Full Body Scanners, the Ineffective Way to Fight Terrorism

The United States Transportation Security Administration recently announced its intention of introducing up to 150 new full body scanners in airports. There’s been a lot of backlash from travelers and taxpayers regarding potential health concerns, costs, and time delays.  In light of this, there’s one other big question that needs answered. How effective will these machines be at eliminating the threat of terrorism on U.S. planes?

Do They Work?

Full body scanners either use x-rays or radio waves to view the first layer right under the clothes. Unlike, medical imaging instruments, they’re not designed to penetrate the skin. Do they do what they’re supposed to? The answer is yes. Unlike a metal detector, the scan can expose things hidden directly under clothes. 

The bigger question is whether it’s effective or not in terms of scanning for contraband? The problem is, the scan does not penetrate enough to be able to view body cavities and/or orifices. Even a large fold of fat on an obese person can be a place to hide objects from the device .Storing items in such places has been a long time favorite of drug smugglers. Don’t expect that to change with this new initiative and look for terrorists to take up the practice.

 Too Little

The full body scan simply will not deter the most dangerous terrorists.  Those groups that are well organized will have no problems getting around a simple system like this. Over time these scanners are likely to thwart a few threats of the mentally unstable variety but it’s likely that our most serious threats will see them as a minor obstacle in their path. 

Are there alternatives?

Some feel that the TSA may be jumping the gun by putting all of its money into body scanners. Currently, there are two other alternatives that have some merit. The TSA has tinkered with the “puffer” and the “guardian”. Both use chemicals to see if there are explosive devices on a person. The guardian can even detect substances in hard to monitor places like shoes. Of course, these devices have their own weaknesses, mostly around the maintenance of the machines.  Still, the TSA might want to save its money and see if either one is a viable option once improvements are made.

In conclusion one would find it very difficult to say that full body scanners will actually deter or prevent any terrorist attacks. For it to work a terrorist would have to be extremely illogical in his or her thought pattern to think that a weapon or bomb could be smuggled right under their clothes.  It’s highly unlikely that the initiative will make any real dent in serious terrorist activities. As such, a better path would probably be to spend the funds on more worthwhile efforts such as intelligence.



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