Thursday, April 17, 2008

Catch a Wave and Avoid a Pat Down

Since we posted information about Checkpoint Evolution and the expanded use of millimeter wave technology, we’ve noticed a number of comments from many of you questioning the use of this technology and the images it captures during the screening process.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there so we thought it might be worth a few words to see if we can address some of your concerns.

The expanded use of the millimeter wave in our nation’s airports actually goes back to the 9-11 Commission report, which recommended increased use of explosives detection technology for passengers at the security checkpoint. Of course, with the timing of the commission’s report and the bombing of two Russian airliners shortly thereafter, TSA deployed the highly invasive physical pat-down and deployed explosive trace portals to many airports nationwide. Otherwise known as the puffer machines, we continue to help fine-tune this technology while working with private technology companies to develop additional screening equipment that will scan passengers for any and all concealed weapons and explosives, thereby eliminating the need for the invasive pat-down. We more than recognize that passengers don’t like being patted down by our officers and, though some of you may think differently, our officers don’t like patting down passengers either. It’s uncomfortable for everyone involved.

So over the last year, TSA has piloted the millimeter wave whole body imaging machines. We have been so pleased with the millimeter wave that we are moving to deploy additional machines to LAX and JFK airports. Assistant Secretary Hawley recently announced the purchase of 30 additional machines. The millimeter wave allows our officers to see a rotating image of the passenger so they can see any threat items that might be hidden on a person’s front or back without them having to turn around. Many of you have commented on a CNN story we rolled the dice on last month. We allowed CNN to film as we ran one of the many covert tests conducted at security checkpoints everyday. Using a physical pat-down, our officer was unable to locate the threat item that one of the covert testers concealed in a back brace and, while we demonstrated for the public that our officers are tested regularly and the tests are meant to be challenging, unfortunately we failed that test on a nationally televised stage. We are confident that millimeter wave whole body imaging technology would have found that threat item.

Now I do remember a post someone wrote a few days ago, asking about cell phone cameras, suggesting officers could use them to take photos of passengers’ whole body images. First of all, as we’ve shown you, the image looks like a fuzzy negative…there’s nothing to see. And second, every airport using whole body imaging technology installs a separate, closed and remote viewing room for our officers to view the image projected from the machine, and in each case so far, those viewing rooms have been at least 50 feet from the machine. This distance ensures the officer viewing the image for concealed items has no way of interacting with or identifying the passenger. The officer staffing the equipment communicates with the officer in the viewing room with wireless microphones. No one is allowed in the room while the officer is screening those images and the officers are not permitted to carry cell phones, back packs or any other devices while they work in the viewing room.

Additionally, these monitors have no ability to save, print or transmit the image. Once it’s deleted, or once the next passenger steps into the machine, the previous image is gone forever.

I believe it is worth noting that whole body imaging machines are already in use in state and federal facilities around this country, including public courthouses.

As a married father of five small children, I wouldn’t think twice about sending my wife, my four boys or little girl into this machine. I’ve seen the image it produces and I am not only confident as a TSA employee - but as a citizen - that TSA has done everything possible to address passengers’ privacy concerns regarding whole body imaging.

For those of you who remain skeptical, you’ll be happy to know that, as we expand the use of whole body imaging to JFK and LAX, it remains an optional screening method for passengers. It’s voluntary so if you’re selected for additional screening and you prefer the physical pat-down, just let our officers know.

Millimeter wave, a form of whole body imaging technology, is currently in use at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Since its introduction there, more than 90 percent of passengers have elected to undergo screening with this technology instead of being subjected to a pat-down.

Nico Melendez

TSA EoS Blog Team


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Trollkiller said...

Chris Boyce said...

Fellow bloggers, I tried to post a link to the LA Times article that had frontal images of the female screener who had her images taken. But, the bloggers have been too afraid to post it. Note that it is a male screener enjoying the view.

It leaves very little to the imagination. Speaking of which, look closely at the rear view on the blog. Look in the right location and the victim's family jewels are obvious.

Is this the article you are talking about? Most likely your post was dropped because of the long URL.

Anyhow I noticed something more shocking then the Barbie doll picture, I see the scanners cost just $150,000 each. In other words the TSA could buy 28 MMW devices for what it is costing them to provide new "cop" uniforms. (assuming $100 per screener times 43,000 screeners)

Anonymous said...

re: " think TSA has been caught in a Catch 22. If they post images of themselves, then we have the opportunity to say, see, you can save and print images. If they don't, we will continue to claim, unknowingly, that the images are grotesque."

I'm not sure what TSA is doing about this MMW Disaster they have created.

Here's my take on it; The posted their announcement about MMW and didn't think anyone would question them. But we did, they tried to respond but when requested for direct evidence disappeared and haven't been seen since.

