Bare-faced liars exposed in the buff

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 January, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 January, 2002, 12:00am

If we were to be honest, airport check-in security was never really much good.

Check-in clerk: 'Did you pack these bags yourself sir?'

Terrorist: 'Errrr, what was the question again?'

It was hardly hi-tech stuff.

In recent months the need for heightened airport security has come to the forefront with engineering companies wheeling out more electronic wizardry than a Harry Potter film.

We have seen machines that will X-ray your X-rays and can even tell you what you had for dinner last Wednesday.

Security: 'I'm sorry we can't allow you on board sir. You had egg curry and cabbage water for dinner last night and that's a volatile mixture in the confines of an aircraft lavatory.'

The latest in a long line of latest hi-tech gadgetry is the 'instant lie-detector technique'.

This replaced the 'delayed lie-detector technique', which was found to be ineffective as most airline passengers failed to provide a forwarding address to where results could be sent.

The new 'instant lie-detector technique' picks up mini hot flushes around the eyes and could lead to truth tests becoming standard at airport check-ins, according to the journal Nature.

In the new tests developed by scientists from Minnesota, a high-definition thermal-imaging camera scans a person's face to see if they blush when answering a question.

In theory, blood should rush to the eye area of liars, researcher James Levine said, while the innocent remain coolly and calmly unaffected.

To test the theory, 20 people were randomly asked to stab a mannequin, rob it of US$20 and then profess their innocence.

Check-in clerk: 'Did you stab a mannequin and rob it of US$20, sir?'

Terrorist: 'No.'

Check-in clerk: 'Did you pack these bags yourself sir?'

Terrorist: 'No. Damn, I always get caught out on that one.'

It is, however, unclear if the blood rush is confined to on-the-spot liars or if it is a feature of liars in general.

Imagine the disruption to world order as thousands of politicians are left stranded on the tarmac after a series of uncontrollable eye-ball flushes.

Security checks took on a new impetus when a passenger was caught recently with exploding shoes.

Within hours airports were asking passengers to remove their shoes for X-raying.

This caused a number of mainly male commuters to write 'new socks' on their Christmas wish-list.

The old adage of 'remember to wear clean underwear every day in case you get run over by a bus' was replaced with 'remember to wear socks with no holes in case you have to go through airport security'.

In order to stay ahead of the terrorists, airlines are going to have to be the leaders.

It is no good introducing initiatives after the event.

This is why Lai See is forming the lobby group Buff Travel. What we propose is for governments to outlaw clothing on board an aircraft.

Think about it. Okay, now think about it seriously.

Male and female passengers board the plane through separate doors on either side of the aircraft. Men on the left, women on the right. Aircraft manufacturers will be asked to build a partition down the middle of the plane.

The partition will have small windows with roller blinds on each side for couples that wish to sit together.

Clothing will be checked in at the door and returned on arrival at destination. First-class and business passengers will be distinguishable by their larger napkins.

Cabin crew will remain fully clothed for reasons of hygiene and safety, particularly for occasions when they are obliged to lean across a passenger enjoying a hot meal and beverage in order to remove an empty tray.

And of course, to spare the blushes.