Whenever I discuss the TSA’s obtrusive screening procedures, I can usually get people to sympathize with my point of view or at least understand where I am coming from. The inevitable response, however, is "Yes, I see this as a problem too, but can you offer a better or alternatively viable solution?"
I think that’s a fair question. Up until now, I have answered it this way: The questionable functionality, potential health risks, and civil liberties concerns stemming from the TSA’s full body scanner program should be enough to give us pause and critically evaluate this technology before making it the primary airport passenger screening mechanism in this country. While I would be willing to take the risk of bypassing passenger screening altogether, I realize that the vast majority of Americans are not comfortable with this and therefore I think a fair compromise is using traditional metal detectors for primary screening and a choice of a pat-down or full body scan if you set off the metal detector.
But people are simply not satisfied with that answer and as I mentioned yesterday, more than 80% of the American public support full body scanners (probably the 80% who don’t fly…). So how about this solution: ramp up the TSA’s canine team to improve the TSA’s ability to detect explosives?
I’m well aware of Nazi imagery that a fleet of government agents with dogs evokes, but having a team of K-9 dog detectors at each airport would not only be cheaper than the costly full body scanners, it would be more effective at detecting bombs.
K-9s have been used to detect bombs aboard airplanes since March 9, 1972, when TWA received a telephone call that a bomb was aboard a JFK-LAX flight. The plane had just taken off and promptly returned to New York. On the ground, a K-9 quickly located the bomb, which was defused 12 minutes before it was set to detonate.
The military and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have used well-trained K-9s for decades and the TSA does have a canine program (prior to the creation of the TSA, the FAA had a K-9 program for nearly 30 years).
Again, while I still advocate for a much more limited security paradigm in the U.S., being sniffed by a dog would be much easier, quicker, safer, and more effective than the use of full body scanners. Plus, the civil liberties concerns are not nearly as grave as a virtual strip search without probable cause. While it remains an open question whether the TSA’s AIT machines are able to detect material hidden in body cavities, K-9s can…