At some point, it’s important to ask: when does the inconvenience outweigh the actual protection that is being provided?

  4. Rod
    HEAR HEAR HEAR!! Rod this message should be shouted from top of the tallest building in every town across the land. The creeping suffocation of increased regulations is absolutely eroding precious freedoms all under the pseudo theory of increased safety. I too chafe at seat belt laws and increased regulations on the food industry to “make our food healthier” just to name a few. AMEN AMEN AMEN. Preach it brother!

  5. Rod,
    Ok, look at it this way – suppose that a terrorist DID take down a plane by boarding the plane with liquid explosives and we did nothing. They would do it again. And again. There are a fairly large number of people who would be willing to do this. As England, France get more radicalized, it becomes more likely, and the first successful attempt will engender countless others to try.
    Its an arms race – or as I like to think of it, a zero-level exploit. Terrorists come up with security flaws and exploit them. National security comes up with ways to counter. And so forth.
    As far as the effectiveness of all of this, I think of it as a simple technological challenge. Right now, the scanners may not be that effective, but when automatic systems start to do the imaging/tracking their potential for both lowering privacy concerns and interdicting terrorist efforts goes up a great deal.
    That’s why I say they should just simply get rid of the personal patdowns. It all goes to the question of reasonable again. Going through a machine in an anonymous fashion where there is no realistic health-risk, the images aren’t saved, the people viewing don’t actually see the viewee, and there is the potential of completely automating the process doesn’t strike me as ‘unreasonable’ when the alternative (having a bomb smuggled on board) is so onerous.
    Likewise getting rid of fluids on planes. Elsewise, we would be wide open to anybody who chose to smuggle a bomb on that way.

    1. As Charlie Stross pointed out though, aren’t the security checkpoints themselves an ideal terrorist target, once the terrorists start thinking in terms of killing people rather than blowing up planes?
      My solution to the problem of Muslim terrorism would involve electric cars and synfuels, as I suspect the people of the Muslim world are in a big way victims of the West’s addiction to oil…

  6. George,
    Sure, that’s possible, but I think of this as the first iteration of the technology. Picture when the checkpoints are slimmed down, and autodetection software is in place. You could do pre-screening, putting mini-detection facilities at the beginning of the airport. Facial fingerprinting (note-not recognition) could prescreen people when they even enter the airport, cross-referencing with no-fly lists. After this, security points would no longer be a bottleneck.
    Now I realize this is controversial, and would need tons of safeguards, but I’m willing to live with security like this as long as it *is* secure (in the sense that privacy is enforced from the outside world) and has the same court protections as other forms of communication (eg: police would need a court order to access any of these records to use as evidence in the case citizens are accused of a crime).
    There is a danger of a slippery slope here, but I don’t think there’s too much danger here. As recent events have shown, Americans can only get pushed so far down the security front, and then push back, which IMO is healthy.
    My *real* fear is that something abominable happens, we go batshit crazy again and any sense of balance slips away – and the above tech is put in and hijacked by agencies *without* regular protections of unreasonable search and seizure (eg: warrant-less wiretaps). Best way to avoid that is to avoid these terrible events, which this technology (properly implemented) could help prevent.

