- Site Feedback
- IDEA Sites
- Digital Freedoms
- International Justice
- 2012 Presidential Debates Guide
- Asia Youth Forum
- Big Apple Cogers
- Debate Changing Europe
- Debate in the Neighborhood
- Debating and Producing Media
- Debating the Future of Youth in Africa and Europe
- Dialogue without borders
- Digital Debating Blog
- Free Speech Debate
- Global Youth Forum
- Global Debate and Public Policy Challenge
- International Public Policy Forum
- MENA Regional Youth forum
- Online Mentoring
- Securing Liberty Series
- Youth and Sports Mega-Events
- League of Young Voters
This house believes that full-body scanners are worthwhile
This house believes that full-body scanners are worthwhile
Full-body screening at airports is a topic that became particularly relevant after the December 25, 2009 "Christmas Bomber" attempted terrorist attack, in which a Nigerian man tried to detonate an explosive device that was stitched into his under-wear on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. The plane made an emergency landing in Detroit without any fatalities. Yet, the ramifications of the event have been major, including a widespread effort to crack down on the potential for terrorists to carry makeshift bombs on their bodies through security checkpoints. One of the main proposals to combat this potential is full-body scanners at airports, which have already been implemented in many airports internationally. These machines essentially take an x-ray picture of a passenger; to peer under their clothing to detect any potential weapons and bombs on the body. Many believe that such a system could have easily detected the "under-wear bomber" on December 25th, 2009. In the broader fight on terrorism they are believed to have the potential to thwart future, similar terrorist attacks and save lives. Yet, opponents consider them an intrusion on the privacy of passengers because they allow screeners to view an outline of genitalia and bodily contours.
|Points For||Points Against|
|Full body scanners reduce racial profiling while increasing security||There are better alternatives|
|Full-body scans are in accordance with individual rights||Body scanners invade privacy|
|Full-body scanners are an effective tool of counter-terrorism||Terrorists will find other ways|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
Full body scanners reduce racial profiling while increasing security
Airport security has been an atrocious display of racial profiling. Security officers have systematically subjected Arabs and other ethnic groups to more severe security measures, while letting Caucasian travelers pass by hardly checked. This sort of racial profiling and lax security need to stop and full-body scanners are the way forward. By subjecting everyone to the scanner, which takes scarcely more than 20 seconds, security would increase by checking the people that some human security official might deem “low risk” and decrease the offense of that same security official’s stereotypical selection of certain ethnic groups.
Precisely that is the problem the full-body scanners will exacerbate. They will subject millions of passengers to privacy violation who have passed baggage screenings and metal detectors. They will have practically naked pictures of them taken and stored on servers, which is undue violation of privacy. As far as racial profiling is concerned, there are cultural concerns on the other side as well. Some cultures do not allow opposite sex members to see each other naked, and full body scanners would force both security official and passenger to violate that. Security is not justification enough, especially not when the efficiency of the scanners is questionable enough.Improve this
Full-body scans are in accordance with individual rights
Full-body scans have the ability to protect countless people and save just as many lives. Fighting against a threat as big as terrorism, some rights need to take a backbench. Privacy is good, but outweighed in this case by the need to save lives. As Jon Adler of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association told The Washington Post in January of 2009: "I think a bomb detonating on a plane is the biggest invasion of privacy a person can experience." Additionally, people who still feel that their privacy is infringed upon by the full-body scanner can always opt for the traditional pat-down by a security officer. In any case, some sort of check must occur.
Giving security personnel the choice to submit whomever they want to a full-body scan which reveals their naked body is outrageous. While some sort of protection and security is necessary, the full-body scanner goes beyond the limits of security and ventures into pornography. Philip Bradbourn, a British politician, said in 2009: "[The] technology has the potential to turn a legitimate security concern into an unacceptable peepshow for security industries."
Full-body scanners are an effective tool of counter-terrorism
“Screening technologies with names like millimeter-wave and backscatter X-ray can show the contours of the body and reveal foreign objects. Such machines, properly used, are a leap ahead of the metal detectors used in most airports, and supporters say they are necessary to keep up with the plans of potential terrorists.” argued the New York Times after the Detroit Christmas bombing. What this means is that the full-body scanners have the ability to detect hidden weapons, which are not necessarily large enough to be noticed otherwise, or metallic, to be seen by metal detectors. As the former homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff states, you need to find some way to find those weapons. Full-body scanners come in here.
The full-body scanners are not nearly as effective as their proponents argue. The advanced imaging technology has limits – the backscatter rays can be obscured by body parts or thin objects may not even be noticed when the images appear. Objects hidden within bodily cavities also escape detection. "While officials said [the scanners] performed as well as physical pat downs in operational tests, it remains unclear whether the AIT would have detected the weapon used in the December 2009 incident," the Government Accountability Office states.