I think TSA is giving us the "middle digit" and letting us know what the collective TSA opinion of the public is.

I think they blatantly lied about the MMW images and now have decided to tell us to "f--- off" and do whatever they want regardless of public opinion.

I'm sure the Blog Operators are taking their marching orders form above but to work for an agency such as this makes me wonder about their integrity too.

Anonymous said...

FOR PIERCINGS: This is preferable: The millimeter wave allows our officers to see a rotating image of the passenger so they can see any threat items that might be hidden on a person’s front or back without them having to turn around.

This is NOT a viable option: TSA has reviewed the procedures themselves and agrees that they need to be changed. In the future TSA will inform passengers that they have the option to resolve the alarm through a visual inspection of the article in lieu of removing the item in question.

Thank you TSA for making more options available.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that the public citizen wants to act like they have been the ones wronged and have done absolutely NOTHING to illicit the reactions from TSO's that people are complaining about? I am embarrassed by the behavior that I have witnessed in airport screening lines and wonder how you would react if someone called you a "facist pig" or threw one of the buckets at you after they removed their belongings from it? How about the person who slams your fingers in their bag and laughs at you? Would you put up with that in your job? How about the lady who throws water in your face or screams profanities at you? Most of you bring on the behavior that you have been shown at airports. Try going through the line without reeking attitued and be polite, see where it gets you.

READ the signs people R.E.A.D. them. If it can't go, why try to push the issue? Why go start an argument that you know you're not going to win? The bottle of water or lotion or peanut butter CAN'T go... nothing new there... yet, everyday, people insist on trying to "hide" them in their carry-on's and then become indignent and outraged when they're told it can't go.

If it's METAL... remove it, why wear clothes with lots of snaps and buckles and "metal" do-dads on them? Because you want to make a scene? Wear something else or remove it prior to going through the M.E.T.A.L. (pay attention to the word METAL) detector. If it beeps, you will be patted down.

Maybe the "Hispanic" woman Rosie should make sure she books her flights ahead (to avoid a necessary last minute screening) or remove ALL of her metal so she doesn't beep or be calm and collected when she goes through the line. I for one want the obnoxious *** in front of me to be screened extra just because he/she may be getting on my flight! Better yet, don't let them on my flight, I don't want to hear about it all the way to my destination! Maybe they'll be the intoxicated person on my flight that starts a fight.

I have NEVER been "groped" by a TSO, patted down (respectfully I might add)or hand wanded yes, but improperly groped.... ABSOLUTELY not! What makes people think that those TSO's enjoy having to pat you down? Wow, sign me up for that $24,000 a year job so I can put my hands on Lord knows what? GROSS!

And I've seen some of those bags they have to go through, down right nasty and smelly....eewwwww dirty underware.

It's a job people, a job. Why do TSO's have to be portrayed as pervets? I'm a nurse and believe me when I'm inserting a suppository into YOUR rectal cavity that I DON'T enjoy it, I'm not perverted... it's a job and aren't you lucky that someone wants to do it?

Try following the posted signs, leave the metal off, don't insist on bringing the liquids and be pleasant....... I tell people who are rude and hold up the line exactly what I think of them because our TSO's can't!

Anonymous said...

Should anyone be interested in how a "Responsible Federal Agency" acts when caught telling the public a pack of lies then you only have to look to the post "Catch a Wave and Avoid a Pat Down".

Floating around the internet is the statement that Kip Hawley is an idiot. Seems he may also be a voyeur. There is absolutely no reason to strip search a person (physically or electronically)unless the person has been arrested for some chargeable offese. Last time I checked buying a ticket on American, United or Delta was not a crimminal act. I think the MMW Imager goes beyond any reasonable screening need and will resist, protest and take any action I can to have this device outlawed.

HSVTSO Dean said...

An Anonymous person wrote:
I also wonder how many of upper TSA management has had to wait in line and go thru screening. I image they can bypass the screening process with their credentials. Just a thought.

Four (I think; I can't exactly recall what I ate for breakfast last Wednesday, but this is a best-of-my-recollection accounting) years ago we had the assistant administrator for the TSA roll through our checkpoint. I can't recall what his name was - I didn't even know him then (I know of Mo', Kip, and Chertoff - that's about it :D ) - but I do know that the supervisor informed us that he was there.

The exact events of what happened...?

He stood in the line, when he got to the front he took his shoes off and his jacket and pulled his laptop computer out of it's bag and came through the checkpoint like anybody else would.

Though I do understand he rolled up to the office later and made small talk with our federal security director before he got on his plane and left.

It was kind of anticlimatic, really.

Just a response.


Just an infonugget: I, as a TSO, have just about as much desire to see "you" naked as you have for me to see it. I ain't exactly tickled pink with the MMW technology, but if it's what rolls out then it's what rolls out, and I'll do the job I was hired to do.