    1. @Ed – (sorry for the delay in response. I have spent the past week or so in the process of moving household goods. My camp chair was not comfortable enough for long stretches of typing.)
      My guess is that you are one of those well intentioned engineers who believes strongly that there is always a technological solution that would work – as long as you can convince those human life forms to use it correctly.
      People being what they are, we have to strike a balance between well-implemented technology and rules that recognize that not everyone wearing a uniform and collecting a government paycheck is well-intentioned, well-trained or even intellectually suited for the type of work they are assigned to do. I have known some terrific “cops” (generic term for law enforcement officers) in my life, but I also have met some incredibly petty, power hungry idiots who love wearing a badge and telling people what to do.
      I hope that my analysis of the situation is way off, but it should be remembered that many of the worst criminals prosecuted after WWII were assigned as prison guards, but took great joy in executing the “intent” of their leaders. A whole lot of similar personality types manned the checkpoints along the “Wall” and enjoyed shooting those who tried to escape during the Cold War. My National Guard brother in law met a few of the same type of human being when assigned a rotational duty along our own southern border; he was admonished for simply providing water to people who really needed it.
      My fear is that we are already “batshit crazy” in some areas and have already hired people who have highjacked at least some of the already available technology to their own purposes. The laws of probability and human nature have not changed so much since the founders wrote a Constitution that allowed for a law enforcement function of reasonable searches – with probable cause – and prohibited unreasonable searches. You mentioned “warrant less wire taps”, but do you recall the full text of the 4th Amendment?
      “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
      In my line of work, the word “shall” has some very special meaning. Those who violate the direction after that word are often fined, fired, or imprisoned without much fuss. Searches that are not immediately obvious as “reasonable” to the most casual observer are only allowed with warrants. Warrants for searches require probable cause, oath or affirmation and specificity in order to be Constitutional. How does our current process imposed upon all people who are simply “guilty” of wanting to board an airplane to exercise their right of freedom of movement meet those criteria?

  7. Ed – I disagree. The best way to avoid further terrorism is not to turn ourselves into Fortress America, then the terrorists really win. They’re already winning, you see. They really are.
    It is a sad statement when I say that underwear and shoe bombers or really any sort of terrorism that has been done to the US terrify me far less than Homeland Security makes me fear with their secret watchlists, behavioral analysis programs, infrastructure protection programs, cyber-security programs, data mining initiatives, naked scanners, and grope-searches.
    One can no longer take a photograph of a bridge or a water tower anywhere in the US without Homeland Security personnel wanting to know about it and record it in some secret database somewhere. The doors of the Supreme Court are now permanently shut to protect them from terrorists – but really end up protecting the Court from the American people. I can only imagine that my childhood memories of being able to go into the public areas of the Capital building will never be experienced by any living civilian again.
    It is depressing – at least to me – that in this war upon our fears, our own terror, we are losing control. Perhaps we have not reached the level of national maturity where we can bear the occasional attack like the British did in the 1940s, with a stiff upper lip and a gritty determination to go on no matter what the enemy throws at you; it seems that among the civilian population, at least, we Americans – when faced with attacks – degenerate into individuals crying for the Daddy State to protect us from the Evil Terrorists.
    Since the Daddy State “protecting us” would mean the end of our freedom, the responsible thing to do as a nation is to remove the stimuli prompting us to cry out for the Daddy State to protect us in a prompt fashion. The following steps should achieve that desired effect:
    *Terminate our foreign obligations in the Middle East in a responsible fashion, and bring our soldiers home.
    *Avoid the Israeli – Palestinian conflict like the plague; let both sides stew in their own juices; only when both sides have no more enablers, no more “friends”, and no one left to lie to will a modus vivendi be reached between them;
    *Not get involved in wars of choice to spread freedom or democracy, but only in wars of necessity and wars of treaty obligation.
    *Redirect our diplomacy to focus more on the economic interests of the majority of the American people – i.e. American jobs produced by American exports (note, not corporate profits) – rather than:
    **our supposed ideals as determined by neocons and associated fanatics;
    **the religious and national aspirations of various extremely powerful hyphenated-American lobbying groups;
    **the desires of banksters, Wall Street fat-cats, CEOs, and assorted economic royalists for a more globalized, “free trading” world – which they believe will bring them bigger corporate profits.
    *Place a $50 tariff on every barrel of oil from unstable and hostile nations like Venezuela and all nations in the Middle East, and a $25 tariff on all oil from outside the country except perhaps for Canada, and put that tariff money towards developing alternative sources of domestic energy like nuclear power in all its manifest forms, algal biofuels, coal/shale gasification and synfuels, as well as towards using CCS and geoengineering to avoid climate problems.

