"And so, as the rat's milk is returned to the sewers, the circle of life is complete."

(as noted in 2003)

Hands up anyone who didn't see this coming.

Body scan machines to be used on Tube passengers:

Tube passengers are to have their bodies scanned by machines that see through clothing in an attempt to prevent further terrorist attacks. The millimetre wave imagers will be used to carry out random checks as people enter stations after services resume today.

Simon Stringer, managing director of QinetiQ security division, said: "After today, I expect the travelling public will be more prepared to put up with a greater level of surveillance."

Philip Baum, managing director of the security consultancy Green Light, said, "But there will be huge civil liberties questions because you will have to accept that people will see you walking round semi-naked."

Media after the London bombings: compare and contrast:

Right this minute, on the BBC World service: a lengthy report on humanitarian efforts in Africa. No news crawl. If you didn't know the London bombings had happened already, you wouldn't even know.

Right this minute, on CNN International: a lengthy report on anti-terrorism efforts in other countries, so far specifically framed as a series of successful trades: decreasing freedom for increasing surveillance, with greater security supposedly as the net result. Along the bottom, a news crawl repeats bombing-related headlines constantly.

One of these things is not like the other. One is constant, constant fear-pandering. The other -- from the country that actually suffered the bombings, no less -- is still reporting something resembling actual news, with something resembling a dose of actual perspective.

And so far, nobody on the CNN show seems to have realized that a London crammed with security cameras seemingly every few feet... didn't keep the bombing victims safe at all. The program is quite remarkably deceptive on its face, while advocating measures which attack our freedom much more directly than anything a terrorist can do.

In related news, water is wet, and elephants are very large.

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41 Responses:

  1. lars_larsen says:

    Those new scanners will cause one of 2 things to happen:

    A. The terrorists will blow up the security checkpoint where hundreds of people are lined up to get into the "tube".

    B. The terrorists will blow up a bus instead. Or a pizza shop, or a daycare center... etc.

    The up side is that the politicians there will have a better chance of getting re-elected. And thats all that matters right? I should start a company that sells big impressive-looking machines with lots of blinkenlights that do absolutely nothing, but give an impression of ultimate security.

    I noticed the difference in the media there too. THAT DAY they continued to run commercials during the news, and went back to regular programming (soap operas, sitcoms, etc.) when they normally would. Compare that to 24 hour commercial-free coverage for DAYS after 9/11 here.

    • jwz says:
        Those new scanners will cause one of 2 things to happen:

      You left out C: pervo commuters engaging in the mutant hybrid of "Flash Mountain" and IR porn. This is the Twenty-First CENTURY after all.

    • flipzagging says:

      B. The terrorists will blow up a bus instead. Or a pizza shop, or a daycare center... etc.

      What are you talking about? Terrorists love security! They follow it around, like Grateful Dead fans.

      Just like how the US/UK is attracting all the terrorists to Iraq, thereby stopping terrorist attacks in other places.

    • simmonmt says:

      Can we have a little bit of perspective, please? The 9/11 attacks resulted in the shutdown of a couple of subway stations, just like in London.

      Oh yeah, and 3,000 people died when terrorists flew planes into three (almost four) buildings. A financial and political decapitation attempt versus a subway bombing. Not to belittle the London attacks, but 9/11 was on a slightly larger scale. So yes, I think the media can be excused for switching to 24x7 news coverage. There was kind of a lot going on.

      Regarding (B), are you saying that we shouldn't have, for example, increased airline security (think strengthening cockpit doors, as opposed to some of the more questionable things), because someone could still use a truck bomb? Certainly an interesting approach.

      • lars_larsen says:

        When you take into account the relative population of the US vs. England, the relative death toll was only 10 times greater on 9/11 vs the subway bombings. (1 death per 100,000 vs 0.1 death per 100,000) Sure, that qualifies as "slightly larger scale", but it still doesnt come close to the suicide, homicide, or accidental death rates. 1 death per 100,000 is about equal to the annual lightning death rate in florida.

        And how many times can you re-run the same footage of planes hitting the buildings anyway? Seriously... what is the point? Aside from scaring everybody shitless. Is something going to happen during the 2 minutes of commercials at 4am that we might miss? Can you name one actual breaking news item that happened in the 48 hours after 9/11?