There are better alternatives
U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, told The Salt Lake Tribune in Washington: "It's a difficult balance between protecting our civil liberties and protecting the safety of people on airplanes. I believe there's technology out there that can identify bomb-type materials without necessarily, overly invading our privacy."
There are solutions out there that are viable alternatives to whole body imaging and that have superior detection characteristics. In addition to The Guardian (a technology the TSA abandoned), others say that a device called "the puffer" has advantages. The device relies on puffed air to knock-loose and detect possible bomb materials on a passenger. This allows for the superior detection of hard-to-find materials in places like body cavities. And, it also avoids the privacy implications of full-body scanners.
The puffer was abandoned on grounds of being ineffective. A CBS network member walked through three puffers lined with explosives and was allowed to board an airplane. The Guardian was abandoned for similar reasons. If there is such technology out there that can peacefully combine security and privacy, it has not been found yet, and full-body scanners must be in operation until it is, because there are no alternatives.Improve this
Body scanners invade privacy
Owing to privacy concerns, the U.S. Congress, only last June, overwhelmingly passed a law instructing that these scanners should be used only as secondary scanners, that is, to be used on passengers which have aroused suspicion for whatever reason. The EU, on similar grounds, ruled against full-body scanners last year.
The privacy concerns are numerous: from the potential of virtually naked images of millions of travelers leaking to the wider public, the questions whether or not the full-body scans of minors violate children pornography laws and finally the discomfort people feel when having naked pictures of themselves taken at an airport, with the only alternative offered being a strip search. While security is important, there are some lines that cannot be crossed, and undressing millions of people every day is one of them.
Depending on the specific technology used, faces might be obscured or bodies reduced to the equivalent of a chalk outline. Also, the person reviewing the images must be in a separate room and cannot see who is entering the scanner. The machines have been modified to make it impossible to store the images, Ms. Lee said, and the procedure “is always optional to all passengers.” Anyone who refuses to be scanned “will receive an equivalent screening”: a full pat-down.
Terrorists will find other ways
Bruce Schneier, a security expert who has been critical of full-body scanners, said to the New York Times in December of 2009: "If there are a hundred tactics and I protect against two of them, I’m not making you safer. If we use full-body scanning, they’re going to do something else." And this is precisely what terrorists have done so far, new ways have been found to combat the new techniques. That would not be so problematic, if the full-body scanner was not a questionable issue itself. But it is, and when it is certain to fail eventually and is likely to fail even now (it cannot scan bodily cavities or light substances), it is not cost-efficient to implement them at all. The problem is further exacerbated by the idea to rely solely on scanners as the safest method. When, not if, they fail, the consequences will be disastrous, and that is a risk we are not willing to take.
Airport security must be unpredictable enough that terrorists can’t adapt to it, and comprehensive enough that it can’t easily be breached. And no security measure can be better than the people carrying it out. A guard at Newark failed to notice a man who walked across the security barrier. A General Accountability Office investigation in 2007 found that similar oversights are common. Aviation security strategy must reduce the potential for human error, while drawing on human intuition to detect threats. This requires better training and oversight of security officials, not just to consistently identify what shows up in scanners, but to notice people who sidestep security and to identify behaviors that suggest a terrorist motive.
Associated Press. (2009, December 29). Jason Chaffetz says body scans still a bad idea. Retrieved July 25, 2011, from Deseret News:
Boston Globe. (2010, January 10). Full-body scanners are a help, but no panacea. Retrieved July 25, 2011, from Boston Globe:
Capehart, J. (2010, January 4). I'll take the full-body scan. Retrieved July 25, 2011, from The Washington Post:
Cendrowicz, L. (2010, January 5). Can Airport Body Scanners Stop Terrorist Attacks? Retrieved July 25, 2011, from Time World:
Eggen, D., DeYoung, K., & Hsu, S. S. (2009, December 27). Plane suspect was listed in terror database after father alerted U.S. officials. Retrieved July 25, 2011, from The Washington Post:
Guarino, M. "Airport Security: two alternatives to full-body scanners." The Christian Science Monitor. December 31st, 2009.
Hsu, S. S. (2010, March 18). GAO says airport body scanners may not have thwarted Christmas Day bombing. Retrieved July 25, 2011, from Washington Post:
Schwartz, J. (2009, December 29). Debate over full-body scans vs. invasion of privacy flares anew after incident. Retrieved July 21, 2011, from New York Times:
Transportation Security Administration. Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), Retrieved September 6 2011, from tsa.gov,
Curate this debate
If you are an academic or highly knowledgeable about a particular debate could you give an hour or two a month to curate a debate?
Be a debatabase editor
Idebate needs editors from around the world to check, moderate and create content for debatabase and the site more generally. Editors are vital in making the site run smoothly and ensuring that debates are as informative as possible.