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How much security?

Written By: - Date published: 7:32 am, November 24th, 2010 - 50 comments
Categories: human rights, International, war - Tags: ,

9/11 seems to have driven America crazy. The wars. The torture. The new surveillance powers and the roll back of civil rights. Most Americans, I think, don’t realise how much their country has changed around them. But one very visible manifestation of the change is getting right in the public’s faces, and finally provoking a mass reaction. That is, the new generation of security scanners that is being rolled out at airports across the country.

The new “backscatter X-ray” machines use a form of X-rays which scatter on the skin, thus “looking through” clothes to produce an image of the body beneath. It’s great for spotting weapons, but the resulting images are so clear that many are calling them “porno scanners”. The sample to the right is small and low resolution, but shows what is possible. (The negative image can be effectively converted into a nude photo by inverting the colours, one click in Photoshop). There are many concerns over the possible uses of images, particularly of children.

Air travellers — of whatever age or physical condition — must now choose between a scan and a highly invasive full body “pat down”. Horror stories of both options are beginning to circulate.

So this, finally, is an issue which has made the great American public wake up and take an interest. This report from USA Today is typical:

The nation’s Homeland Security chief asked for air travelers’ “cooperation” and “patience” with full-body scanning and pat downs this holiday season amid a growing public backlash that the airport tactics are intrusive.

“Each and every one of the security measures we implement serves an important goal,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano writes in a column for today’s USA TODAY, which asks the public to be a partner in defending against terrorism.

Or this from CNN:

A growing pilot and passenger revolt over full-body scans and what many consider intrusive pat-downs couldn’t have come at a worse time for the nation’s air travel system.

Thanksgiving, the busiest travel time of the year, is less than two weeks away. Grassroots groups are urging travelers to either not fly or to protest by opting out of the full-body scanners and undergo time-consuming pat-downs instead.

The revolution has produced its first folk hero:

The uprising began with a single warning in terminal 2 of the San Diego airport: “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested,” John Tyner of Oceanside, Calif., warned a TSA agent on Saturday after refusing to enter the airport’s full-body scanner and opting for a full-body pat-down instead.

Tyner, who filmed and blogged the entire encounter, eventually chose to abandon his travel plans rather than submit to the pat-down, and has become a kind of folk hero to those who say the TSA’s increasingly invasive security checks have gone too far.

Amidst the popular outrage only a few, the usual voices of the left, are focusing on the underlying issue:

The Terrorists Have Won

‘Porno Scanner’ Scandal Shows the Idiocy of America’s Zero Risk Culture
By Richard Forno

The lede on the DRUDGEREPORT most of Monday showed a Catholic nun being patted down at an airport security checkpoint, with the caption starkly declaring that “THE TERRORISTS HAVE WON.”

He’s right.

Ten years after 9/11, Americans who fly are facing a Faustian choice between subjecting themselves to a virtual (and potentially medically damaging) strip search conducted in questionable machines run by federal employees or a psychologically damaging pat-down of their bodies. Osama bin Ladin must be giggling himself silly this week.

It would be nice to hope that this scanner issue would spur America on in to a real debate about how they have responded to 9/11. Ask what was justified and what was not, ask how far they should pursue the impossible goal of zero risk. But they won’t. The fuss will soon die down and everyone will get used to the brave new world. And soon the government will take the next step, removing more rights in the name of security. And the next, and the next, and the next….

50 comments on “How much security? ”

  1. vto 1

    r0b, Americans struggle with war-time measures because they don’t seem to appreciate they are at war.

    You know, war, as in kill and be killed. Lots of it. The whole country is at war. Just like the poms who are also at war.

    Tough biccies I say to the people of America and the govts they have voted in to wage war. Just like the crappy measures the jews and plaestinians have to live with. Or the millions in Iraq and Afghanistan who have to live with similar measures. If anything, the Americans get off lightly – in fact so lightly that they complain when war-time measures touch their daily existence in such a lightweight manner. Strange.

    Wake up and grow up Americans.

    • Pascal's bookie 1.1

      The fuss will soon die down and everyone will get used to the brave new world.

      I dunno. I think they might just ditch this and go with racial profiling thing.

      @v Just like the poms who are also at war. (also, and too, us.)

