There was an article on the BBC news web site today saying that a full body X-Ray machine is being trialledat Manchester Airport. The idea is that security staff can identify hidden weapons without the time consuming searches which currently take place.
Efficiency, efficiency, we will sell our souls for efficiency.
There has been concern that the images produced are too revealing but according to the BBC “the airport has stressed that the images are not pornographic and will be destroyed straight away.” – Great! So we have the assurance of some nameless employee of a large public company. Which is to say we have no assurance at all. Recall that British Airport AUthority is a private company not a branch of government. They have no right to subject the general public to X-rays.
I knew a radiologist a few years ago who told me that each time we have an X-Ray we run two risks. The first is that the X-ray will directly cause a cancer. The risk is low but it is real and we can get cancer from a single visit to the dentist. The other risk is that X-ray impact is cumulative. Each time we have an X-ray we increase the impact to our bodies and run the risk that this will lead to cancer.
An article on the BUPA health care company web site from 2004 says that a study estimated that 0.6% of all cancers diagnosed in the UK are due to medical X-rays and this would account for roughly 700 of the 124,000 new cases of cancer in the UK each year. The BUPA article claims to reference a work published in the 31 January 2004 issue of The Lancet medical journal.
The use of X-rays at airports is a symptom of the “nanny knows best” attitude that is prevalent in The UK. Yes it would speed things up and yes it would detect hidden weapons but it would be one more step in the subjugation of the individual to the state. One more mechanism to increase the power of the state and reduce the power of the individual.
The government will insist that machines like this are “progress” but progress toward what? What vision of The UK are we are progressing toward that includes X-ray machines at airports, government buildings and shopping malls? What vision includes more or less 100% CCTV coverage and gadgets in every car to monitor where we travel? I suggest that the vision of the future which the current New Labour government has in mind more closely resembles a dystopia than a utopia. More Minority Report than Star Trek.
Unlike the movies real life nightmare states such as Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia do not come about over night. They creep up on societies slowly as individuals seed power to a self riotous political apparatus in the name of security. (See the Hermann Goering quote on my Quotation page)
I travel for work fairly frequently and have already been confronted with one of these X-ray machines at Heathrow or Gatwick. I can’t recall which. I refused to enter and the apparatchik in charge told me that the level of radiation was safe but had no reply when I asked what a safe level was. Perhaps too many people refused in London so they thought they’d do the usual trick and inflict it on Scotland or the North first.
My advice is to refuse to enter these machines.
I don’t know what Gatwick Airport’s policy on protecting the information stored on your passport chips is but they examine it in full view of the general public.
- Have you been through Manchester Airport?
- Did you get X-Rayed?
- Did you ask about safety?
- What’s your opinion?