  8. And with every new freedom trampled upon, with every new counter-terrorism bill, with every new Homeland Security program, with every new civil liberties outrage, that voice in my head that reminds me that government is – generally – a force for good – with all of its scientific research, infrastructure development, welfare programs, and social security, grows a bit quieter…
    …and that other voice in my head that views us as needing a government kept within extremely strict Constitutional limits – that Ron Paul voice in my head – gets a bit louder.
    I’d much rather have freedom AND scientific research AND welfare AND social programs. But, if it comes right down to it in this great nation of ours, and it very well may, I’ll take my freedom straight up, no chaser, rather than having to risk not having any of it left.
    Note: IMO, the majority of Republicans (aside from folks like Ron Paul, who really aren’t your average Republican) are FAR worse offenders with regards to civil liberties than the Democrats are, so they shouldn’t even think of using this as a wedge issue. They don’t have credibility.

    1. In regards to Dr. Paul’s observation and bill, would you be more or less inclined to institute the approach of El Al in dealing with behavioral indicators of people rather than looking for the next ‘bomb’ material?
      We have substituted effective police work – using clues to find perpetrators – for a false sense of security by having everyone, no matter their appearance or proclivity to commit a crime, be declared a suspect until proven safe to fly. Are we so afraid of offending some people’s sensibilities that we will offend everyone else, so as to give the appearance of ‘fairness’. To me, it is a waste of manpower and resources to pretend what we have been doing since 9/11 is keeping us ‘safe’.
      ‘Profiling’ and ‘discrimination’ have become near curse words over the last 30 years. Political correctness has muzzled us in being able to define our adversary/enemy. And this enemy does not wear a uniform or represent a formal government – which makes it that much more difficult to identify them.
      I’ve felt this way since 9/11: when blue-eyed, blonde-haired Swedish protestants or red-haired, green-eyed Irish Catholics or atheists/agnostics of any ethnic background begin terrorizing, then you can expect me to accept your security measures to fly. Until then, leave me alone. I am not a suspect – any more than if the get-away car were a black sedan and I am driving a white coupe.

      1. Hi Doc,
        At this point, I agree with you regarding profiling of non-citizens. It’s gotten to the point of ridiculousness otherwise. It goes against my sense of fairness…but there is a certain profile of non-citizens from whom the threats seem to nearly exclusively come from, not a racial group, but one based on religion, national origin, age, and gender, even social class, education, and occupation. It would be counterproductive to ignore that profile, and recognizing that profile with regard to non-citizens would allow us to focus resources where resources need to be focused.
        If we start doing the same kind of profiling against citizens rather than against non-citizens, I think that would deservingly raise extremely serious Constitutional questions that have to be answered by those proposing it, in the spirit of responsibility to history and to America’s founding ideals, and we would have to be very cautious as to how to proceed. Not so much to cover our rears – the courts are depressingly willing to roll over, play dead, and issue whatever warrants, opinions, or orders the government wants, upon demand, whenever the word “terrorism” is muttered by any government lawyer – but so as to not do a great injustice to innocent Americans, and to not be one of those episodes where we look back 50 years from now and say: “This is where they REALLY screwed up”.
        (For an instance of an utter civil liberties disaster involving similar circumstances, look at what happened with Japanese internment, one of the biggest damnfool screwups this nation’s government ever perpetuated, no matter how historical revisionists try to put lipstick on that pig.)
        As far as El Al, the minds of the Israelis are mysteries to me. What they do works well for them. We are not used to the sorts of sacrifices that Israelis have chosen to make to live in the land they’ve chosen to settle in. We’re a very, very different country, faced with a very different threat, with very different expectations as to civil liberties and with very different standards as to what sorts of treatment we expect from our government. We do not face the persistent and omnipresent terror threat that Israel faces. Nor are we such a militarized society as Israel is.
        Behavior-based detection – in the US – a lot of people just get nervous being around uniforms and security people, not because they’re terrorists, but just because uniforms and security unsettle them, coming from a civilian society, and asking people 95 different probing personal questions, or, even worse, insulting ones like “Are you a terrorist?” or “Are you a security threat?” – to Americans would probably result in a lot of very angry people, and very hurt feelings, along with the occasional punch in the face.

