back to article Customs officers get X-ray machines for down under searches

Aussie customs officers are to get right under the skin of visitors to the Lucky Country with body scanners that will allow them to peruse suspected smugglers' internals without the need for a doctor's expertise. Ingesting drug-filled condoms and the like has become a favourite quick and dirty method for smugglers to evade …


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  1. teebie
    Thumb Down

    How will they sell this idea?

    Fly to Australia, the land of "freedom cancer"

  2. Annwyn

    200 searches is not a lot...

    ... in the grand scheme of things. It's less than one plane load.

    I guess those other 150 passengers would possibly have prefered the quicker option though.

    1. Pablo

      It's a lot when it happens to you

      But anyway, you KNOW they're going to do it more often now that they have their own scanner to play with.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        "more often"

        And yes, this is the danger.

        Irradiating someone is never good without good reason.

        I understand what they are trying to do, the intentions are good*, but I hope there will be adequate safeguards to protect the innocent against unwarranted radiation exposure. We will have to watch this closely.

        (*too many lives have been ruined by drugs)

  3. spegru
    IT Angle

    Is it just me?

    that detects the double entendre?

  4. Thomas 18

    Three strikes policy

    How about if you order 3 consecutive scans without finding any drugs you get fired and a blacklist to ever working in security again.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    choose the hospital

    trained staff hopefully.

    Plus, they tend to not do anything to harm the patient.

    plus, there is a chance of the xray revealing a so far undetected medical condition.

    a customs official on the other hand, wouldn't think twice before cranking the radiation exposure dial all the way upto the "are you nuts?" setting just to try and detect something he/she "suspects" you could be smuggling.

    another thing, would the ladies be offered a pregnancy test just to make sure they're not pregnant at the time? if not, could they sue the fuckwits for imposing an xray?

    1. robin48gx

      Choose 3 days in a cell

      It will seriously clog them up.

      Refuse permission for any type of x-ray.

      X ray equipment is fragile and expensive, and to get a good cat scan you need to stay still.

      They cannot physically force you to have a scan.

      When shifting through your shit for 3 days or so:

      They have to have guards.

      They have limited cell space.

      They have to feed you.

      They have to do paperwork.

      You can FOI the paperwork (more headaches)

      You can threaten to sue for any abuses of your human rights.

      Yoiu can ask for lawyers to be present during your interviews.

      You can cause trouble (perhaps damage the special toilet; must be expensive)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excuse me for asking...

    ...but don't you have to be a trained radiographer to deliver doses of X-rays?

    It's been a long time since just anyone was allowed to zap people with radiation - pretty much since they stopped X-raying peoples' feet for correct shoe sizes.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      You *do* need a radiographer... And more...

      You also need presumably a doctor to order the scan unless that has also been circumvented and I am not aware it has. Remember, this is not usually a scan initiated for medical indications. What you are also not aware of is as far as I recall is consent is also needed. And then you need another doctor (a radiologist) trained in the interpretation of said pictures to 'report' on the images (ie interpret them).

      One other thing that is not obvious from the article : you need to know is that it's not plain x-rays we're talking about...

      the investigation of choice is a CT which would typically involve a higher effective dose of radiation than plain x-ray films.

      So yes, to answer your question, more specifically, you need a radiographer, but not just any, you need a CT trained radiographer to acquire the images.

      So, while the radiation dose of the CT involved in these sort of scans is somewhat lower than that of many other abdominal CT scans for other indications, and does not involve contrast, it is still far from insignificant.

      Remember the manner in which the images were acquired on the scanner would also have been done apropros to the indication. Also, the radiologist who looks at the scan may be tempted just to answer the specified question in mind, ie looking for gut intraluminal foreign bodies. And that approach is not necessarily wrong.

      So it's not like 'one scan will tell us everything' - that is a fallacious assumption that even to this day exists in quite a number of doctors who haven't a clue about medical imaging.

      This so, the argument for such scans in that you will find an unknown undetected medical problem should be discounted because this is definitely far from certainty. You will see a suspicious lesion if it is picked up on scan AND staring you in the face AND you see it, but you won't see it if it is small and/or not acquired because of technical issues ie the manner of image acquisition and you are not actively looking for it (and in this case you are NOT). Trust me on this one.

      Unfortunately, short of waiting for suspects to poop the stuff out, this is possibly the only practical way I can think of reliably finding foreign bodies within the gut lumen.

