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Is it me or...

is this a bit horrible?


"The purpose of the scanners is to be able to identify concealed weapons and prohibited items, but they will also reveal external breast prostheses, the type worn after a mastectomy operation.

The Department for Transport advises people wearing an external breast prosthesis to notify security staff before being scanned.

Although this may be awkward or embarrassing, it will mean you are less likely to be searched than if you have not declared it. It may also be helpful for you to carry a letter from the GP or breast specialist, confirming your situation, to help ease transit through security.

Upon seeing the external prosthesis on the scan, it is an individual decision by the member of security staff as to whether they conduct a body search. This means that wearing a breast prosthesis does not inevitably lead to a body search, but may do so."

 Are prostheses REALLY such a major security threat that this undignified and unsavory approach is justified...?     Very dubious about the body scanning thing in general, but this is an extra level of intrusive ick!

Can't help thinking of the foil wrapped cucumber scene in Spinal Tap tho...


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
7th Jun, 2010 12:02 (UTC)
It seems harsh that someone, who is likely to be trying to come to terms with life-threatening illness and the resulting permanent effect on their body image, is going to have to carry paperwork to tell airport staff about it.
(Deleted comment)
7th Jun, 2010 12:51 (UTC)
Of course there's an alternative : accept that some things simply cannot be controlled and monitored without behaving in an uncivilised manner!

You cannot possibly scan all the people who could blow stuff up, when they approach all the things that could BE blown up.

Even if you do full body cavity searches of everyone getting on and off planes, will you search every rail passenger, everyone who owns or drives a car and could crash it into something? Will you station police officers along every railway track, every road that passes a possible target? Check everyone that boards a bus?

The current preoccupation with safety at all costs is unhealthy. We are all going to die one day. Maybe if more people treated each other like real human beings, then less people would want to explode themselves? It's got to be worth a try!

I had a rabbit once that loved to work himself up and get into a fearful tiz about any tiny change in his (very safe) environment that he decided he was going to worry about. The travelling public remind me very much of that rabbit.
(Deleted comment)
7th Jun, 2010 18:42 (UTC)
Sorry, but free speech is far, far, far more important than not insulting some bloke who's been dead for 1400 years. Wanting to preserve free speech is not uniquely American, it is liberal and enlightened.

Edited at 2010-06-07 18:56 (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
8th Jun, 2010 16:28 (UTC)
I've heard it said before, here in the US, that freedom of speech should not constitute a freedom to insult.
8th Jun, 2010 08:13 (UTC)
The point is though, that at some point there is a decision 'OK, we can't reasonably check this'. Safety is not the only factor at play here: if it were, given that we've had bombs on buses and underground, we'd be scanning the people going onto those.

If someone flies a plane into a building, then OK, the risk involved there is particularly high, because it becomes a very large flying bomb.

But body scanners don't look for stuff that would help people fly into buildings, do they? They look for explosives that will cause the plane to fall out of the air in an uncontrolled manner, probably into the sea.

Even compared with a bomb on a large plane, a bomb in a busy station, or in the queue at Heathrow on the way in to the body scanners would probably do just as much damage, but we try not to worry aboutthat because it's just not feasible.

There comes a point when you have to accept 'if terrorists decide to do this, we can't stop them'. The only question then is where that point occurs, and I'm inclined to think that scanning for explosive breast prosthesis is beyond my personal tipping point.
7th Jun, 2010 13:15 (UTC)
I'm now imagining evil terrorists trying to sneak through airport security by wearing false breasts.
7th Jun, 2010 13:16 (UTC)
OK, there's something very Blackadder about THAT image... :-D
7th Jun, 2010 13:24 (UTC)
Blackadder: "Oh you really are an amateur at these sort of things Osama - you haven't even come in a pair of prosthetic breasts!"

Osama bin Melchett: "Au contraire, Blackadder..."
7th Jun, 2010 13:29 (UTC)
It's impossible to search everyone comprehensively. However, there is enough data available on suicide bombers, hijackers etc to make use of profiling and target those air travellers in the queue who are more likely to be terrorists. It's a particularly perverse form of political correctness that makes a nun just as likely to be searched as a sweaty, nervous looking Muslim bloke.

One side effect of sensible profiling would be to make the prosthetic breasts thing less of an issue - most suicide bombers are male.
7th Jun, 2010 14:11 (UTC)
Though I dislike the thought of such intrusive scanning intensely, I have to concede that the moment we decide to scan, but to downgrade the perceived issue posed by prosthetic breasts, terrorists will probably start training more women. It's already not an unheard of tactic - I'm pretty sure I recall reading relevant news articles, though I can't think of any to reference off the top of my head.

Bunn is right though. Even if we made it impossible to blow up planes - and I don't think that even this type of scanning will be impervious to really persistent and determined attempts to smuggle explosives on board - there are then all the other modes of transport that can be turned into devices of mass slaughter.

Where do you draw the line?

I think it was Benjamin Franklin that said something along the lines of, "Any society that is prepared to give up a little liberty to gain a little security deserves neither and will lose both."
7th Jun, 2010 14:31 (UTC)
Even if you narrow it down to 'darkish nervous looking blokes' it seems hopelessly imprecise, and as Firin says, you then probably change the profile of the people you are looking for, just by the act of looking for them.

If safety is an excuse for searching people, it would also be an excuse for forcing them to travel in the nude. Or for every person who wants to fly to get a special permit. You have to draw the line somewhere.
7th Jun, 2010 14:53 (UTC)
I can't remember much in the way of details, but there's quite a bit on this subject in Superfreakonomics (still sitting on my bedside table I think), in the chapter on 'Should Suicide Bombers Buy Life Insurance?'

One part that I do remember was the calculation of how many minutes of their life each person loses in security queues because of this and that if you then multiply this by the number of travellers, you get a number of years, which if you then divide by the average lifespan of an air traveller can be used to work out how many 'virtual deaths' the terrorists are ultimately responsible for. (Rather convoluted sentence, but you get the idea.)
7th Jun, 2010 19:05 (UTC)
Travel in the nude! Now there's an idea. Might get reluctant flyers like Sigisgrim more enthusiastic??, either that or ensure they never fly again.

Re the special permit, the ESTA thing to enter the US is not terribly dissimilar.

- N.
7th Jun, 2010 17:01 (UTC)
I agree it's undignified and unsavoury - and also potentially an issue for transsexuals whose physicality might not quite reflect their legal gender (and I'd hazard an even bigger humiliation to have to confess that to random Joe Bloggs on the security gate). :/
7th Jun, 2010 19:33 (UTC)
My sister, who died of breast cancer in spite of having a mastectomy, refused to wear a seat belt again after the operation. I've never forgotten her saying, 'if some copper doesn't believe me, I'll bloody well show him my scar!' I think she would have had something to say about this!
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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