Full body scanners at America’s airports may not be necessary to prevent terror attacks on aircraft, describes a civil rights activist in documents obtained from the TSA.
Jonathan Corbett, a 28-year-old tech entrepreneur from Miami, is on a one-man crusade to remove body scanners from airports. He isn't against all security, however. He admits he has no issue with metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs, just scanners and pat-downs.
A spokeswoman for the TSA,who was contacted in the Philly.com article that broke the story, declined to comment on the claims noted in Corbett's brief. The article reports that when specifically asked about the scanners, she said nobody was forcing anyone to fly and that there were many other modes of transportation.
Some security experts have also questioned the validity of scanners.
Bruce Schneier, an internationally known security technologist and Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, reports, "There is absolutely no evidence that full-body scanners have had any effect on security" and adds that there is evidence that" they can't detect the sorts of explosives they were intended to detect>"
In 2010, Corbett filed a federal lawsuit allerging that the scanning machines, along with full-body pat downs, were forms of unreasonable search and violated Constitutional rights. Corbett gleaned the TSA’s apparent admissions after poring through 4,000 pages of documents to prepare the brief he submitted in early October to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th District.
Among the statements Corbett obtained from various TSA "Civil Aviation Threat Assessments" and included under a section of his suit:
“As of mid-2011, terrorist threat groups present in the Homeland are not known to be actively plotting against civil aviation targets or airports; instead, their focus is on fund-raising, recruiting, and propagandizing," Corbett purports.
Corbett said he found by reading the TSA documents that no terrorist has attempted to take an explosive onboard an airplane through a U.S. airport in 35 years; that all of the explosives brought onboard airplanes “in the administrative record” happened outside the United States; and even on a global scale, the use of explosives on airplanes is “extremely rare.”
He cites a TSA analysis of hijackings in 2007 that found only seven hijacking incidents, none of which involved actual explosives; that the 9/11 hijackers were armed only with knives; and that the government concedes that it would be difficult to repeat a 9/11 incident due to hardened cockpit doors and passengers’ willingness to challenge any would-be hijacker.
“Further, the government admits that there have been no attempted domestic hijackings of any kind in the 12 years since 9/11,” he states in his suit.
Corbett does not address, however, whether the TSA screenings might have been a deterrent simply by their presence.
Metal detectors are much more effective at detecting weapons and dogs are more effective at sniffing out explosives, according to Corbett.
A TSA information officer said the agency provides a level of security screening required by Congress and that the TSA is always looking to enhance security procedures. "And the scanners are part of that," the officer said.