        If we strenghten cockpit doors, the terrorists can still just BUY an airplane. There is always a way around the security. Especially if we broadcast on national TV exactly what the new security measures are.

        Strengthening cockpit doors doesn't cripple our society (except in the case that a pilot cant escape from the cockpit after a crash). But putting body-scanners in a place as busy as a subway is nothing less than insanity. It would be counter-productive since it would force people to crowd into a huge bottleneck at the security checkpoint, creating an even bigger target. Just look at all the bombings that happen at security checkpoints in Israel. Imagine that x100.

        • simmonmt says:

          So you're saying that we should have pretty much gone back to life as normal about two and a half minutes after the last plane crashed? Ignore the fact that lower Manhattan was covered in concrete dust and debris. Ignore the fact that buildings were still collapsing hours after WTCs 1 and 2 came down. Ignore the fact that the financial capital of the world was basically turned off for several days. Ignore the fact that US airpsace was closed fro the first time ever. Ignore the fact that nobody had any idea as to how widespread the attacks would turn out to be.

          Clearly you and I differ as to the impact of 9/11. Myself, yes, I was scared. And no, it wasn't because the media were blowing things out of proportion or because they were trying to scare people. No, it was because my country had been attacked, because two of my favorite buildings had been destroyed, and heaven only knew how many innocent people had been killed in the process.

          But certainly, rather than trying to tell us what they knew (even if they did end up saying the same things over and over), clearly the networks shouldn't have pre-empted The Price is Right and Friends.

          • lars_larsen says:

            The difference between me and you might be that I turned the TV off about an hour after it happned. And spent time with people I care about. I wasn't paralyzed in fear watching replays over and over. I went out in public.

            If I were alone, I would much rathar have watched the price is right than be subjected to more fear inducing hysteria.

          • I love the whole "You don't agree with me, therefore logically you agree with the extreme opposite" thing. It lets people know what they're dealing with, so they can save time.

            "What? You don't hate arabs? I suppose you want us all to become muslims and live in the desert!"

        • edlang says:

          The secret to media success is having jumpers. There were no jumpers in London. Jumping from the top of a double decker bus isn't quite the same as what happened on 9/11, is it?

  2. lusercop says:

    You probably don't give a f**k, but I, as a Londoner was bitterly disappointed and sickened to have to fight my way through press cameras etc, to get to King's Cross and get on a train on Saturday lunchtime. It barely lasted for two hours! But we were still doing well against Australia in the cricket!

    • charles says:

      Yes, couldn't your cricket team have had the common decency to be a little put off by the events of the day? You didn't have to win by nine wickets, you know.

  3. wyndebreaker says:

    One of these things is not like the other. One is constant, constant fear-pandering. The other -- from the country that actually suffered the bombings, no less -- is still reporting something resembling actual news, with something resembling a dose of actual perspective.

    Reminds me of how New York, which actually suffered through 9/11, gave Bush a big "no thank you" in November, while states like Alabama, which most terrorists are barely aware exists, flocked to him like he was the only thing standing between them and a pound of Anthrax being dropped in their living room.

  4. hatter says:

    I suspect some over-reporting there from QQ trying to get some publicity. As noted by other posters, it hardly caused that much disruption, it's mostly forgotten already. There is tragedy, but in the grand scheme of an average day in london, it's just a blip (random unbacked figures: average day in london - 300 deaths. And extra 50-100 is a sizable fraction of this, but it's still merely a fraction) Of my fellow londoners, I think more of us knew of someone injured in the WTC on 11/9 than know anyone caught up in the various bombs in london.

    As soon as the tube operating companies can find the quarter of a billion quid (call it $400M) to install it, then we'll start talking about the privacy issues. Or maybe we'll start talking about the more obvious dangers and maintenance issues facing the tube network.

  5. fastfwd says:

    So that's what happened to all those X-ray glasses they used to sell on the back pages of comic books...

  6. Note that this story has been denied by QinetiQ and London Underground:

    Meanwhile, QinetiQ, the privatised former Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, and London Underground have rejected claims made in the Times newspaper that body scanners are to be used on the Tube.

    The two organisations say the report is "inaccurate" and there are no plans to use the scanners. QinetiQ is providing some equipment but cannot discuss it.

    ... this is, I think, a unique and hopeful example of the post-9/11 British state rejecting a fucking stupid "security measure" proposed by a private company.

