Skip to content

Naked Image

© Nate Beeler

Obama defended the use of the new full-body scanners, while public opinion is starting to turn against the use of the new machines. And security expert Bruce Schneier claims that the new machines won’t catch anybody. In fact, even the manufacturers of the machines say that they would not have caught the underwear bomber, even though that incident is the reason being given for the new machines.

UPDATE: Here’s an interesting protest. A company is selling t-shirts and underwear, with the the 4th amendment to the US constitution printed in metallic ink so they will show up when you get scanned in an airport:



  1. Richard wrote:

    Fantastic. Made me both laugh and cry (well, figuratively).

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink
  2. starluna wrote:

    What I got out of the link to the polling results is that American opinion appears to be highly malleable. Apparently, public opinion is influenced by lots of media coverage about an issue. They even state this in the linked blog posting (“The marked shift in public opinion comes after a week of backlash led by offended travelers and civil libertarians and subsequently picked up by some lawmakers and heavily covered by the media”).

    With that said, even in the newer poll, a significant proportion (64%) still support the scanners.

    The whole reaction to this is very interesting. In the Boston Globe, Derrick Jackson, an op-ed columnist, recited the results of polls taken just after 9/11 in which those polled overwhelmingly supported increasing security at airports.

    But then again, I believe that polls are the least useful method of gathering information in order to form policy.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Permalink
  3. Iron Knee wrote:

    The public is fickle.


    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  4. Patricia Andrews wrote:

    Having seen photos of x-rayed people in an article, decribing them as “naked” goes a bit far. However, the deeper issue is that the policy itself probably won’t stop the next incident. Perhaps our biggest security failure is to not expect our enemies to be as smart and/or resourceful as we are. Our policies remind me sadly of the Hessians marching through the 18th century New World woods in bright red coats and wondering why they are getting shot at!

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Permalink
  5. Freddie wrote:

    It’s hardly a surprise that Obama is defending the policies of his own administration, regardless of how awful they are. That said, I’m looking forward to seeing this start working its way through the courts. These policies cannot stand.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Permalink
  6. Patricia Andrews wrote:

    Freddie, I feel the need to remind you that the TSA is a creation of the previous administration. Also, if a republican were in the White House right now, would people still be screaming about “increaed securities measures”? I think not.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  7. patriotsgt wrote:

    Like the mosque issue, the media is using this security issue to its full advantage. It’s not even partisan and yet they are still able to whip up the emotions to get their ratings.

    Starluna – you are correct. Reasonable people (the vast middle America) will see the need for some level of security, although they may disagree as to which method is most effective and least intrusive. The fringe flames(far right and left) are being fanned by the media winds and predictably the fire is getting bigger and hotter, but as soon as the media wind dies down so will the flames. (What happened to the terrible mosque issue?).

    Patricia, the far right (limbaughs of the world) are jumping in because they are against anything dem and Obama, but have been thusfar avoiding an all out attack, and more rallying the smaller gov’t cry. However, interestingly this is opposed with equal emotionality by the far left, for whom its not as much political as personal rights issue.

    Imagine after the last year that Limbaugh, Hannity, Matthews, Maddow and Olberman, along with Stewart, O’reilly, Carville and Gingrich all walking in the same parade.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    Good point, PatriotSgt — it is definitely ironic that this issue is bringing about bipartisan agreement.

    Although I think many of the conservatives who are opposing it are doing it for partisan reasons, and would not be screaming if a Republican were president (like Patricia says). I think the progressives who are opposed to it are the same ones who opposed the Patriot Act. But it is easier to oppose something concrete (like x-ray scanners) than something amorphous, like the Patriot Act. Even moderates (like me) who are against it. The TSA has brought us all together!

    That being said, this morning I read about the North Korean attack and when Speaker-in-waiting Boehner specifically joined Obama in condemning NK, I almost fell out of my chair. (although I’m sure he’ll find a way to accuse Obama of being soft on NK in the near future!).

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink
  9. Iron Knee wrote:

    Good letter from Congressman Rush Holt to the TSA Administrator:

    Calm, well reasoned, yet forceful.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink
  10. patriotsgt wrote:

    Excellent article. Thanks IK.