In my own personal opinion after viewing the images of the MMW alongside the backscatter, pre-and-post, I think the images have been distorted in the name of privacy so much that it's a risk to the security aspects that were supposed to be gained from it. TSA either needs (just my opinion again, mind you) to decide that when they're going to do something, to do it right.

Or just not do it at all.

Anonymous said...

That first image is SO misleading it isn't even funny. I could show a low power Gama Ray Emitter on it that would basically instantly kill you and it would look like the safest one on the list.

To quote a report in this subject:
"biological effects and possible health implications have not been fully investigated."

Remember: We used to sell kids toy x-ray kits. They would actually use a radioactive source to x-ray their own arm / hand.

Which just goes to show that we like to use technology before we entirely understand the health implications.

We know X-Rays are dangerous. We know microwaves are dangerous. We don't know if Terahertz radiation is.

And showing highly misleading diagrams like that aren't helpful to anyone.

Ellen Brannigan said...

To TSA Staff and Screeners:
What a terrible welcome to the USA! We travelled through several Eastern European countries: Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Poland. The worst reception we had was returning to the United States through TSA at United Airlines Gates 80-88 at LAX on Tuesday, October 9, 2007, about 6 pm.
We can understand the need for Security measures when entering the Airlines but can't you teach your screeners to have respect and courtesy to those being inspected and inconvenienced by these procedures?
We arrived on Lufthansa 450 from Frankfurt on Tuesday, Oct.9 about 6p.m. We had 11-12 hours sitting, plus a previous short flight from Berlin. We were under great stress, leaving flight, shuffling with several other plane loads of people, pushing in long lines at Passport control. Which line? Resident ? Non-resident ? Herded like cattle being prodded. "Get in that line". Then another line-Customs- Declare or nothing to declare? Show passport, hand over green form- Hurry up, you don't want to hold up the prisoners pushing behind you. Find baggage claim slip- which Carousel? Find and load suitcases-push them down the miles of corridors. Take luggage to United. Check them in again. Nice man says " Go outside and down the street to the Blue sign Shuttle stop. Take Shuttle A around LAX to United. Shuttle bus driver lets off too soon-we have to walk a long way, take elevator up to ticketing. We trudge down another long hall to Gate 80-88.
At that security check 10-12 younger screeners were talking among themselves, one telling about his trip to Hong Kong, Geisha girls etc. "Put your bag, wallet, hat, jacket, shoes, carry-on, everything on the conveyor belt". THey want the passengers, the ones paying their salary indirectly, to remove shoes, pick up their belongings quickly and Go, Go, Go!
Did anyone say "welcome" to the United States? Or smile at us? Or offer to help us? Here we were, two elderly people travelling for many cramped, stressful hours. Trying to make sure we had all our belongings. There was no table, only one chair. We had to shuffle down the dirty rug, jackets over our arms, things dangling from our hands, down many feet to find 4 chairs to put on our shoes, get our belongings together and go on to wait at yet another gate for the final leg back to Palm Springs.
The TSA people were very inconsiderate. They were "busy" talking to each other and ignoring their customers. They don't look to the comfort or discomfort of the passengers, residents or visitors. WE WERE THE ONLY CUSTOMERS AND THEY DIDN'T OFFER ANY GREETING, OR HELP WITH OUR TSA PROCEDURE. I am sure we are not the only travelers treated disrespectfully. What has happened to good manners and common sense?
People realize there is a need for Security checks. I hope that TSA officials will teach their personnel more respect and courtesy for all travelers. Give customers a warm Welcome to the United States!

CBGB said...

A comment I just realized was no where else in here. Does anybody else have a problem with having to stand with your hands in the air? As offensive as being treated like a criminal already is, I think I am more offended by having to stand in a tube with my hands in the air like a common criminal.

hibiscusroto said...

Thanks for the update. Nice job!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone posting have any idea of what a IED (Improvised Explosive Device) looks like? From what I understand they can and are made of almost anything that the bomber could think up. All it takes is a power source, detonator, explosive charge, and switch. ALL OF THESE THINGS, TO THE TERRORIST, ARE DESIGNED TO LOOK LIKE NON-EXPLOSIVE EVERY DAY ITEMS. A switch could be a small pinchable flash light. It has both power and a switch in it. Terrorists are not going to identify themselves at the ticket counter. Did Tim McVeah and MaryJane Olsen look like terrorists?

Do you really think that a bomb will make its way into the airport/airplane in one piece?

Becides all you have to do is drive and park a truck packed with explosives up to the terminal entrance and set it off.

caltel said...


Cal Tel

what not to wear said...

