edit: FYI, My comment hasn't appeared yet. When I submitted it, the form had a notice that comments were subject to moderation and that it may take (a few days?).
(There were reasonable complaints about backscatter x-ray machines, but those are gone now and only millimeter-wave units are in airports. So there's no nudity and no ionizing radiation anymore.)
I dunno, I'm just not outraged. The machines seem pretty nice, to be perfectly honest.
1. You can't trust them to not save the images and use or accidentally leak the images later, some scanners in courthouses were found to be saving images.
2. It's not reasonable to require knowledge of everything one carries on one's person.
3. Experts seem to think they (scanners) are easily defeatable, in which case metal detectors and chemical sniffers are equally capable.
4. The owners of the scanning company are involved with Homeland Security so we are basically rewarding someone for having a gigantic conflict of interest.
As for the machines and process themselves, there are plenty other complains that are far more important than speed, convenience or how much the UI shows. Sadly, usually and kind of ironically the only TSA agent that treats me as anything else than a piece of meat is the guy doing a pat-down, and that guy has me literally by the balls.
In the U.S. airports I usually use, O'hare, JFK, and sometimes other airports for stopovers, things are slow and chaotic. The lines are always huge and move slowly, the required scanner procedure very slow, other rules slow things down (everybody's taking off and putting on their shoes and belts, and despite exhortations to do it in advance, this really bogs things down), and the staff seem to often be inattentive and inefficient.
Where exactly the main problem is, I'm not entirely sure, but I do know that I dread going through security in the U.S. these days...
Schiphol->: Got questioned for about 30 seconds before going through the scanners. I have dual nationality so the guy was extra thorough with me. No delays (good), no opt-out possible from millimiter-wave scanner (bad). Scanners just before boarding gate. Get on plane.
->SFO: Half an hour queueing while looped video of a cute puppy about it being bad for everybody if you bring carrots numbed my higher brain functions. Finally in front of customs, guy takes about 4 minutes checking my passport and visa, taking pictures and fingerprints of me. Get on BART.
SFO->: 20 minutes queueing. TSA guy questions me while drawing nonsense on the boarding ticket (psych technique to distract you while they look at your reaction?). TSA guy in the background screams "Keep your belongings in sight! We are not responsible if you lose something, but I don't want to fill the paperwork!" (not paraphrasing, those were the words used). I Opt-out, TSA guys screaming between each other "We have an opt-out! Male!" several times until another agent comes by. Instructed how pat down is done, get groped, get tested for explosive residue from the agent's gloves(do they think that an opt-outer is more likely to be "bad"?). After 30/40 minutes of the TSA dance, get on plane.
->CDG->: Get out of plane. Go through customs (<1 minute queue, <30seconds with officer). Get on plane.
->Schiphol: Get out of plane. Go through automated customs (5 minutes queueing, 30 seconds with the machine). Get on Train.
All and all, although I think the mandatory scanners in Schiphol are unnecessarily invasive, there was nothing shittier in that entire trip than TSA, may be the exclusion of the schizophrenic woman that threw a soda can at me when walking by...
1. Keep customs out of the picture. At CDG, automated customs sometimes take me less than 20 seconds; at SFO, the visitor queue is sometimes more than 1 hour long. But TSA has nothing to do with this as far as I know.
2. Keep queuing out of the picture. Multiple things can affect queuing times, such as the terminal having not enough parallel security checkpoints and/or a higher traffic, which TSA has again nothing to do with.
The only things we should pay attention to are the quality and duration of the experience, from the moment you start unloading your bag into the plastic bin, to the moment you put it back on your shoulder and walk away.
If I keep myself to that honestly I've never seen much of a difference between countries, and it seems that the only reason why Schiphol was better for you is because they didn't let you opt out of the millimeter scanner at all :/ it would have been a more legitimate comparison if you hadn't opted out of the SFO scan either, in which case I suspect it would have gone the exact same way it did in Schiphol. (Not that it makes it ok to treat badly people who chose to opt out.)
The guys checking my papers, the guy in Schiphol was more thorough, slightly less friendly than the one in SFO. The security guys when going through the scanners were definitely more friendly in Schiphol than SFO.
Active millimeter scanners use a source of millimeter waves. It's easy to figure out how much energy is in a mm wavelength photon: E = h * c/λ where h is Plack's constant, c is the speed of light, and λ is the wavelength. That's https://www.google.com/search?q=planck's+constant+*+speed+of... = 0.001 eV.
By comparison, a photon needs over 3 eV to break a chemical bond, which requires a wavelength in the ultraviolet range or lower. (This is worked out http://www.kwantlen.ca/science/physics/faculty/mcoombes/P122... ). There's not enough energy in a mm wavelength photon to cause a direct chemical change.
I say "direct" because there are indirect possibilities that aren't relevant to this discussion. For example, you could use infrared radiation to heat something up and burn it. This happens because the energy in the photon is absorbed by the target, which can't be cooled off fast enough, so it gets hot. Or you could use microwave radiation in a microwave oven to do the same, even though there too the photon alone isn't enough to affect the bonds.
BTW, the term "radiation" is used for regular light, infrared, ultraviolet, radio waves, microwaves, and gamma rays. A camera's flash is, in physics terms, a radiation source. As the wavelengths get smaller (eg, UV light), there is enough energy in a single photon to affect a chemical bond and cause it to split. This is why UV radiation exposure is a possible source for cancer, and why UV-B's shorter wavelengths are more dangerous than UV-A.
