Leading Israeli airport security expert, Rafi Sela, told Canadian lawmakers quite bluntly that body scanners are ineffective at identifying terrorists.
Sela, who helped design the security system at Ben-Gurion International Airport, has some 30 years’ experience in the field. He warned the lawmakers, “You are reacting to incidents instead of being one step ahead of them” when the acquisition of the scanners was announced, days after a Nigerian national tried to blow up a U.S. airliner in December.
Sela further claims that he can pass through a body scanner with enough explosives to take down a Boeing 747 without being detected, which is why he refuses to install the $250,000 machines. That’s per machine. He’s not alone in expressing concern about this new security method, as the Atlantic pointed out. Apparently the machines don’t do such a fine job at covering up the “naughty bits” either, opening up a controversy about use of the machine and child protection laws.
At least 28 airports in the US currently have or plan to install body scanners, including Reagan National and Baltimore-Washington International. TSA stated that customers have the option to forego the machine and opt for a pat down instead. Comments on the news articles, however, reveal concern about whether security will acknowledge this right, expecting some confusion on the part of security employees. Furthermore, commenters point out that TSA’s language about the images leaves ambiguity about whether the images from the body scans will be stored (in the event of any image revealing a threat) even though they are erased from the screen and employees can’t print, store, or reproduce the images themselves.
I’ve held a general ambivalence about airport security measures thus far, and I’ve opted for the pat down when I once refused to take off a sweatshirt. They even called over a lady security officer to do it. Body scanners, however, make me more likely to side with Penn and Teller in their intolerance for current airport security measures, especially when there’s concern that such invasive technology won’t prove effective.