Saturday, January 16, 2010

What the lack of protest over airport scanners tells us about Britain

I have visited someone in prison. I have been to a work meeting at Rampton Special Hospital. And when it comes to security precautions, catching a flight from Edinburgh to Luton is right up there with them.

Now, cheered on by Norman Baker and Chris Huhne, air travel is about to leap into a clear lead. Full body scanners are to be installed at airports in Britain and abroad so that anyone catching a flight will be viewed naked by security officials before boarding the plane.

They are not taking it lying down in Germany. Yesterday the Daily Mail reported the gathering of a number of naked flashmobs - or fleshmobs - to protest against the plans at airports in Berlin, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf:

The demonstration was organised by the Piraten Partei (Pirate Party) - a group who say on their website that they stand up for 'civil liberties'.

Protestors, using the motto 'you do not need to scan us - we are already naked', scrawled messages on their bodies including 'something to hide?' and 'be a good citizen – drop your pants'.

There have been no such demonstrations here in Britain. It seems that it only takes one Nigerian to set fire to his underpants and any sense of human dignity is forgotten. Give us our cheap flights (aren't we supposed to be cutting down on those?) and we will put up with anything.

This confirms the impression that government is principally about news management. It is not clear that these scanners would have prevented Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab getting on to his plane. The important thing is that the government is seen to be do something - and cannot be charged with not having done it next time there is a terrorist incident.

What protest there has been in Britain has centred on the possible introduction of racial profiling. It seems that so much of our moral energy goes into Not Being Racist that we have none left to be outraged at anything else. As long we are all oppressed equally, what is there to complain about?


Cicero said...

Not good. There should be mobs with pitchforks marching with blazing torches up Whitehall to condemn the imploson of British power and freedom.

Instead "Not with a bang, but a whimper".

Anonymous said...

Some of us have jsut taken to not flying.

Charlieman said...

Sorry, Jonathan, but there is some incoherence here. If you are happy to expose your bits on a fleshmob, what is the problem about going through a scanner?

Nakedly jubbling your wubbling voluntarily in public at a demo is very different from digitally stripping your son or daughter by a scanner. So don't take your clothes off at a protest; there is no comparison with the proposal.

John Byrnes said...

Profiling has failed us; we don’t need profiling to identify Individuals like the Christmas-Day Bomber! There is a better solution!

Virtually all media outlets are discussing whether we should be profiling all Arab Muslims; I will in the one-page explain why we don’t need profiling. Over 15 years ago, we at the Center for Aggression Management developed an easily-applied, measurable and culturally-neutral body language and behavior indicators exhibited by people who intend to perpetrate a terrorist act. This unique methodology utilizes proven research from the fields of psychology, medicine and law enforcement which, when joined together, identify clear, easily-used physiologically-based characteristics of individuals who are about to engage in terrorist activities in time to prevent their Moment of Commitment.

The Problem
Since the foiled terrorist attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national on Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit, the President has repeatedly stated that there has been a systemic failure as he reiterates his commitment to fill this gap in our security. This incident, like the Fort Hood shooting, exemplifies why our government must apply every valid preventative approach to identify a potential terrorist.

The myriad methods to identify a terrorist, whether “no-fly list,” “explosive and weapons detection,” mental illness based approaches, “profiling” or “deception detection” - all continue to fail us. Furthermore, the development of deception detection training at Boston Logan Airport demonstrated that the Israeli methods of interrogation will not work in the United States.

All media outlets are discussing the need for profiling of Muslim Arabs, but profiling does not work for the following three reasons:

1. In practice, ethnic profiling tells us that within a certain group of people there is a higher probability for a terrorist; it does not tell us who the next terrorist is!

2. Ethnic profiling is contrary to the value our society places on diversity and freedom from discrimination based on racial, ethnic, religious, age and/or gender based criteria. If we use profiling it will diminish our position among the majority of affected citizens who support us as a beacon of freedom and liberty.

3. By narrowing our field of vision, profiling can lead to the consequence of letting terrorists go undetected, because the terrorist may not be part of any known “profile worthy” group – e.g., the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh

The Solution
Our unique methodology for screening passengers can easily discern (independently of race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, age, and gender) the defining characteristics of human beings who are about to engage in terrorist acts.

The question is when will our government use true “hostile intent” through the “continuum of aggressive behavior” to identify potential terrorists? Only when observers focus specifically on “aggressive behavior” do the objective and culturally neutral signs of “aggression” clearly stand out, providing the opportunity to prevent these violent encounters. This method will not only make all citizens safer, but will also pass the inevitable test of legal defensibility given probable action by the ACLU.

As our Government analyzes what went wrong regarding Abdulmatallab’s entrance into the United States, you can be assured that Al Qaeda is also analyzing how their plans went wrong. Who do you think will figure it out first . . . ?

Visit our blog at where we discuss the shooting at Fort Hood and the attempted terrorist act on Flight 253.

Anonymous said...

Personally I'd much rather somebody looked at my winkle through a scanner then tried to read my mind, but there you are.

However, isn't this just a cunning plot to reduce air travel? People don't like tax, but make it unpleasant enough and you don't need to make flying expensive to stop people wanting to do it. Plus this way you get the Mail on your side, which would by neigh on impossible for anything else so likely to lower people's greenhouse gas emmissions.

Its really rather clever when you think about it.

Unknown said...

SCAN SCAN SCAN away. Yes, I will gladly show my eggs and sausage to fly free of fear.

You, dudes with stupid civil liberties ka ka. You want to discuss all that when you are roasting in a giant flying metal coffin on your way to hell...bon voyage!!!!

I will say again in plain English "Let then see your privates = safe flight. Be a CL & F freak, don't scan = live in fear of being blown up."

Be a MAN, grab your balls, smile and walk on through.