The next generation of body scanners to be rolled out in airports will literally be able to see inside the human body, as security personnel gear up to trial machines that use deep penetrating radiation, the same kind hospitals use to examine internal organs and bones.
Australian airports are set to begin using the devices should legislation before Federal Parliament be passed, enabling customs officers to use technology previously only operated by doctors in controlled conditions.
The justification for the technology is to crack down on suspected drug smugglers who swallow illegal substances to evade airport security. However, the notion of placing the technology along airport security lines paves the way for its general use, particularly in light of the recent security theatre explosion we have seen in airports over the last eighteen months.
The current crop of naked body scanners being used by the TSA and other transport security personnel around the globe use either Millimeter-wave or BackScatter radiation. These devices render clothing and organic materials translucent, providing an image of what is concealed underneath, which is why they have caused such controversy.
The radiation fired from those scanners does not penetrate beyond the tissue under the skin, nevertheless there have been significant and legitimate fears expressed by experts and scientists over the safety of such devices, as far as both the operator and the traveler are concerned.
The force generated from tetrahertz waves used by the millimeter-wave scanners is small but, according to scientists, the waves can u2018unzip' or tear apart double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the DNA that could interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication.
Despite further warnings from scientists that the scanners will cause cancer in some travelers, it seems our governments are ready to push even further and use even more potentially lethal technology, under the guise of security.
Of course, there is a very good reason why internal X-ray scans are only legally permitted to be carried out by a doctor at a hospital or surgery — because they are extremely hazardous and can cause detrimental health effects to those exposed to them.
Radiography and Tomography scanners fire deep penetrating ionizing x-rays. The most recent studies estimated that CT scanners cause 29,000 cancers and kill nearly 15,000 Americans every year. Imagine how that number would balloon if such technology were installed in airports and used everyday on millions of healthy people, as if they were routine metal detectors.
Yet, there is every indication that this will be the case. In January 2010, following the failed underpants bombing, former European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom & Security, Franco Frattini, told the media that governments should consider scanning the insides of all travelers to make sure they are not concealing explosives or weapons. It now seems that what at the time seemed a stretch beyond the realms of sanity is actually happening before our eyes.
Recent security failures concerning the current crop of naked body scanners, many of which stem from human error, and the fact that the scanners are simply incapable of identifying some materials, will no doubt also be used as justification should the US and the UK follow the actions of the Australian authorities in attempting to beef security theatre in airports even further.