In the months after the events of 9/11, the press was alive with reports on how airport and flight security would be reinvented as a high-tech paragon of efficiency and safety.
But although some airports use hand scanners to identify security personnel, and you now have to take your shoes off before going through the metal detector and surrender your nail-clippers, little else has changed.
Federal auditor Sheila Fraser pressed the point last week when she released a report on the pitiful state of airport security in Canada. Authorities have identified 247 people involved in criminal conspiracies who have access to restricted areas in Canada's airports, and have found 4,500 more who are lacking complete background checks.
But will a high-tech solution really solve the problem?
Consider New York company Security Intelligence Technology Inc. SIT advocates technological innovation as the cure for our airport woes, and its subsidiary, Homeland Security Services, exists to meet the need.
Its newest airport gizmo is called the Terrorist Trap Digital Body Scan. If it's adopted, you'll have to walk through a full-body X-ray machine and allow your skeleton to be inspected by the security crew - sorta like a scene out of Total Recall.
Arielle Jamil, speaking on behalf of SIT, explains the process on the phone from New York City. "After a 10-second scan, an image appears onscreen of your skeleton, along with anything concealed under your clothes. It's able to get money, jewellery, drugs, absolutely anything you might want to hide."
A few years ago, privacy watchdogs shut down an early prototype made by a company called Rapiscan. But with the changing mood of worldsecurity, airports have embraced the new SIT version, and a few are currently testing it to scan the bodies of people already suspected of terrorist leanings.
In a variation on the anti-civil liberties sentiment that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear, Jamil continues, "If you want to fly and be safe, you have to go through. If you don't want to be scanned, you don't fly."
Then there's SIT's new bomb-jamming technology.
"It's currently very trendy for terrorists to use a cellphone call to trigger a radio frequency receiver," Jamil explains. "Then the receiver is used to set off an incendiary device."
SIT sells jammers to stadiums and airports to create a zone in which radio frequencies produced by cellphones and such are blocked. Such a device may have saved the life of Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf a few weeks ago.
A bomb blew up 200 metres behind his presidential convoy as it sped across a bridge. The bubble of safety created by Musharraf's jamming device delayed the bomb's explosion just long enough for the cars to squeak by.
The problem is that although these gadgets clearly work, implementing them does nothing to keep people from planting bombs in the first place.
And technological innovations are often framed as solutions to problems that have way broader social and structural roots. Often, while manufacturers rave about the next big tech solution, there's no mention of the political context to the world's security problems, or even of basic issues like how much airport security guards get paid (around $10 an hour).
Airport security problems will not be solved by the application of these kinds of technologies. The restructuring of background checks and human resource management will probably do as much as any new tech toy. firstname.lastname@example.org