The new liquid explosives scanners being tested at the international security screening barrier at  Melbourne Airport from today and at Sydney from next Monday should reduce the hassles for travellers, but Australian airport security remains a wide-open politically driven farce.

There will be tens of thousands of opportunities at all domestic and international terminals in Australia today for baggage handlers, cleaners, caterers, retailers, refuellers, police officers and security company staff to pass bombs, guns, knives, and vials of germs to passengers once they have passed through the security checks that divide landside from airside.

That is because they are not subject to the same comprehensive security screening as passengers, or, for some bizarre logic never explained by the government,  for pilots and flight attendants.

Frightened. Of course not. The circus has just about run its course, especially in the US, where the legally mandated s-xual molestation of adults and children who refuse to be “stripped”  by radiation-emitting body scanners has suddenly focused public attention on the political investment in airport security paranoia.

Late on Friday the Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, ruled out the physical “patting down” of s-xually sensitive areas of passengers who declined secondary screening by “strip machines”, which will also be tested soon at Australian airports at the insistence of US authorities.

The US media is full of accounts of males and females being felt in order to distinguish body parts from explosive devices.  Middle America is clearly shocked  by 9/11 being used to allow strangers to violate their physical privacy.

But in Australia, those who object to being “imaged” by machine will be ejected from the terminals. The “no fry, no fly” rule.  It beats the pants off the US lunacy, well summarised in this satirical, but factually accurate YouTube.

Albanese’s office has been unable to answer questions for four days about the logic of leaving extensive loopholes in terminal security in place in Australia, yet subjecting pilots, who can destroy a jet airliner with their bare hands, and passengers, to the totally useless procedures currently required to cross the landside/airside divide.

The “no fry, no fly” edict will raise even more questions. While there is no risk to air travellers from the tiny background radiation dose experienced in a body scanner, there is an issue for those like the untrustworthy pilots who on domestic deployments, could theoretically by zapped as much as four times a day when on duty.

Even using the figures bandied about by the Transportation Security Administration  in the US, this could amount to the equivalent of two medical imaging scans per year of their working life, in addition to their enhanced exposure at altitude to elevated levels of background radiation exposure.

The medical risks are so significant they are widely believed to be behind the TSA banning those that man the X-ray emitting scanners from wearing dosimeters that could gather evidence to be used against it for knowingly exposing employees to harmful levels of radiation.

Australian authorities, like those in the US, have also conceded that it is impossible to scan all air freight or parcel consignments for bombs or chemical, biological or radioactive waste-based devices.

Which is an admission that renders the current system wide open in terms of preventing terrorist attacks.

The only system that works is the multilayered, profile-driven and labour-intensive processes used at Israeli airports, and at El-Al check-in areas at some external airports.

Combined with excellent intelligence gathering and policing, Israel has made its airports secure, but not its pizza shops, public areas, or buses.

America is finally turning against the security madness, 99% of which is politically inspired theatrics.

Our masters in security matters in Washington DC  have blinked. How long before we follow?

Peter Fray

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