Airport Security Alternatives
I’m not interested in contesting the constitutionality of the new TSA protocols. In part this is because I’m shamelessly self-taught in constitutional law, and this is one of the areas I haven’t read about in detail. But I do find the following interesting:
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, the European airport that employs body-scanning machines most extensively, has incorporated crucial privacy and safety protections. Rejecting the “backscatter” machines used in the United States, which produce revealing images of the body and have raised concerns about radiation, the Dutch use scanners known as ProVision ATD, which employ radio waves with far lower frequencies than those used in common hand-held devices. If the software detects contraband or suspicious material under a passenger’s clothing, it projects an outline of that area of the body onto a gender-neutral, blob-like human image, instead of generating a virtually naked image of the passenger. The passenger can then be taken aside for secondary screening.
TSA Administrator John Pistole acknowledged in recent testimony that these “blob” machines, as opposed to the “naked” machines, are the “next generation” of screening technology. His concern, he said, is that “there are currently a high rate of false positives on that technology, so we’re working through that.”
Assuming that there aren’t more false negatives, it seems like an improvement. This way only some people are subject to more invasive procedures, not everyone.
The devil in me suggests that one reason why backscatter X-rays are so popular is that people want to see and be seen naked, not for prurient reasons, but because the apparent totality of it suggests security. I wonder how backscatter would do in opinion polls if the question text volunteered that, according to its designers, backscatter would not have caught the underwear bomber?