Full-body scanners improve security, TSA says

I know the topic was brought up previously, but I am interested to see if this affects anyone's views.



Full-body scanners improve security, TSA says - CNN.com

Washington (CNN) -- Full-body imaging machines that see through clothes have significantly improved security in airports where they are deployed, and have revealed more than 60 "artfully concealed" illegal or prohibited items in the past year, the Transportation Security Administration says.
To date, no explosives have been detected by the machines, but their ability to spot even small concealed objects demonstrates their effectiveness as a security tool, officials said.
"It is absolutely a tremendous improvement of what we can detect at the checkpoints," TSA Acting Administrator Gale Rossides said this week. "It is an excellent piece of technology that will significantly improve our detection capabilities."
As evidence of the machines' capabilities, the security agency released five photos of drugs or suspected drugs that airport screeners found after scans revealed anomalies on the ghost-like images of people's bodies. The agency said metal detectors would not have revealed the items.
Screeners using the technology also found a knife hidden in the small of a person's back at the Richmond, Virginia, airport, a concealed razor blade on a passenger in Phoenix, Arizona, and other concealed items such as large bottles of lotion, which are prohibited as carry-on items.


In addition, the machines have revealed numerous prohibited items that passengers evidently inadvertently left in pockets. Those items are confiscated but are not counted in the tally, a TSA spokesman said.
U.S. to implement new airport security measures
The agency field-tested the full-body imagers for more than a year before announcing last month the deployment of machines to 11 airports nationwide. Today, 46 machines are in place in 23 airports, and the agency is stepping up deployments and plans to have about 1,000 set up by the end of 2011.
Interest in the machines has heightened since the Christmas Day incident in which a man allegedly attempted to detonate an explosive concealed in his underwear. In an appearance before Congress last month, Rossides declined to say whether the machines could have detected the underwear bomb.
But to illustrate the machines' effectiveness, Rossides showed a packet of white powder smaller than a tea bag, saying it was identical to a concealed bag detected by an imager.
"The amazing thing is that our officers, as they get more and more familiar with this technology, are actually finding very, very small things that are being secreted on the body," she said.
But some passengers say the machine's capabilities are presenting new Fourth Amendment questions about the government's searches, saying the machines -- in detecting very small objects -- are subjecting passengers to scrutiny beyond what is needed to safeguard the plane.
"I can't imaging an explosive that is powerful enough in that [tea-bag size] quantity to endanger an aircraft," said John Perry Barlow, a former Grateful Dead lyricist who once took the TSA to court after a search of his checked luggage revealed a small amount of drugs.
"Every time technology makes another leap forward, we have to reclaim the Fourth Amendment, and often we have to reclaim the entire Bill of Rights, because technology gives us powers that were not envisioned by the Founding Fathers," Barlow said.
The security agency said that it searches only for prohibited items -- not illegal items such as drugs. When it finds illegal items during a search, it refers the item to local law enforcement officers, it says.
"What we're trying to resolve is the anomaly that we're seeing on the body," said Rossides. "If it's drugs, then we call in local law enforcement and they handle it from there."
Barlow predicted that the body scanner will lead to another court case to clarify the extent it can be used to search the body.
"Eventually they're going to bust somebody for something that was clearly and obviously not a threat to the aircraft, and any reasonable person would have known that [while looking at the] body scan. And at that point somebody is going to make it an issue," he said.
Rossides said the body imagers are especially useful because they can expose contraband on parts of the body that aren't fully explored in pat-downs, such as the groin.
"I think what was so telling about the Christmas Day attack was that it exploited our cultural norms, that we don't frequently pat down persons in that part of the body. This technology will give us the image of the entire body," she said.
But Rossides said the imagers are not a "silver bullet" because "those who intend to do harm are constantly adapting."
"We still have to have multiple layers of security," she said.
For all his reservations about scanners, Barlow said he does not hesitate going through one.
"I've got nothing to hide," he said. "I go through the scanner. If anybody wants to see me naked, they're welcome to the sight."

Comments

  • veritas_libertasveritas_libertas CISSP, GIAC x5, CompTIA x5 Greenville, SC USAMember Posts: 5,735 ■■■■■■■■■■
  • docricedocrice Member Posts: 1,706 ■■■■■■■■■■
    Bruce Schneier (and George Carlin) referred to this as security theater. I haven't flown in the last few years so I haven't gone through an airport checkpoint lately, but IMO this is just one of those things initially marketed as technology to stop terrorists ... and like a lot of other things in life, we have scope creep.

