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Full-body scanners: they’re not just a dumb idea, they don’t actually work

Wenger Swiss Army knife, closed
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German TV on the Failure of Full-Body Scanners: “The video is worth watching, even if you don’t speak German. The scanner caught a subject’s cell phone and Swiss Army knife — and the microphone he was wearing — but missed all the components to make a bomb that he hid on his body. Admittedly, he only faced the scanner from the front and not from the side. But he also didn’t hide anything in a body cavity other than his mouth — I didn’t think about that one — he didn’t use low density or thinly sliced PETN, and he didn’t hide anything in his carry-on luggage.” (via Schneier on Security)

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Should the Law that Protects Against Upskirt Filming Protect Against TSA Body Scanners?

Cover of "Scanners"
Cover of Scanners

The Not-So Private Parts: “One of the interesting claims in the current brief that was not included in EPIC’s original request for a stay is the allegation of a violation of the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act. That would be the law passed by Congress in 2004 that is used, in part, to fight upskirt filming. The Act [PDF] prohibits the filming of private parts — it makes an exception for cleavage — when individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, even if they are in a public place.

The law specifies that it applies in “circumstances in which a reasonable person would believe that a private area of the individual would not be visible to the public, regardless of whether that person is in a public or private place.” So if people know that their private areas are visible, does the law apply? If there are representational avatars instead of real naked people — a software fix devised by scanner makers L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. and OSI Systems Inc. — does it apply?

These questions and the constitutional privacy issues raised by the scanners will be hashed out soon enough. The government will be filing its reply brief by December 1, and then the case should move on to oral arguments. If the court were to rule in EPIC’s favor, the TSA will have to “revise its airport screening program so that it complies with federal law,” says EPIC president Marc Rotenberg.”  (via Kashmir Hill – Forbes)

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News flash: Deadly terrorism existed before 9/11…

Number of terrorist incidents for 2009 (Januar...
Number of 2009 terrorist incidents

without the hysteria: “Here’s a scenario:

Middle Eastern terrorists hijack a U.S. jetliner bound for Italy. A two-week drama ensues in which the plane’s occupants are split into groups and held hostage in secret locations in Lebanon and Syria.

While this drama is unfolding, another group of terrorists detonates a bomb in the luggage hold of a 747 over the North Atlantic, killing more than 300 people.

Not long afterward, terrorists kill 19 people and wound more than a hundred others in coordinated attacks at European airport ticket counters.

A few months later, a U.S. airliner is bombed over Greece, killing four passengers.

Five months after that, another U.S. airliner is stormed by heavily armed terrorists at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan, killing at least 20 people and wounding 150 more.

Things are quiet for a while, until two years later when a 747 bound for New York is blown up over Europe killing 270 passengers and crew.

Nine months from then, a French airliner en route to Paris is bombed over Africa, killing 170 people from 17 countries.

That’s a pretty macabre fantasy, no? A worst-case war-game scenario for the CIA? A script for the End Times? Except, of course, that everything above actually happened, in a four-year span between 1985 and 1989. The culprits were the al-Qaidas of their time: groups like the Abu Nidal Organization and the Arab Revolutionary Cells, and even the government of Libya…

I bring all of this up for a couple of reasons.

If nothing else, it demonstrates how quickly we forget the past. Our memories are short, and growing shorter, it seems, all the time. Our collective consciousness seems to reinvent itself daily, cobbled from a media blitz of short-order blurbs and 30-second segments. There will be a heavy price to pay, potentially, for having developed such a shallow and fragile mind-set.

With respect to airport security, it is remarkable how we have come to place Sept. 11, 2001, as the fulcrum upon which we balance almost all of our decisions. As if deadly terrorism didn’t exist prior to that day, when really we’ve been dealing with the same old threats for decades. What have we learned? What have we done?” (via Ask the Pilot – Salon)

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Wis. man shoots TV after Palin dance

“MADISON — Prosecutors say a rural Wisconsin man blasted his TV with a shotgun after watching Bristol Palin’s “Dancing with the Stars” routine, sparking an all-night standoff with a SWAT team.

According to court documents, 67-year-old Steven Cowan became enraged while watching Palin dance on Monday evening. He felt Palin was not a good dancer…” (via Wausau Daily Herald)