Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Should U.S. Airports Use Full-Body Scanners? A Decade after 9/11, the Ability of a Nigerian Man to Get Explosives on a Flight to Detroit Raises Troubling Questions about Airport Security

Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Should U.S. Airports Use Full-Body Scanners? A Decade after 9/11, the Ability of a Nigerian Man to Get Explosives on a Flight to Detroit Raises Troubling Questions about Airport Security

Article excerpt

YES The Christmas Day attempt by a terrorist to blow up a plane over Detroit was a near-disaster that highlights the nation's need to continue improving airport security measures.

Current screening equipment detects only metal, objects such as knives, guns, and some bombs. However, terrorists can evade the system by using non-metal weapons--such as plastic explosives--that are "invisible" to metal detectors. For more effective security, the U.S. should use full-body scanners, which use radio or X-ray waves to detect potentially dangerous items hidden under people's clothing, regardless of what material they're made of.

A number of precautions are in place to protect individuals' privacy. For example: Scanners cannot save images; screeners are Located in separate rooms from the people being screened; and facial features are blurred. What screeners see is an anonymous image.

Some privacy groups say these steps aren't enough to protect privacy. Unfortunately, they have not offered realistic alternatives that would keep us as safe as full-body scanners could. While watch Lists allow us to identify known terrorists in advance, some terrorists will inevitably remain unknown to us. Nor can we rely on travelers' innocent-looking appearances: Would-be bombers have included young couples and pregnant women.

Americans must decide how far they should put their safety at risk in order to protect their privacy. In doing so, they should remember: In order to keep travelers safe, we have to be right 100 percent of the time; to kill travelers, terrorists need only be right once.

--MICHAEL CHERTOFF *

FORMER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY (2005-2009)

NO Body-scanning machines are very invasive and they won't actually make Americans any safer. …

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