Saturday, December 29, 2007



SCIENCE DAILY - Most screening programs around the world are closely
evaluated and heavily regulated before implementation. They rely on
sound scientific and cost-benefit evidence before they are put into
practice. Is airport security screening an exception, ask Eleni Linos
and colleagues?

They reviewed evidence for the effectiveness of airport security
screening measures, comparing it to the evidence required by the UK
National Screening Committee criteria to justify medical screening

Despite worldwide airport protection costing an estimated $5.6 billion
every year, they found no comprehensive studies evaluating the
effectiveness of passenger or hand luggage x-ray screening, metal
detectors or explosive detection devices. There was also no clear
evidence of testing accuracy.

The US Transportation Security Administration defends its measures by
reporting that more than 13 million prohibited items were intercepted in
one year. But, argue the authors, there is no way of knowing what
proportion of these items would have led to serious harm.

This raises several questions, they say, such as what is the sensitivity
of the screening question: 'Did you pack all your bags yourself?' and
has anyone ever said 'no'? What are the ethical implications of
pre-selecting high risk groups? Are new technologies that 'see' through
clothes acceptable and what hazards should we screen for?

While there may be other benefits to rigorous airport screening, the
absence of publicly available evidence to satisfy even the most basic
criteria of a good screening programme concerns us, they write.

They call for airport security screening to be open to public and
academic debate.

Rigorously evaluating the current system is only the first step for
building a future airport security program that is more user-friendly,
cost-effective and, ultimately, protects passengers from realistic
threats, they conclude.


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