At even smaller wavelengths (eg, X-rays), then there's enough energy in a single photon to force an electron off of an atom. The atom then has a positive charge, so it's called an ion. Ionized molecules are very reactive, and more likely to lead to chemical damage. Radiation with this level of energy is called "ionizing radiation."
The confusing part is that people commonly use the term "radiation" to mean specifically "ionizing radiation", even though it can apply to things like a heat source. (Ie, the home radiator is an IR radiation source.)
Basically, millimeter wave radiation is ~6 orders of magnitude less energetic than x-rays and is non-ionizing (that is, it doesn't have the energy to knock electrons out of atoms). Ionizing radiation is the nasty stuff, and is what causes DNA damage - non-ionizing is generally safe, and includes things like light and radio waves.
-- George Carlin (who said that before the TSA, before watchlists and no-fly lists)
By the way, are the ports still wide open? They sure were for years after 9/11, and I guess that nobody smuggled in a container of nukes was mostly because nobody cared to do that. Kinda like why the big guy in the supermarket queue doesn't just start bashing everyone to death with the cash register, even though they could.
Human decency prevents terrorism for the most part, not security. The actual good you could do with the TSA budget, bleh. New scanners just make that worse. So now the rapist is using your money to buy condoms. I admit that is better than non-protected rape. But other than that...
He ended up doing CT for the state of Illinois. His greatest concern, as told to me, was water systems. There is terribly security at water reservoirs and water utility systems, worse than nuclear powerplants and other sensitive infrastructure. The simulations they did with predicting terrorists poisoning water supplies made him lose sleep, regularly, and he was one guy in one of fifty states who was paid to focus on such things, because he, not others felt it was a priority.
At the end of the day physical and digital security are similar: no network can be 100% secure and everything is mitigation, so is living in the real world. Terrorism can be stopped and not mitigated. People who believe the opposite are the assholes who sold out and are selling out what little is left.
Human decency only goes so far. A non-trivial portion of the population are fucks. But in civilized society, even the fucks know that they can't take on the whole crowd, and they know that justice will be swift, which is why they stay in line. But the promise of swift justice does not exist everywhere, and "human decency" only does so much. When I lived in Bangladesh, we lived in a walled compound (iron gate, high concrete walls with broken glass embedded on top), in a nice neighborhood in the capital city of Dhaka. One night we had an entire bus full of thieves show up at the gate demanding to be let in. It took the police almost an hour to show up, during which time the thieves threatened to run the bus through the gate.
The difference between the U.S. and Bangladesh is not that the former does not have indecent people. It's that in the former, such brazen lawlessness would have been met by a SWAT team, while in the latter a few cops showed up when they felt like it.
Also, ask Israel how well the whole "human decency" thing is going for them.
One night, at Orwell camp, some bankers lost some bottle caps up their asses. They said they needed 700 new bottle caps or they would die, though that number was "not based on a particular data point", just really a big number, because they like bottlecaps. It then turned out they wan^H^H^Hneeded more, so they got more. Or hey, the time the magician came along, and turned a huge surplus into a crippling deficit.. you should have seen their faces, joy and awe everywhere. He also showed them a magic stone which kept them from being raped by Saddam Hussein that night. Great guy, great with kids.
You were saying? Sorry I lost track there, it was a really fun camp. I wish we could go there again some day, but I guess for that to happen we'd have to at least step out for a minute first.
Also, ask Israel how well the whole "human decency" thing is going for them.
The state, or some of the people in it? http://www.israelovesiran.com/ Why don't you ask illegal colonists how being jerky pants makes it harder for the awesome Israelis than it would be already?
I don't deny you have a point that the crowd keeps bad apples in check. I even agree with the monopoly on physical power. But this ran out of any resemblance to what it should be a long time ago. We (I say "we", because to me it goes without saying that anyone blinded by privilege is temporarily not of age of consent) give up our power and voice, it gets centralized, and used for the thieves you mentioned.
What little security we have becomes more and more "what is necessary to keep the bigger racket running". It's not that we're not steeped in crime, it's just that those criminals don't like challengers. That it's not as bad as it could is because cops and soldiers are people, too, quite a lot of them very decent and brave ones, and because they sometimes get put in check by the populace.
p.s. I voted you back up because I think you're free to disagree, especially the polite way you did (wtf people, really? cut it out!).
My point is that talking about how human decency is what keeps people from committing violent, anti-social acts ignores the plain evidence that exists in the world around us, in places like Bangladesh where people aren't fortunate enough to have the kind of policing we take for granted in the western world. Human decency helps, without it society would be ungovernable, but it's police with guns and the threat of justice that keeps the bad apples from ruining the harvest.
Did you really not get what I said about the banking bailout, or did you ignore it with a straight face? Those cops you mention are also spraying pepper spray at people just for speaking the fuck up... !
We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. -- Aesop
So did you miss it, do you have Stockholm Syndrome, or are you blinded by privilege? Is there another option I missed?
It's you I'm having trouble understanding in this thread. What point are you trying to make? Could you try distilling it into a sentence or two, instead of writing allegories about "Orwell Camp"?
I like your argument but meeting family at the gate was one of my favorite things as a child. And it won't be enough unless I can arbitrarily check through security to meet my family.
The TSA does a lot wrong, but just because the TSA does it doesn't mean it's wrong.
I believe this is currently (no pun intended!) speculative, but until we know a lot more I'd prefer to be cautious.