        1. Hello Dave,
          Good to see and read your posts again. Yes, the US is very different from Israel but I think the commonality shared with people from all nations is the desire to live in peace. The El Al security apparatus appears highly evolved as they use numerous clues to help them weed out the ‘parties of interest’ for further questioning. I’d like to think that, after 5+ years of removing our shoes, belts, toothpaste (!), etc. and seeing some perps still make it through the screening, the American public would appreciate a more sensible, focused, direct and non-PC approach similar to El Al. Modify it for our unique dynamics but focus on the behavior and the clues that you mentioned – they aren’t unknown: men between 20-45 years old, Middle Eastern, Muslim.
          When moderate Muslims ‘rat out’ the radicals from their midst, that will go a long way in persuading skeptical Westerners, whether they be Catholic, Protestant, Agnostic, Jewish or nun of the above, that the “religion of peace” is worthy of that claim. Truth is, it’s a tiny fraction of radicals that have a death wish and attempt to carry it out. Timothy McVeigh was nominally a Christian but he did not bomb the Murrah Building due to his (un)professed faith. He had other motives that were no more justifiable for that crime. And his consequence was swift — would that we acted with equal dispatch with terrorists.

          1. Doc – part of the problem, though, is that the American people have unrealistic expectations that the government is able, willing, or has the capability to solve the terror problem. They don’t know how expensive a cost a policy like that is to freedom.
            What we need is a government willing to go out there, what we need are politicians willing to go out there, and tell people the truth: that there is no way to eliminate all – or even most – risks of terror attacks without destroying our free society. I’d like a politician with big enough balls to stand up and tell the American people that freedom isn’t free, and that one of the costs of freedom is the occasional terror attack, the occasional destroyed airliner, yes, indeed, even the occasional 9/11, and that, as servants of the Constitution, on the occasion of the next terrorist atrocity, we’re not going to propose any bills to take away people’s rights, that, all we can do, and all we will do, is to cowboy up, put on our stiff upper lip, and bury our dead…and perhaps, someday, if we’re lucky, in silence and in darkness, to terminate the command of whatever foreign terrorist coward sent the terrorists to kill our people.
            The same thing with nuclear power. All of us here pretty much agree that the public’s conceptualization of the risks of nuclear power are (ridiculously) overblown. But even if the risk perception of the public is ridiculously overblown, there are still risks, just like there are risks with all things. People need to learn how to accept risk because without taking risk, we cannot do anything.
            Freedom is not free. But when we came here, we agreed to bear the cost of freedom. The Constitution is not a wishy-washy, on-again, off-again, document that we are only bound to obey when it’s convenient. Inalienable rights don’t become negotiable when it becomes convenient to not recognize them. Rather, I was brought up to believe that in these United States, freedom is not a half-hearted commitment. Rather, it is a non-negotiable one.
            And we will not surrender our freedom to, or negotiate our freedom with terrorists.

            1. Dave,
              That is one of the most vigorous defenses of personal responsibility, reasonable-risk-taking and recognizing that government can’t guarantee perfect outcomes, (particularly against an enemy of civil society that knows no limits to their deviiousness) that I have read in some time.
              We do need leaders who stand up and tell the truth – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the options – and stop treating our citizens as children. The fear and misinformation surrounding nuclear power is one good example of that need. And you know I’m involved in solar and battery back-up systems, so I’m not a ‘shill’ or paid flunky for the nuke industry. Call it a sober realization of the limitations of what we can do.
              So again, thanks for your apt observations.