      Ultrasound is practically inappropriate because of a host of reasons and magnetic resonance has its risks with the magnet (one is looking for a foreign body which is hopefully not ferromagnetic, but then... who knows.. staples on packets within the condoms perhaps etc people do silly things) plus is often not easily available at all. For now, that leaves us with x-rays.

      TL:DR : I believe you still need a substantial medial/radiological presence or input otherwise this is inappropriate, it involves a non-trivial dose of radiation, it's not a magic wonder scan and I believe you still need consent (which is probably the most important message here).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    What the betting some mission creep will creep in. So around 200 people are tested per year. What's to stop them increasing that number because it is cheaper and easier to x-ray people. Hell it's only the cost of maintenance and electricity for the x-ray machine - it's probably cheap enough to scan everyone coming into Oz.

  8. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    I gotta say

    I dont think a 25% hit rate is actually that bad. OK its probably annoying for the person who is actually innocent, and a big waste of time, but SOMETHING has to make the customs folks think you've swallowed drugs (or shoved them where the sun dont shine).

    I would be willing to bet that the majority of those other 75% had drugs or residue of drugs on them or in their bags, or something similar.

    & only 200 X-rays done over a year? Out of how many people coming to Australia? An X-ray machines complete with a couple of radiographers seems excessive to save a bit of time on only 200 X-rays!

  9. JeffyPooh

    200 will quickly become 2000

    There has to be a 'cost' for such intrusive, mandated tests that come up negative. Maybe a money order for $400 to compensate the innocent for their trouble. Failure to think this through will lead to abuse.

  10. Anonymous John


    "would quickly exonerate the innocent" = "would quickly give the innocent a potentially dangerous radiation dose".

  11. Winkypop Silver badge

    Correction 2

    "quickly exonerate the innocent....." = guilty until proven innocent of course!

    We'll have no kangaroo court at border security!

  12. Oliver Mayes

    Hmm, I see a potential scam here

    Woman swallows drug package shaoped like a foetus, customs think she looks dodgy and x-rays her. 'Baby' shows up on x-ray and they assume shes just pregnant. Woman subsequently sues airport when she 'miscarries' later.

    Doubt any grunt working in customs would know how to distinguish between baby and baby-shaped object. Airport doesn't want to draw attention to it's shiny new toy potentially killing babies so settles quietly out of court.



    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Type your comment here - plain text only, no HTML

      umm.... they might wonder what a baby was doing in the woman's stomach?

      ..unless, ofcourse, she was from Bath And Wells.

  13. YumDogfood

    Path of least resistance

    1. Fill false preggers bump with Kg of the good stuff and walk on through (sans THz scanners).

    2. Find an under 18 year old stupid enough to be a mule (not exactly hard, that one)

    3. Either rohypnol & make a deposit in an unsuspecting lightweight thinker or a fake ID and take acting lessons in not firing on all thrusters.

    Ways and means people, ways and means.

  14. kennsmi

    if i ever fly again...

    ...I'm sticking a metal toy car up my arse.

    For fun.

  15. JaitcH

    Oz Customs are a regular pain in the you-know-where

    Oz Customs together with their immigration counterparts are a pain. They examine baggage with great zest, poking and peeping in every crevice that could be used to hide something.

    They also use a strange set of criteria as to what can be allowed in, and this is apart from the flora and fauna regulations, which are understandable given that it is an island, albeit a bloody big island.

    They expect biz types to carry plenty of cash so they can live in the style the customs guys expect you to live in, too.

    In fact, in some ways, they are more aggressive than those TSA guys who harass you when you enter the States.

    You can imagine what antics these guys could get up to armed with rectal scanners - how will they interpret the difference between airline food and other foreign objects. Presumably they will have waiting rooms surrounded by toilets for dubious passengers to await the call of Nature.

    What if Nature doesn't come calling? Are they going to keep you seated or throw you in jail?

    Not even the obnoxious TSA has gone that far, yet.

    As Australian Tourism says: "There’s nothing like Australia." Thank goodness.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's control of transportation

    God help every country who adopts the DHS bullshit.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This totally puts me off flying

    Austrailia already sprays you with some awful fly spray just before landing.

    I would not give consent to be xrayed and would sit in the

    cell and make them examine my shit for three days.

    If more people did that it would clog up the system.

    Fucking xrays. Ionising radiation that causes CANCER.

    Just because some people want drugs WTF should we ordinary people suffer.

  18. Dropper


    Wouldn't it be cheaper to search the crims before they left for the penal colony?

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