    (As a moment of trivia, if you think it's mad that the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency has been privatised, wait until you see the Atomic Weapons Establishment -- roughly the British equivalent of Los Alomos or LLNL -- which is now a public company, listed on the stock exchange. So, I feel safe....)

    • wilecoyote says:

      OTOH, today I read in the spanish press that the UK is going to propose new measures to the European Union to "increase monitoring of phone calls and email". The only exact details they gave were that ISPs would probably be required to store details on email messages for some time, in order to make them available to the police.

      (So, you know, a bit less of bragging about british stoicism and common sense, okay? plsthxbye).

      • british stoicism and common sense, okay?

        Sadly the government long ago lost any stoicism and common sense when it came to security measures, hence my surprise that they aren't going to be wasting £lots on millimeter-wave cameras.

        As for the wiretapping stuff, this looks like a fairly blatant attempt to extend the RIP Act across Europe. sigh. But this stuff is already in place here and already requires many ISPs to keep logged traffic data (which means /var/log/maillog, basically) for some period of time and give it up when a warrant is issued.

        Over the weekend the "security services" apparently tried to persuade ISPs to retain the contents of emails (as well as logged traffic data) to help catch THE TERRORISTS. Not many complied, especially because if they'd done so they'd have been committing an offence under the very same law.

      • quercus says:

        The British have plenty of stoicism and common sense.

        Self-serving governments (even the British) with a fetish for surveillance, OTOH, are going crazy for new toys.

        It's very noticeable at present (here in the UK) just how much distance there is between government and people. The commuters of London are treating it as an asteroid strike - bit of a pisser if it happens to you and yours, but it's not going to change your politics. Blair and the Home Sec (whatever his name is) are going mad for turning us all into North Korea.

        Sadly it's less 1984 and more Brazil. The bus did have a CCTV camera on board - but it wasn't working.

  7. dossy says:

    I, for one, welcome our new X-ray vision boob-viewing overlords.

    I predict that you will now hear "wow, nice camel-toe" a lot more frequently in the London Tube system.

    • baconmonkey says:

      thankfully, until they get the "fig leaf" tech working, nobody will want to actually watch the screens for this. The lesser of the two reasons is that you'd spend all day looking at pudgy, lumpy naked bodies. Mmm, ugly bad softcore porn all day long.
      The other reason is general cultural dislike of viewing male genetalia. few men will want to have that much cock waved in their faces all day.

  8. ioerror says:

    The price of freedom is eternal nakedness.

  9. violentbloom says:

    Increases Security as a Precaution and to Reassure Passengers

    So the reality though was when I showed up that day around noon it seemed like there were less people than usual. I saw absolutely no extra security. On friday I saw two cops who rushed up to the train at the powell station stop but the doors closed and they looked like they were waiting for the doors to reopen...we pulled out of the staition instead. I saw one person wearing a vest standing next to the montgomery station bart info box, usually someone is lounging there talking and not really working so that's not really a change other than the vest.
    On the whole I saw fewer employees and BART police than usual on Thurs and Friday. So my question is where are all these extra people they supposedly have wondering around bart?

    Though a good use for all the managers (that is if they had actually left their office which I don't believe they did).

    I call bullshit on that.

    • mactavish says:

      I actually heard several extra warnings to people that security cameras don't guarantee security and that they should call BART police or 911 if there is a problem. See . . . that's helpful. Right?

      • violentbloom says:

        yeah I heard those too...
        I feel safe don't you?

      • kchrist says:

        At the end of last week they were doing "security sweeps" on trains before they cross the bay, which really means a BART cop walked down the length of the train looking in the open doors for obvious bombs and such. The only thing this accomplished was backing up trains at West Oakland waiting to get into SF.

    • fgmr says:

      Weird. The Glen Park bart station had 3-4 cops standing around in front of it .. SFPD, not bart cops. By Friday afternoon, there was only one cop, and she was sitting on the bench at that not-a-fountain, not really watching anything.

    • fo0bar says:

      Have they opened up the terrorist targets--err, I mean bathrooms yet?

      Ahh, I miss BART.

  10. otterley says:

    Apparently, the terrorists are now doing a fantastic job of taking out significant amounts of communications infrastructure, without a single explosion.