  9. Dave,
    I agree with you in principle, but in practice I’m not so sure..
    The Europeans don’t do the things that you mention (at least as outright as the US), but they still are victims of vicious nutjobs that target their infrastructure, that kill people who practice free speech, etc. As technology accelerates, the potential for unconventional WMDs becomes greater and greater (bioengineering in particular is following its own moore’s law) so the chances of a nutjob hitting upon the *ultimate* terror attack (one that kills billions) becomes greater and greater. If security technology doesn’t get a lot better over the next 40 years, I say we are sunk.
    You know, I watched a fascinating documentary from the BBC about the origins of our current predicament (the ‘Power of Nightmares’), and the original ‘terrorist’ (the ideological founder of islamic movements Sayyid Qutb) was this guy who came to the US in the 1940s and was disgusted with what he saw. Of all things, what originally set him off was *dancing* and intermingling of sexes in church!
    I hate to say it, but when your culture is your crime, there is no likelihood of stopping these acts by changing policy. Such policy changes help of course, but they aren’t a panacea. And since such acts may end up being an existential threat, we need to develop effective technologies for combating them. These scanners are IMO one such technology.

  10. This is a surprisingly relevant topic as I have a weird feeling that anti-technology activists (anti-nuclear, anti-biotech, anti-nanotech) are trying to make hay from the security situation both today and in the future; they benefit from playing up fears about security in technological situations – and their traditional campaign against nuclear is failing to get traction, so now they’re trying side-channel attacks. (Look at how the scanner issue dovetails with their ongoing radiophobia campaign.)
    For instance, a few striking comments on a recent article in the New York Times about requiring wiretapping backdoors built into communications software were to the extent that because we have terrorists who can smuggle nuclear weapons into cities and detonate them at any given time, we have to accept these security measures. I doubt anyone actually feels that way, in good faith – terrorists do not have access to nuclear weapons – but playing up these fears and encouraging more and more draconian security measures could be an attempt by anti-technology activists to stop the development of technology as everyone becomes disgusted about the security level they deem necessary for these technologies.
    I suppose the anti-technology people are scared about libertarian support for technology and that their traditional arguments are failing to gain traction with libertarians, and want to hit libertarians where they will think they have the best chance of wedging them away from supporting technology, by scaring them with regards to security measures that anti-technology groups will try to convince the government that it is necessary to implement with regards to technologies they dislike.
    I don’t think that the result will be what the anti-technology activists want: they will instead have succeeded in inducing a massive blowback about security as none of these nightmare scenarios will ever happen. It may take a while, but I remain confident that this strategy will be self-defeating for them.

  11. If there had been Sky Marshals on all US flights in 2001, 9-11 probably would have never happened! The fact that the terrorist knew that the US and the private airline companies were too cheap to provide security for all of their domestic aircraft provided them with the opportunity to do harm. Being penny wise and pound foolish with our airline security pushed America into a trillion dollar war in the Middle East.
    Spending perhaps $3 to $5 billion a year for an adequate amount of Sky Marshals is still a lot cheaper than spending over $150 billion a year for Middle Eastern wars.

    1. @Marcel – I am okay with Sky Marshals. Having a “cop on the beat” is not a bad idea in a free society. The knowledge that there might be someone who is well-trained, possibly well-armed and certainly able to call for reinforcements or other means of response probably deters a lot of crime. It is much more acceptable to me to have someone who can respond in the case of the tiny portion of people who want to impose their will on others than to establish a situation where everyone is under suspicion all of the time and subject to continuous unreasonable searches and seizures that are not based on any probable cause of planning or being engaged in a crime.
      With regard to whether or not the failure to have sky marshals was a matter of “penny wise and pound foolish” I am not well informed enough to make that call. I do know that there are some people who will cross town to buy gas if costs a few cents less per gallon and will make reservations for the cheapest flight even if there is only a few dollars difference between that flight and another one that is actually more convenient. That kind of behavior is irrational and exemplifies an inability to do simple cost benefit analysis that includes the value of time.
      There are some in corporate America who take advantage of that irrationality and tell us that their customers are always seeking the cheapest product. That is often an excuse for such antisocial behavior as skimping on security, outsourcing jobs, and failing to install pollution control equipment.

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