Friday, December 01, 2006

Nekkid at the Airport

If you liked the idea of X-ray glasses when you were a kid then you'll love this! X-ray backscatter machines can see right through clothes, as the image above rather graphically illustrates. And they're coming soon to an airport near you!

The lovely model in the picture above is Susan Hallowell, the director of the Transportation Security Administration's security laboratory. I guess she figured that showing us how she looks without her clothes would make everyone else feel better about getting the same treatment when they fly. Not sure it's working...

X-ray backscatter can detect objects that would otherwise be missed in a regular security check using a metal detector. For example, there are ceramic knives that are better than the best steel knives, and it's certainly possible to make a gun using ceramics that wouldn't contain any metal. Most explosives are also nonmetallic.

Of course the big problem with all this, in addition to the privacy issues, is that we're still fighting the last war. No terrorist worth his salt would now try to hijack a plane with a knife or even a gun. If they did they'd be quite literally torn to pieces by the other passengers. You stand a much better chance of surviving a knife wound, or even a gunshot, than you do of hitting a building at 500 miles an hour. And it's still far easier to put a bomb in your luggage than to carry it on. Until that loophole is fixed, better X-ray machines for passengers are a questionable use of resources.

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