    Finding drugs is good, but it feels like the imaging devices are being used for something beyond airport security. Besides, if no terrorists were caught, something has to justify the scanner's existence. The fact that images have been saved to permanent storage (although general policy implies this wouldn't ever happen) is hardly surprising in this day and age.
    Hopefully-useful stuff I've written: http://kimiushida.com/bitsandpieces/articles/
  • SephStormSephStorm Member Posts: 1,732
    I just found that article as well. Personally, I think the justice department needs to start filling charges for officials who did mislead, or withheld this information.

    That being said, I do see legitimate uses for these machines, and the capacity to transmit and store the images. I do not see the legitamitcy of lying to the people of this country.

    The use for storage and transmission is simple. Transmission (could) allow(s) for TSA personnel to transmit the pictures for expert analysis in the event of an issue the agent is unable to ascertain the nature of.

    Storage allows for the review of data after an incident, to insure that policies were followed, and to allow for after-action review, so we can learn from our mistakes if we failed to notice something.

    Strict access controls need to be placed on the machines and any backups of information. The images should be kept on file at a local secure facility for a period not extending six months, before mandatory destruction.
  • veritas_libertasveritas_libertas CISSP, GIAC x5, CompTIA x5 Greenville, SC USAMember Posts: 5,735 ■■■■■■■■■■
    SephStorm wrote: »
    I just found that article as well. Personally, I think the justice department needs to start filling charges for officials who did mislead, or withheld this information.

    I hope so, but I doubt it will happen. Law Enforcement in this country cover for each other and the worst that usually happens is a chewing out or reassigning of duties.
    That being said, I do see legitimate uses for these machines, and the capacity to transmit and store the images. I do not see the legitimacy of lying to the people of this country

    I'm not really convinced that these devices work as well as they claim. I've seen studies and demonstrations that show how easily they can be tricked by body fat and other less than comfortable looking methods.

    I know this conversation ended with a locking of the thread before, but I wanted to bring it up again because I thought TE members might find this latest development interesting.
    Currently working on: Linux and Python
  • dynamikdynamik Banned Posts: 12,314 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Man, it's only a matter of time before I get myself in trouble with something like this for trying to be funny. The Phoenix airport has a machine that checks for residue from bomb-making supplies or something, and they randomly pull people aside to have them scanned. They did the guy in front of me and another one a few people back. So of course I act all offended and say, "Do you really think they look more suspicious than me!?" She fortunately had a sense of humor, but I don't think I'll always be so lucky icon_lol.gif
  • veritas_libertasveritas_libertas CISSP, GIAC x5, CompTIA x5 Greenville, SC USAMember Posts: 5,735 ■■■■■■■■■■
    dynamik wrote: »
    She fortunately had a sense of humor, but I don't think I'll always be so lucky icon_lol.gif

    Well you were lucky, they get disgruntled if I just ask them a question icon_lol.gif
    Currently working on: Linux and Python
  • za3bourza3bour Member Posts: 1,062 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I don't think technology is the solution because it will work for both ways the terrorist and who is fighting them.Each one of them can use it for their benefit and according to their needs.

    The solution is by looking at the root cause and solve the main issue.I don't wanna go politics here :D.

    If two husband and wife could enter the white house (one of the most secure places in the planet) and they were not even invited then anything can happen.

    technology is not the solution.
  • earweedearweed Member Posts: 5,192 ■■■■■■■■■□
    dynamik wrote: »
    Man, it's only a matter of time before I get myself in trouble with something like this for trying to be funny. The Phoenix airport has a machine that checks for residue from bomb-making supplies or something, and they randomly pull people aside to have them scanned. They did the guy in front of me and another one a few people back. So of course I act all offended and say, "Do you really think they look more suspicious than me!?" She fortunately had a sense of humor, but I don't think I'll always be so lucky icon_lol.gif
    You were fortunate she had a sense of humor about it. Those checks are supposed to be random as the inspectors are not supposed to "profile". Unfortunately this leaves the inspectors forced into not scanning an Osama look alike and scanning an 85 year old grandma instead.
    You're lucky you caught her in a good mood or you could have won yourself a cavity search...lol
    No longer work in IT. Play around with stuff sometimes still and fix stuff for friends and relatives.
  • docricedocrice Member Posts: 1,706 ■■■■■■■■■■
    za3bour wrote: »
    technology is not the solution.

