Full body scanners: ‘security theatre’

We’ve been campaigning against the use of full body scanners for a while now, and this article articulates many of the reasons we object to them in a clear and persuasive fashion. Admittedly, it also includes a criticism of a law requiring makers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages to remove the caffeine or take their products off the market, but I guess we can’t have everything.

We particularly like the argument that each intrusive (and expensive) measure required by governments seeks only to address a threat that has already been identified, rather than working proactively: like a cricket captain who keeps moving fielders to the places where the ball has just been hit. It seems fair to us to assess that there really is no way of knowing how and where dissidents might choose to strike, and investing millions in heading off a threat that has already come to light seems like a colossal waste of money.

As the author of the piece, Sheldon Richman, — can that possibly be his real name? — says: “why is the attention only on airports? Why aren’t we irradiated or groped at train and subway stations, shopping malls, and stadiums?” There seems no valid reason for assuming that aeroplanes are a more likely target than any of the above.

Which leads us to another excellent and rarely-acknowledged point: there is simply no such state as 100% security. Every activity involves a risk. Setting foot on a plane carries a small risk of being involved in a crash, even without terrorist intervention. Striving for some totally invulnerable state is a denial of this simple truth. Moreover, this denial is reflected in all sorts of other approaches to the world — notably an interventionist foreign policy.

Quoting Robert Pape, Richman points out that: “overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.” In other words, military intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, and perhaps now Libya only contribute to the seething resentment that drives terrorism. Then, we employ sticking-plaster measures in a vain attempt to mask the tremendous fear that drives us to interfere in the government of other countries to begin with. No amount of full body scanners will arrest that dynamic or keep us safe from ourselves.

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