The author of this Christian Science Monitor article on the "full body scan" and "enhanced patdown" procedures makes us click through 8 pages of ads but manages to miss all of the important questions for which a reader would like to get answers.
Not picking on CSMonitor, I have yet to see a reporter from any mainstream media outlet bothering to ask any of these questions:
- How effective are these TSA screening procedures at preventing terrorists? This must be considered relative to the traditional metal detector and patdown.
- What proportion of these "scans" and "patdowns" results in "positive" findings?
- What proportion of these "positive" findings are "false positives"?
- What's the likelihood that a real terrorist will get a "positive" finding? Or, how many terrorists will pass this scan/patdown for every terrorist caught by it?
- What's the likelihood that a non-terrorist will get a "positive" finding? Or, how many innocent passengers will fail this scan/patdown for every terrorist caught by it?
- What's the cost of each scan/patdown and what is the total cost of all the scans/patdowns needed to catch one terrorist?
Update (Nov 22): In the latest article, the New York Times wasted more space re-printing the same old story with no new information. In an article auspiciously titled "Administration to seek balance in airport screening", one is left to wonder if the NYT's dictionary has the word "balance" in it. Their dictionary also does not appear to contain the word "irony". The reporter alleges that the enemy is trying to "impose huge costs on the United States" by a strategy of "a thousand cuts", and then tell us that the U.S. will spend huge amounts of money and resources to adopt these scanners for which no data is available on their effectiveness. Since I'm assuming that our journalists have the minimum competence to ask about effectiveness, the awkward silence is to be interpreted as no data.