07 January 2010

perhaps you should shut it sir

So Michael Chertoff wants us to use full body scanners in airports, supposedly to detect explosives and hidden weapons or what-not and then gets to decry "privacy advocates" as the obstacle to such invasive methods of examining people whose mere crime is that of wanting to get on board an airplane to visit grandma or Europe. I myself don't particularly care if they want to view or mangle my bits for this privilege. I imagine someone who travels more often by plane and has the misfortune to be an attractive female say between the age of 18 and 35 will mind. Or possibly a child's parents, given that the Brits are already banning such things for people under 18.

No, the real concern is this one: "A Conservative member of the British parliament who previously worked for a company making scanners said that “in all the testing that we undertook, it was unlikely that it would have picked up the current explosive devices being used by al-Qaida”—including those used in the Christmas plot." So our response to a security system and scrutiny that failed to prevent an event (save for the continued vigilant state of mind of other passengers) is to...put forward a new security system and form of scrutiny that won't work. Good plan that. And then there's the problem that you could always swallow explosives or conceal them in the rectum, which in neither case the body scanner will find them anyway, neither would a pat down. Obviously we will need to require full cavity searches at that point.

Look, it seems to me that we have a system in place. It's supposed to work. It probably doesn't not because we have too little scrutiny and invasion of privacy but because we have too much and the system is stretched too thin. We have hundreds of thousands of people on these watch lists, millions if not billions of data points to connect for analysts. Simply put, someone should have raised the point a long time ago that there is a big difference between data mining and having good workable data for intelligence operations (which still amount to criminal investigations work, only we're seeking to have a preventive angle here).
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