      • vto 1.1.1

        Are we P’s b? Soldiers are in Afghanistan etc. Building bridges? Doing reccies? What is our official state – at war or not at war? I suspect you are correct however it is to an extent far far far removed from that of the US and UK. Just because there are soldiers in a country doesn’t mean the country is at war. We aren’t at war with Vanuata or Timor for example. Our situation is an entire world removed from US and UK situation.

        My point was however, that it has ‘amused’ me for some years now how people from the US and UK seem to carry on their lives as ifg they are not at war. Bizarre world.

        • Pascal's bookie

          Yeah, it’s weird all right.

          I reckon we are at war in that we have got the SAS over there, presumably blowing things up and killing people.

          I also reckon, that to a very large degree, US wars are not so much about foreign policy these days as domestic. If they weren’t in Afghanistan, they’d be in Yemen. What happens in the country they are ‘at war’ with is at best, a sideshow. A president needs to be at war, or at least have a war at some point, simply to demonstrate to the US electorate that s/he is prepared to demonstarate the strength and specialness of the empire to the world. That’s why US debates about war are less about the actual ‘enemy’ or the ‘threat’ or geoploitics, than they are about who ‘supports the troops’ and who pays to much to johnny limpwrist the filthy foreigner, or kowtows to the UN.

          Paying for the war, or having it affect the citzenry would kind of ruin the act.

          ‘We can wage war wherever we want, and get allies to bloody line up too if they know what’s good for them, don’t worry about it, go shopping!’

          • Pascal's bookie

            “…pays too much attention to johnny limpwrist… “

          • Vicky32

            True… It permeates their culture… I don’t know if anyone else has noticed the plethora of “military sf” produced now?
            Opposing the militarism of the culture is simply too dangerous to do..

  2. freedom 2

    Yes we must be vigilant in the everlasting fight against Terrorism, but the fact remains, humans are getting stripsearched as endless loads of cargo get processed without so much as a scan. The enhanced pat down is policy, not just for Americans but any traveller travellling to or transiting through any airport, regardless if they have the new scanners. Our Government, through their silence, is complicit in this attack on private citizens. Another question, Why are NZ travellers not being warned about the new procedures.?

    Yes you can opt out, but then you get the groping and if you say no, you might think you just leave the airport. No, new rules say you are detained and can face a $10,000 fine or a year in jail

    The head of TSA has said he next wants trains and subways to have the same processes applied.

    Freight is still sent through largely unchecked, and it has been admitted many express parcels do not get checked even according to measures in place before the recent escalation in passenger security. There are already numerous mobile scanner units that are being deployed on highways, at Public schools, Sports events and concerts. The purpose of these devices can not be justified by the protection against terrorism lines being spun at the airports. This is a deliberate escalation of the War against free citizens.

    The head of Homeland Security says the scanners do not store, transmit or print images, despite the manufacturer’s own product desription clealy stating they are designed for that very purpose

    The safety of the machines has not been verified as the health-risk assessment undertaken by the US government has not been made public and hence there is no way to counter the claims by many medical and science professionals that there is a definite cancer risk from the form of radiation used. They have already shown that the type of backscatter radiation being employed can cause severe ranges of cell damage including the ability to unzip the DNA strand

    Was it not only last week that content from this blog ended up in the hands of a Member of Parliament and was referenced in questions to Parliament. With the long accepted demise of the fourth estate, the junknews fascination of social networking, and the inherently short attention span of TV land, is it not the ability to show discourse on a blog that remains solely hopeful as a source of access and criticism for socially relevant news and information.

    Do we not know how to recognise the incremental advancement of the Police State being wrought upon Western Democracies. There are no shortage of historical truths to draw from when discussing how a Police State comes to be. One that cannot be denied is when a foreign Government is complicit in sanctioning the molestation of private citizens exercising their right to free movement.

    and for the record, NZ forces in Afghanistan are involved in a lot more than building bridges. Any who think they are solely there on an humanitarian mission need their head read. We are taking lives in an illegal War, the costs of this action are yet to be settled.

    Open mike 21/11/2010

    Open mike 22/11/2010

  3. Tigger 3

    I can’t imagine Kiwibog or Whalespout linking to a site by a plus size fashion designer…this is why I heart The Standard…

  4. D14 4

    Found this in an aviation site.

    >>Scanner makers boosted lobbying

    companies with multimillion-dollar contracts to supply American airports with body-scanning machines more than doubled their spending on lobbying in the past five years and hired several high-profile former government officials to advance their causes in Washington, government records show.