For Ellen Howe - the Today Show piece on the millimeter wave technology was informative. However, Barbara Bush called, and she wants her clothes back.

Anonymous said...

It is so ridiculous to see how hard we strive to protect against the threats. There are more creative things to do in this world. Use your brain wisely.

Instead of inspecting us the travelers, why dont you just inspect the people who work in the airport? They are threats from my resources.

Ed said...

The backlash will be this: people will decide that they've had enough of flying. The rental car companies will be glad to rent cars to any traveler who simply refuses to undergo this kind of treatment. The highways are just going to get busier. Enough is enough! I'd rather get in my car than be subject to this kind of impersonal treatment.

Daryl said...

Given that CNN is one of the major house organs for Big Government, is it possible the "failed" pat-down test was a planted story to drum up support for the WBI devices, which are being sold by former national security racketeers, er, officials Perle and Chertoff?

As for the 90% preference: were the passengers actually informed of their options and polled as to their preference, or is this merely an acquiescence rate? I recently opted for the pat-down. The TSA officer asked if I had "read that on a sign somewhere," which to me implies the signs are not there as they are supposed to be. I do read signs, but trying to read signs while being herded like cattle through a livestock chute is too much even for me, so I can see the average passenger simply following the instructions of the TSA screener, who simply directs them to the WBI without mentioning the pat-down option.

Anonymous said...

I recently was travelling through Tulsa and was told to step inside the millimeter wave screening machine, I didn't notice the sign stating it was optional nor was I told. I stepped inside and did as I was told to do (all the while feeling like a criminal, since no one except the woman in front of me was "randomly" chosen). After stepping out I was told to wait, then after about 3 or 4 minutes I was told to step into the glass cubical in front of the machine. Again she asked me if I was wearing a belt (which I already told her I was not) so I lifted my shirt to show her. She then had to pat me down around my waist. I don't know what they were looking for but I was humililated because of my beleifs and the clothes I choose to wear. So the title "CATCH A WAVE AND AVOID A PAT DOWN" is totally incorrect.
If you are a Muslim woman, wearing modest clothing then you should expect to be "pat down" in all of your journeys through the security checks, because you will be "RANDOMLY" chosen. And just for reference, the pat down in the past few months has turned into a form of molestation, being touched and rubbed on every inch of your body is way too much!!

Now if I would have known that this new technology was being used at the airport I would have researched it, then I would have said NO to the virtual strip search.

Don't get me wrong, I love my country (yes, I am American) but I consider this religion profiling.

Anonymous said...

With these machines, we're throwing precious money and resources into toilet.

These machines are only nominally effective at stopping attackers. We can learn this from the ineffectiveness of the invasive searches used in prison systems where smuggled goods still abound.

Besides, there are numerous other holes in the airport system that an attacker can exploit. Heck, what's to stop an attacker from blowing you up at a baseball game, mall, or office building? What's preventing them from poisoning your water or airdropping pathogens? The attack vectors are numerous. If we plug up one hole, all we will do is make another target look more attractive.

You really can't live your life cowering like this. The only thing these machines will do is drain our security resources while grossly rape the privacy of every lowly person that passes through it.

Anonymous said...

The TSA can and has saved images. See this link.

Anonymous said...

Dear TSA,

The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. The amendment specifically also requires search and arrest warrants be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

You don't have probable cause to search every person that walks into an airport.

Back scatter, millimeter wave and pat down searches are a violation of the 4th amendment.

Since when did the USA become a police state?

Anonymous said...

lol, my captcha was juden

But anyway, I would appreciate it if your organization was dismantled.

Svitlana said...

These full-body scanners are both ineffective and very likely dangerous (X-ray back-scatter scanners especially - radiation exposure is additive). Also, they are highly questionable in their method, which is the equivalent of a full-body strip-search. And, they aren't even able to detect well-concealed weapons, as proved by TSA testing. So, what's the point in wasting so much money and exposing thousands passengers to unknown radiation dangers?! Personally, I think it's so that people 'feel' safe, even though they really aren't and are actually in more danger because of radiation!

So, how does Israel, arguably one of the most threatened countries in the world, deal with passenger screening? They don't need any expensive, radiation-emitting, visual strip-search machines. They use profiling, expert questioning techniques, and oh yes, they swab ALL of your luggage in order to detect explosives. Add to that, that they decompress and re-compress all checked luggage (to detonate any pressure-trigger bombs) and you have a safe, highly-effective, and non-invasive screening procedure! They have also developed a system of trained mice (yes, mice!) who are more adept and accurate at sniffing out explosives than dogs.

The passenger screening procedure is both non-invasive and very effective, so much so, that since they implemented these security measures many years ago, they've never had a terrorist attack. Now, if only the USA could learn from the experts and save everyone money and health risks!

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