To celebrate Dunedin Airport being sold some body scanners, here’s something I wrote years ago. This article first appeared on Not PC in 2010.
The latest weapon against airborne terrorism is nudie pictures, with backscatter x-ray machines being installed at airports across America.
Normal x-rays machines use radiation that passes through an object and can detect dense things like guns, femurs, and the various household objects that people waddle into A&E having “accidentally” sat on.
Backscatter x-ray machines, however, measure reflected x-rays. While fabrics appear invisible the radiation is scattered by most other things, like guns, explosives, and penises.
The Fiqh Council of North America has issued a fatwa stating that the nudie-scope is un-Islamic for its violation of modesty. Save your breath guys. Strip searches without warrants or probable cause are un-American, too, but nobody’s listening.
Ronald Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.’” Those were simpler times. That statement has mutated into, “I’m from the government and I’m here to take photos of your cock.”
All this is in response to the attempt to blow up a plane last Christmas by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a.k.a. “Smokin’” Umar, the underpants bomber. Abdulmutallab’s plot raised many questions, chief among them: How do you explain to the seventy-two virgins, who’ve been eagerly waiting for you their whole afterlives, that you’ve just blown your todger off?
The second question was: What’s happened to al Qaeda? 9/11 was simple, ingenious, and devastating. The underpants plot was so bad it would’ve been rejected by ‘Allo ‘Allo.
The third question was: What’s the dimmest knee-jerk reaction we can have to our hopeless security lapse?
After 9/11 the instant response was to ban anything sharper than an Oscar Wilde story from aircraft cabins. (In New Zealand the Aviation Security Service was formed so hastily that they forgot to check that it’s acronym wasn’t ASS.)
After Richard Reid’s shoe bombs (again, WTF al Qaeda?) passengers had to remove their shoes at the security gate. Clearly, getting everyone to remove their pants for x-raying was too dumb even for the Department of Homeland Security so the nudie-scope it had to be.
Passengers who don’t want to be photographed by the nudie-scope can opt out and have a good old-fashioned groping instead. As Ben Franklin once said, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will end up getting its bollocks gripped by the government.”
Protesters recommend the groping because it slows down the queue to the point of impracticality and requires the government flunky to molest you face-to-face (or hand to bollock as the case may be) in the hopes that this is embarrassing for him too. November 24th has been designated National Wear A Kilt To The Airport Day.
What Ben Franklin actually said was, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” He is backed up by Rafi Sela, former head of security at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, a man who knows about fending off murderous nutters. He says that Israel hasn’t bothered with body scanning technology because the machines are “useless.” “I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747.”
I assume he’s talking about the old cocaine smugglers’ trick. If the machine maps the outside of a passenger’s body in exquisite detail, carry the explosives on the inside. Come on al Qaeda – let’s see how big your arsenal really is.
The truth is that all this remove-your-laptop-battery, take-off-your-shoes, drop-your-pants nonsense, known as “security theatre,” won’t stop terrorists but it will make life unpleasant for the rest of us. You are now assumed to be a criminal the moment you walk into an American airport.
Security expert Bruce Schneier believes that security theatre does nothing to protect us. What he claims will protect us is intelligence gathering, understanding terror organisations, diligent police work, and having the sort of society where people don’t want to become terrorists.
Notwithstanding the horror and drama of 9/11, bringing down an airliner won’t destroy our way of life. A hyperbolic and misguided response to the threat just might. It’s time American air travellers told their government to stop taking liberties.