    How come I am not surprised!!!

  5. jcuknz 5

    It is a screwed up country infecting the world with the best of intentions. It can kill thousands by actual warfare or simply pointless embargoes but kill off a few of its own people and the world and individual freedom suffers. Its security chief says he is paranoic, and his staff are paid to be likewise. They should be in a nuthouse, not airports. At least this nonsense is absent when you travel by Amtrak.

    • freedom 5.1

      “At least this nonsense is absent when you travel by Amtrak”

      Trains and Subways are next on Pistoli’s hitlist

    • insider 5.2

      It’s fine paying people to be paranoid for you, but you don’t then give them signing authority to your bank accounts.They should propose measures to counter risks but the decision to implement needs to be in the hands of others.

    • Vicky32 5.3

      The best of intentions? jcuknz, you are giving them far too much credit…

  6. Sanctuary 6

    One British senior officer famously said of the IRA “We have to be lucky all the time; they just have to get lucky once”.

    The general population needs to be taken into the confidence of their leaders and told that the tactics of 9/11 will not work twice, but sometimes the bad guys will get through and we all have to live with that risk in the same way we live with all the other risks we live with in our lives.

    Treating adults like adults and not pretending we can ever reduce risk to zero in a free society means we can all get on with our lives without these hysterical doomed attempts to guarantee 100% safety.

    Maybe people just have to be told that our freedoms have never come for free, and one manifestation of that grim fact is that terrorists might manage to be able to (very, very, very rarely) bring down an airliner.

    • Pascal's bookie 6.1


      All of this stuff is laughable. AQ openly laugh at this saying that all they need to do is invest a couple of grand and one footsoldier on a mission, and the mighty fearful Americans will respond by spending millions, and run around like chickenshit children.

    • freedom 6.2

      “One British senior officer famously said of the IRA “We have to be lucky all the time; they just have to get lucky once”.”

      This would be the same (now supposedly disbanded) IRA whose Second in Command was recently admitted to be a British Agent and then there is this bizarre speech from the House of Lords where a British Financier and Industrialist openly discusses the laundering of funds to the IRA over the previous decades

    • insider 6.3

      Why not come up with a market solution.

      El Cheapo airlines with no security for those who want fast transit and have a high risk threshold and Supertight Air, where nothing ever gets through but the tickets cost 50%-100% more.

      People will soon choose. All the corporates will have to go for Supertight because otherwise employees won’t travel, and holidaymakers will go on El Cheapo, knowing the risk is low.

      • freedom 6.3.1

        One of the very interesting aspects of this escalation of security measures by the TSA have highlighted that after the first two years the mandate of Homeland Security to install TSA in Airports is void. The Airports are free to ‘opt out’ and utilise whatever security they wish.


        At last count there are reportedly seventeen major Airports looking to kick out the TSA from their operations and install private security. This is a double edged sword and care should be taken as the cure may be worse than the disease

        • Maynard J

          I’d rather the TSA owned and operated those scanners, rather than a private company.

          A private company would do it for a lot less, but you know what their other revenue stream would be.

          • freedom

            maynard, the revenue/costs are not the issue here, the srtipsearching of private citizens without due reason is the issue

            eg: maybe you don’t have a problem with your mother gettting stripsearched

  7. prism 7

    Why travel to the USA? At present there are alternative routes that avoid the dark planet. Though like a blackhole in space they have a way of sucking in the rest of the, now twilight, planet struggling to keep the lights on.

    The USA has become a virtual Disney scenic trip, looks good on the outside but behind the scenes there are people struggling and perspiring in their Mickey Mouse costume for not much recognition, pay or respect by management. And their employer will have few legal controls or benefits it has to pay to the hapless workers. They may even be able to sack them at will after utilising their skills as required then dropping them like a used tissue!

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      ^ +1 THIS

      The top 1% of the US population now owns more wealth than the bottom 90% put together.

      The country has become a class driven caricature of what its founders envisioned.

  8. grumpy 8

    These measures were bought in to avoid racial profiling. The argument for racial profiling is getting stronger.

    And guess what, Muslim women have sought and got exemption from scanning and the \”pat down\”. They are now allowed to pat down themselves.

    So the ordinary american has all these invasive procedures but not the target group, truly the terrorists have won.