    Bingo.

    Feds admit storing pervscanner pics ? The Register

    Of course, someone has to make money from all the fear-hype generated. Technology just happens to be the most convenient off-the-shelf excuse to provide assurance to a general audience. Or at least that's how a lot of corporate management treat it.

    Another way to look at it - you can have AV / FW / HIDS / least privilege / defense-in-depth, but nothing can prevent the user from clicking on a hyperlink with dancing ponies.
    Hopefully-useful stuff I've written: http://kimiushida.com/bitsandpieces/articles/
  • za3bourza3bour Member Posts: 1,062 ■■■■□□□□□□
    docrice wrote: »
    Bingo.

    Feds admit storing pervscanner pics ? The Register

    Of course, someone has to make money from all the fear-hype generated. Technology just happens to be the most convenient off-the-shelf excuse to provide assurance to a general audience. Or at least that's how a lot of corporate management treat it.

    Another way to look at it - you can have AV / FW / HIDS / least privilege / defense-in-depth, but nothing can prevent the user from clicking on a hyperlink with dancing ponies.

    Man 35000 images in less than 5 months ? and that's only in one court?

    Well one good thing about living in third world country is that your privacy is not violated like in USA and some other countries. It started with letters,faxes,telephones, emails and now even your photos in 2D,3D and who knows is stored so what's next ?

    Your last sentence is so true, even the very most secure places got hacked by some 14 years old geek from Russia or China .

    Gotta say one thing, I'm deeply disappointed with Obama i truly believed he is gonna be the "Change" every one in the world is looking for but it turned out to be another copy of Bush.

    Too bad.
  • SephStormSephStorm Member Posts: 1,732
    Without starting a political debate,

    President Obama isn't everything that goes on under his administration.

    As for the Third World comment, I wouldn't say that is true, look at the Blackberry issue in UAE...
  • JDMurrayJDMurray MSIT InfoSec, CISSP, SSCP, GSEC, EnCE, C|EH, CySA+, PenTest+, CASP+, Security+ Surf City, USAAdmin Posts: 11,769 Admin
    dynamik wrote: »
    The Phoenix airport has a machine that checks for residue from bomb-making supplies or something, and they randomly pull people aside to have them scanned.
    I have been "swabbed" and "puffed" in that machine in CA and FL. There was an "SSSS" designation placed on my boarding pass that signaled I was to be run through the extra security. I assume it was a random selection. It certainly didn't find my lockpick set. icon_twisted.gif
  • dynamikdynamik Banned Posts: 12,314 ■■■■■■■■□□
    JDMurray wrote: »
    I have been "swabbed" and "puffed" in that machine in CA and FL. There was an "SSSS" designation placed on my boarding pass that signaled I was to be run through the extra security. I assume it was a random selection. It certainly didn't find my lockpick set. icon_twisted.gif

    At least this didn't happen: Security in Motion: Why NOT to pick padlocks on a Flight icon_lol.gif
  • za3bourza3bour Member Posts: 1,062 ■■■■□□□□□□
    SephStorm wrote: »
    Without starting a political debate,

    President Obama isn't everything that goes on under his administration.

    As for the Third World comment, I wouldn't say that is true, look at the Blackberry issue in UAE...

    UAE is not a third world country, Dubai is one of the biggest economy of the world.
  • za3bourza3bour Member Posts: 1,062 ■■■■□□□□□□
    SephStorm wrote: »
    Without starting a political debate,

    President Obama isn't everything that goes on under his administration.

    I agree but he's the head of state and for two years the only accomplishment for him was the health care law.
  • veritas_libertasveritas_libertas CISSP, GIAC x5, CompTIA x5 Greenville, SC USAMember Posts: 5,735 ■■■■■■■■■■
    dynamik wrote: »

    Yikes, reading that made me cringe... icon_sad.gif
    Currently working on: Linux and Python
  • SephStormSephStorm Member Posts: 1,732
    za3bour wrote: »
    I agree but he's the head of state and for two years the only accomplishment for him was the health care law.

    I disagree, but this is NOT a political discussion forum. I would however be up discussing the issue through Private Messages.
  • za3bourza3bour Member Posts: 1,062 ■■■■□□□□□□
    SephStorm wrote: »
    I disagree, but this is NOT a political discussion forum. I would however be up discussing the issue through Private Messages.

    You are right, it is not and it should not be.We should focus on the main issue here.
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