    On the NK issue, I don’t believe the admin is being soft, I believe they are purposely not trying to feed into the “dear little leaders” game. I think Hilary set the right tone early on saying the NK gov acts like children throwing a fit when people don’t listen and they don’t get their way(Kim was furious). My only concern is that winter is approaching, their people are hungry and they need Int’l aid to survive. We have always hoped that the hunger would cause their people to rise up, but they are too beaten down for too long now, they’ll just lay down and die. Second thing is the “sunshine policy” from the past in the South is no longer and now with this 2nd attack (sinking of the SK naval vessel earlier) the South has vowed to retaliate if a third incident takes place. China is the key player in all this not the US, and they hold the cards. We cannot risk provoking them lest we cut off our banker. We also don’t have the military might to challenge them currently without a draft. Sticky situation in the least and I think Boehner is smart enough to know that and will side with Obama. The “dear little leader” also can’t stand dealing with a women, he’ll think he is not being taken seriously, but I like it. Albright was too PC when she dealt with him, but Hilary is having none of it and I think it’s great.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Permalink
  11. Patricia Andrews wrote:

    PSgt — A well-informed analysis. Thank you.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink
  12. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Bruce Schneier is a computer security expert. What part of his background in cryptography and codebreaking makes him a reliable source on whether a backscatter x-ray will be effective at catching terrorists?

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Permalink
  13. Iron Knee wrote:

    Well, when he directly quotes the manufacturers saying that their machines would not have detected the underwear bomber, and yet the underwear bomber is given as the reason why we need the new machines — doesn’t your bullshit detector go off? I don’t care if Bruce is a plumber.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Permalink
  14. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    But what you wrote was, “[a]nd security expert Bruce Schneier claims that the new machines won’t catch anybody.” In that respect, hopefully you do care that he’s more than a plumber. Otherwise you might be taking national security advice from a plumber.

    I looked online briefly for any original statement from manufacturers that says that these machines would not have detected the underwear bomber. I personally couldn’t find it. Googling for what is directly quoted in the article (“we wouldn’t have caught that”) brings up tons of hits…all this guy’s statement repeated over and over.

    Where is the original statement about that? Where is that direct quote taken from?

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Permalink
  15. Iron Knee wrote:

    I did see the original quote, but I lost the reference to it. I will need to find it again.

    UPDATE: Here, I’ll Google it for you. One search turned up plenty of quotes to support this.

    Top of the search responses:

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) concludes that it is presently “unclear whether the AIT [Advanced Imaging Technology] or other technologies would have detected the weapon used in the December 25 attempted attack.”

    Another link, with more extended information:

    The bottom line is that the GAO told the TSA that they should conduct more studies before deploying the machines, because there was not enough evidence that the machines would have caught the underwear bomber. And yet the underwear bomber and the person who tried to put explosives on a cargo plane are the reasons being given for spending $2.4 billion dollars on buying and running these new scanning machines.

    Yet another link:

    The former chief security officer of the Israel Airport Authority told Canadian lawmakers that full-body scanners were a waste of money and were not deployed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport. “I don’t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines,” Rafi Sela said. “I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747.”

    And a quote from a British MP who helped develop the scanning machines:

    Tory MP Ben Wallace, who worked on the scanners at defence research organisation QinetiQ before entering Parliament in 2005, said the £100,000 ‘millimetre wave’ machines would not have stopped syringe bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from trying to mount his attack on Christmas Day.

    That last one is pretty clear. Do you want me to find more?

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Permalink
  16. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Personally, I wouldn’t consider any of those quotes by a manufacturer. And that quoted statement (claimed to be directly quoted) seems to not exist.

    However, reading around more, the reason the bomber wouldn’t have been detected is because of the powder based explosive. Allegedly (again, this is not coming from the manufacturer) the material is not dense enough to show up. I would consider that questionable simply because you have to carry other stuff along with it.

    For me this begs the question: what security method would you find acceptable that would have caught the underwear bomber?

    Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Permalink
  17. Iron Knee wrote:

    The same one the Israelis use to protect their flights.

    But did it ever occur to you that the underwear bomber did not succeed, so why are we so worried about him? We cannot guard against every possible threat. You are thousands of times more likely to die driving to the airport in your car than from a terrorist bomb. The real question is, what are you trying to guard against?

    Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Permalink
  18. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Specifically, what method are you speaking of that Israel uses?

    The bomber did not fail because of existing security methods. I guess we are worried about him because we assume that not every terrorist will make a mistake. Devices will not always fail on their own.

    Monday, November 29, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink
  19. Freddie wrote:

    @Patricia Andrews, yes, the TSA was created by the Bush administration. However, this particular policy has been enacted under the Obama administration. You can’t reasonably expect a sitting president to criticize his own administration.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 10:04 am | Permalink

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. Political Irony › TSA full body fail on Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 11:13 am

    […] in November, we quoted Bruce Schneier who claimed that the new TSA full body scanners won’t catch anybody. This is significant, because if we are going to unconditionally surrender our right to privacy, […]