    • freedom 8.1

      sorry grumpy but it was only a request the answer from the TSA was emphatic,

      ‘”That person is not going to get on an airplane,” Pistole said in response to a question from Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., on whether the TSA would provide exemptions for passengers whose religious beliefs do not allow them to go through a physically revealing body scan or be touched by screeners. ”

      • grumpy 8.1.1

        Maybe not as you think “freedom”, see this link, Fox News and the Muslim community actually agreeing on this issue.


        • freedom

          i have seen that article, it does accurately discusses the head dress ‘self pat down’, where the hands of the subject are then swabbed but in no way does this exempt the subject from the rest of the screening process. The genital checking is still processed by a TSA agent and if refused by the subject then the law remains and the subject faces criminal charges, a $10,000 fine and being put on the no-fly list.

          yes the potential for exploding head scarves is a ‘clear and present danger’ but the TSA is not ‘letting muslims through’ as the tone of the MSM coverage is trying to suggest. That is simply a childish distraction so they do not have to educate people on how invasive and unwarranted the public strip search has become.

          there are numerous reports on this and the few links on this page and others are only a selection of the detailed and disturbing events occuring in America
          ( and coming soon to a screening near you)

          regardless of whether a Muslim or any one else chooses to go through the new security systems, Is the threat of terror so severe it is justification for the strip search of a child?

          • grumpy

            You are quite correct “freedom”. It is an issue that is uniting left and right and across religious divides.

            Clearly the US security system has lost the plot over this. The question is – “should the US and other countries now introduce racial profiling to limit the curtailment of the majority of citizen’s rights”?

        • Zorr


          Racial profiling would stop another Oklahoma?

          • grumpy

            Are you serious? Is that the only excuse you can find for not introducing racial profiling.

            Oklahoma has not been the catalyst for the increasingly intrusive security and travel security measures – they are all due to Islamic terrorism. How hard would it be to target that group ?

            • Zorr

              Actually? Very difficult.

              A lot of Islamic extremists come from countries like Indonesia and Malaysia where they have an incredibly mixed religious culture. It would be all too easy for an Islamic extremist willing to pose as, say, a Christian in order to get past profiling. Racial profiling actually makes the US less safe, not more so. All it would take is someone to say “they are profiling these people as terrorists so what we want is Jim here to do this mission”.

              • Pascal's bookie

                So it’s africans, middle eastern types, those from the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia, Malaysia, southern europe, Richard Reid, and John Lindh. Easy.

                So you do all this and validate AQ’s propaganda at the same time.


                • Zorr

                  You left a few notables off your list there. Because if we are trying to stop the people that are destroying America from flying we better add people like Alan Grayson, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart to that list.

                  If they get to fly too then the terrorists win.

                  • freedom

                    the profiling method used most succesfully is the behaviour based techniques from Israel, a country who know a fair bit about Police State security and spotting trouble.

                    The problem is the best application of the techniques is a hands-on operator who is on the front line, handling tickets, pushing buttons and generally interacting with the passenger. Instead the TSA adopted to position ‘watchers’ who have minimal to zero contact and usually only have sight based information and not the indepth communication from interacting with the passenger.

                    this leads to racial profiling which is counterproductive to the modern terror threats

                  • Colonial Viper

                    lolz against the US Government its not the terrorists who have already won its the CAPITALISTS.

  9. freedom 9

    NZ Customs has bought backscatter radiation machines by the way, and with the new Search and Surveillence laws having removed most of our rights, i guess it only a matter of time before we see them deployed

    These are the machines we bought, it says so on the Company website

  10. M 10

    Might start a new trend of wearing a bikini or speedos to the airport but could be a bugger in New York in December.

    This will just be another nail in the coffin of the airline industry.

    Apparently in the Homeland Security Act citizens can also undergo forcible immunisation – secret method of removing those who question authority? The government would only need a waiting room, “treatment room” and disposal room all with interconnecting doors.

  11. roger nome 11

    ermmm – can everyone please wake up and realise that it was all organised by people at the top of the state anyhow?

    There are simply too many red flags to ignore. Oh and if you don’t trust the wikipedia article, simply see the sources – they’re all there.

