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Does Bin Laden’s death justify harsher airport security?

Man being checked at airport security

In the words of President Obama, the world is now a ‘safer place’ due to Bin Laden’s death. There’s even been talk of a quicker withdrawal from Afghanistan. So why are we thinking about stepping up airport security?

According to a report in the Daily Mail, which cites ‘Whitehall sources’, the government is so concerned about a retaliatory attack following Bin Laden’s killing that it now wants to roll out full body scanners at airports across the UK.

About time, some say, but I’m not sure it’s the answer.

How body scanners compare

A small number of the scanners, which let security staff see the naked outline of passengers, are already being used at three UK airports: Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester.

But by and large, the rest of us are still only checked in the old-fashioned way, with x-ray machines, explosives swabs and metal detectors. It can be slow and annoying, but it’s almost always effective – and most people leave with their dignity intact.

But what if someone tries to take plastic explosives onboard in their pants, like the Christmas Day ‘nappy bomber’ who first made body scanners a hot topic?

Well, concerns have long been raised over the scanners’ ability to detect plastics like those used in the bungled attack. And unless every single passenger goes through all of the checks available to security staff (unlikely, given the huge delays it would cause) there’s still a risk of people slipping through the net.

We need to find a balance

My point is that even with the best will in the world, you can never make any environment 100% safe from determined extremists. We can try, and of course we should, but there must be a balance between enforcing security and respecting the vast majority of law-abiding air travellers who just want to get from A to B.

So instead of adding an expensive and controversial new layer to an already complex system, wouldn’t the government be better off focusing on the reasons people feel compelled to harm one another in the first place?

What’s your view? Do you think body scanners are a valuable tool in the fight against terrorism – or would a different approach be better?


Basically Yes – the prevention of the chaos that bombs could cause is paramount.

The problem with any different approach would mean that we as a democracy would have to stop travel to and from non democratic middle Eastern countries in case we offend them – as that is the terrorists aim – Equally the terrorists seem to want to operate their own laws and conditions in our country. I object to that.

We could of course transfer all dissenters back to their country of origin – those that are British Born should be contained. I really don’t like writing this – but extremists are not satisfied.

Ian says:
7 May 2011

“Dissenter”? Anyone who disagrees with what? I may well disagree with you on various issues. Am I to be “contained” (rather than expelled, being British)? On whose judgement? We tried internment without trial in Ireland 40 years ago – big mistake. Democracy embraces dissent: it doesn’t contain or expel it.

On the main topic: too many vested interests in cranking up security – huge industry. And no credible logic to OBL’s death increasing the risk in UK, Plus .. every time you are inconvenienced by extra security, the terrorists score by reminding you of their power. We have to carry on and accept a bit of risk.

“Democracy embraces dissent: it doesn’t contain or expel it” – Tell that to the Americans!!!!

Dissent also includes in my opinion those that act in opposition to the law or preach sedition. And we do already imprison such people if caught.

The main reason interment in NI didn’t work well was because until 9/11 – when the US suddenly realised what terrorism really meant in a country – and stopped IRA members organising fund raising trips in the US – also many Irish Americans realised the consequences of their IRA donations. Then the IRA started to negotiate as they no longer had the funds to carry on. The UK government had tried to negotiate for years.- the IRA wasn’t interested.

As for “accept a bit of risk” I had enough of a “bit of a risk” during WW2 and Malaya – not to mention being 100yds away when an IRA bomb went off in Hammersmith – so no more – increase security and you accept a “bit of a delay” instead – it is safer.

If you really think that there is “no credible logic to OBL’s death increasing the risk in UK” you are living in cloud cuckoo land.- His supporters are very likely to increase their terrorist activity as a retaliation for his death.

Most scanning of the type envisaged is only done in conjunction with credible intelligence. Profiling sx really the only effective way to prevent future attacks.

Ian says:
8 May 2011

Richard, the logic about UBL’s death not increasing the terrorst risk is that al Qaida exists to inflict damage on the people they hate. They will already do that whenever they can: it’s their mission in life (and death) and they don’t need additional incentives or provocations. Meanwhile a lot of people in the security business are living too well by playing on our fears. (By the way, I too am no stranger to terrorism or war, and the management of risk in dangerous situations.)

I agree that Americans bankrolled the IRA, but internment recruited them and enhanced their legitimacy to their supporters.

Dissent, fortunately, is still not against the law in democracies!

Ian – what twisted “logic”! The al Qaida are going to bomb us anyway – so let’s “take a bit of a risk” and not use the best detection methods available!!.Twaddle! That’s as twisted as saying The Taliban plant mines anyway so let’s not use armoured vehicles to protect the troops – after all “it’s only a bit of a risk”.

You seem obsessed with “profits of the security business” – Frankly airports would nor invest in such things if they did not think it necessary – apparently they do now.

N Ireland – Sorry you are putting the cart before the horse – US Fundraising started before internment. Internment was a consequence of IRA operations not the cause, Directly the US stopped funding – the IRA sued for peace. The UK government had tried to negotiate for years – the IRA refused until the funds ran out.

Verbal dissent may allowed – but Sedition is not – Taliban – al Qaida and the IRA preach and practice) sedition – and should be stopped with every means we have available.

As I said – You take “a bit of a delay” it is safer – I am not prepared to take “a bit of a risk” with bombs – and they have already planted them before – killing people.

Until the Taliban – al Qaida and the IRA give up the armed struggle (as some parts of the IRA already have) and embrace political discussion – all means of protection should be used to minimise killing innocent passengers.

If security is stepped up even further, I think the terrorists have won, don’t you?

They rely on the idiosyncrasies of democracy to be able to inflict their pain. If we change to become more like them, then they have inflicted their way of life on us by bombing us.

Still think it’s “worth being safe”?

No I don’t think they have won – They only win if we change our laws to ACCOMMODATE theirs.

Sorry to protect ourselves is nothing like suicide bombers desiring to inflict death and pain on others.

Their way of life is bombing. Our way of life is to STOP bombing – the opposite

I certainly think it is worth using all techniques to stop bombs

I really think you are “twisted” not I – This conversation is at an end.

Our way of life is to stop bombers? ***? So our whole lives are based around stopping bombers? Wow, what a great culture we have 🙂

Seriously though, an absolutely hysterical statement which shows the hyperbolic nature of the population to believe whatever they read.

So to ensure security and safety, some liberties must be surrended?

Where have I heard that before? …….

Hello everyone, great to see this Conversation taking off – it’s no doubt a controversial topic. But please try and keep the debate civil! Check out our commenting guidelines if you’re unsure.

Pete says:
13 May 2011

Bin Laden’s ‘alleged’ death is just another excuse to take away more civil liberties and keep the popuplation in fear.

Nothing ‘justifies’ the ridiculous and invasive ‘safety’ measures that are constantly being escalated… but certainly this latest event ‘excuses’ taking away our rights as human beings for the government. Because after all, the crazy fundementalists will want their pound of flesh for the death of their exalted leader; so therefore we should be vigilant (terrified).

The fact remains that if someone really wants to smuggle something aboard a plane, they still can. Liquids and malleable solids can be attached to (or inside) the body and remain undetected… so with today’s logic, doesn’t this justify full X-ray AND full cavity searches for anyone entering the airport?… My guess is that within 5 years time, this will be a reality…

But it’s not all bad…At least I can still travel by train between British cities without “showing my papers”(pronounced in stereotypical german accent)

Do you know I don’t think it is a right to be able to get on a plane without being subject to a search if the customs or security deems it necessary.

And I doubt if the surviving relatives of the 52 victims of 7/7 attack think it ridiculous and invasive to have the best detection system available.