The Independent reports some details about the 4 week trial of the "see through your clothes" passive millimetre wave imaging scanner which has been installed at London's Paddington mainline railway station on the Heathrow Express platform.
Station trial for anti-terror system
By Peter Woodman, PA
Published: 11 January 2006
The workings of new high-tech security systems to detect would-be train terrorists were shown off today at Paddington station in London.
A seven-metre-long steel box has been erected next to Heathrow Express platforms at the west London station.
Inside the box is a millimetre wave scanner which can detect items concealed beneath clothes.
Next to it is a baggage-screening device, and the whole security box is to be tested for four weeks at Paddington starting from tomorrow.
The new systems were first announced last autumn by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, and there will be further trials on the London Underground and at other mainline stations.
It will take passengers about 80 seconds to pass through the security box. During the trial at Paddington a small number of randomly-selected passengers will be asked to take part.
80 seconds per scan, minimum !!
Since the Heathrow Express service leaves Paddington every 15 minutes, that means that passengers (who will certainly be struggling with suitcases on their way to the airport) will miss the next train on which they have booked their tickets / reserved their seats, if there are as few as 10 or so people in the queue ahead them to be scanned.
On entering the box they will pass into the scanner where they will place their feet on footmarks on the floor and raise their arms in the air. In the far corner of the box is a booth in which a screener sits, and this screener will receive a robot-like body image of the scanned passenger.
At the same time the passenger's bags will pass through an X-ray machine, and if necessary there will also be a body search of the passenger by hand.
A person cannot be identified from the image and the image is deleted when the next person enters the scanner. Male staff will work only with male passengers' images and female staff only with female passengers' images.
That is irrelevant if the "randomly selected" passengers are Children. The operators will be guilty of "creating or distributing" Child Pornography, a term which includes synthetic digital images. If children are automatically excluded, then the whole system is useless against smugglers or terrorists.
The trial tomorrow is being seen merely as a test of the equipment and not as a security measure as such, although it could lead to the use of the equipment as an anti-terrorist measure eventually.
So what aspect of the "technology" is being tested on the public ?
What does this prove that a group of paid experimental test subjects could not ?
The ability to see people naked throough various types of clothing ? The ability to detect various deliberately concealed items ?
How can this be a scientific test, if the data is really destroyed after each scan ?
Where is the proof that this system is safe for, say, pregnant women ?
Will people who refuse to be scanned be treated as "terrirst suspects" and stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act 2000 section 44 anyway ?
Last November Mr Darling made it clear that it was not possible to introduce airport-style security on the railways and on London Underground because of the sheer weight of passenger numbers.
He told a transport conference in London in November: "You just simply couldn't have people queuing up for hours to get through - you would be doing the terrorists' job for them. What you can do is ask yourself whether, on a selective basis, at a point where it is appropriate, it could help to make things safer and reduce the risk.
So how much public money is being wasted to prove the foregone conclusion that the technology is still orders of magnitude too slow and too expensive, even for limited use on the Heathrow Express ?
According to The Register
the system installed at the Paddington Heathrow Express platform is:
"The body scanner is a millimeter wave machine - aka a "see through clothes scanner" - made by Santa Clara, California-based Safeview Inc and operated by Surrey-based Airlock Aviation Ltd."
However, this technology is not a passive system using natural background millimetre waves, it uses active millimetre wave scanning.
Who exactly in the UK has certified this as safe for use on the British public ?
The company proudly trumpets (January 5th 2006 press release) that it has been granted certification under the so called SAFETY Act -"Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act 2002" (N.B. this link ends up at an SSL /TLS website) i.e. they have been granted limited liability from lawsuits for damages (in the USA) if their equipment fails to detect a bomb , or, probably also, if their equipment causes health problems for the public or the operators.