    The following is a list of all the operations being carried out on September 11 by the military:

    1. OPERATION NORTHERN VIGILANCE: This was planned months in advance of 9/11; On the morning of 9/11, where military resources were sent to Alaska in response to Russian military exercises. .[3]

    2. BIOWARFARE EXERCISE TRIPOD II: Rudolph Giuliani made referenced to Tripod 2 in his testimony to the 9/11 Commission. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrived in New York on September 10 to set up a command post located at Pier 29 under the auspices of a ‘biowarfare exercise scheduled for September 12. This explains why Tom Kenney of FEMA’s National Urban Search and Rescue Team, told Dan Rather of CBS News that FEMA had arrived in New York on the night of September 10. Giuliani was to use this post as a command post on 9/11 after he evacuated WTC Building 7. “We were operating out of there when we were told that the World Trade Center was gonna collapse,” Rudolph Giuliani told Peter Jennings of ABC News.[4]

    3. OPERATION VIGILANT GUARDIAN: This exercise simulated hijacked planes in the north eastern sector. Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins, NORAD unit’s airborne control and warning officer, was overseeing the exercise. At 8:40am she took a call from Boston Center which said it had a hijacked airliner. Her first words, as quoted by Newhouse News Service were, “It must be part of the exercise”.

    4. OPERATION NORTHERN GUARDIAN: The details of this exercise are still scant but it is considered to be part of Vigilant Guardian, relating to simulating hijacked planes in the north eastern sector.

    5. OPERATION VIGILANT WARRIOR: This was referenced in Richard Clarke’s book ‘Against All Enemies’. It is thought to have been the ‘attack’ component of the Vigilant Guardian exercise.


    • freedom 11.1

      my favourite quote was the Norad coms officer being told by a frantic NY Air Traffic controller that there are planes highjacked, someone better do something like send some f15s or something

      and the reply?
      “Is this real world or exercise?”

  12. hateatea 12

    I really liked the suggestion that I read somewhere (I forget where so no link, sorry) which suggested that all countries who object to the new US anti-terrorist procedures should apply the intrusive procedures only to US citizens entering their countries. The sight of everyone else sailing through immigration with the minimum of fuss while those with US passports are subjected to the invasive procedures their government is imposing on all the rest of us should we choose to travel to their sacred soils.would raise a storm of protest far greater than that currently being made.

    That said, I fully recognise that fanatics are capable of striking anywhere and at anytime and that some measures need to be taken to minimise the risk to the majority. I venture to suggest that none of us would choose to be exposed to a very high risk of terrorist action but would comfortably live with a lower level of security for a slightly higher risk level than we seem to be being ‘over protected’ from by the recently introduced technologies.

    There would seem to be little chance of a de-escalation of the threat to personal safety by fanatics who have no respect for the rights of ordinary citizens of the world going about their lawful business so it is difficult to see and end to the state of alertness that we are faced with.

    Perhaps this is our generation’s World War

    • freedom 12.1

      as the song goes, you aint seen nothing yet

      It is important that people acknowledge, process and react to what is being implemented. The world leaders are snarling dogs straining at the leash and hungry for War, do not feed them your liberty thinking they will calm down, it will only increase their taste for the flesh of freedom

  13. freedom 13

    a great read that highlights the ridiculous illusion that is TSA security

    National Opt Out Day tomorrow in the USA

    i hope it all goes peacefully, but you can guarantee it will not go quickly 😉

  14. freedom 14

    New York City legislator’s seek ban on scanners

    in the meantime, here is a congressman at least showing a little interest in the people

    there are so many facets being cut on this story that news is taking longer to verify
    such a shame we don’t have journalists anymore

  15. freedom 15

    The Wall Street Journal’s former Editor Paul Craig Roberts, on the TSA plans for a Police State

  16. freedom 16

    ” Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal. “– Martin Luther King, Jr.

  17. freedom 17

    It is being reported that TSA has ‘adjusted’ their security systems on the Eve of Thanksgiving.
    LAX reportedly turned off, and roped off its scanners for the Thanksgiving Eve rush

    This is an incredible action taken by an obviously rattled administration to prevent the ‘Opt Out Day’ actions from disrupting flights, though in doing so they simply create a larger question over the validity of the system.

    Surely the busiest day of the year for US Air Traffic is a prime terrorist target? Why would you not only reduce the amount of TSA security on that day, but turn off the very machines that yesterday were so vital to National Security? And supposedly will be again tomorrow.

  18. freedom 18

    these truck units are real, they are being deployed in ever increasing regularity
    and NZ Customs has bought equipment off this company


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