Friday, November 6, 2009

Response to: “Oops: Backscatter X-ray machines tear apart DNA"

This article has been receiving quite a bit of attention and it’s leading people to believe the Backscatter Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) used by TSA emits terahertz radiation. Recent studies are showing that terahertz radiation may “unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication.”

(I know… who knew that your DNA could be unzipped? Hey buddy, your barn door’s open!!!)

I forwarded the article around to a few subject matter experts here at TSA and was provided with some interesting information:

“TSA has not tested nor procured any terahertz AIT systems.”

That sentence should sum it up for most of our readers, but for those who like to get into the weeds, here is some more interesting information that was given to me from the fine folks at the Office of Security Technology (OST):

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has assessed multiple types of AIT systems including X-ray backscatter and millimeter wave. Both offer safe and effective whole body screening for weapons and explosives concealed on a person’s body. Backscatter X-ray technology uses X-rays that penetrate clothing, but not skin, to create an image. Millimeter wave technology uses sensors to collect millimeter wave energy to measure the difference in radiated energy relative to each object against a common background (the human body produces these signatures in typical screening applications) to construct a composite image.

Backscatter - Relies on a narrow, low intensity X-ray beam scanned over the body’s surface at high speed that is reflected back from the body and other objects placed or carried on the body, where it is converted into a computer image of the subject and displayed on a remote monitor. For comparison purposes, the X-ray dose received from the backscatter system is equivalent to the radiation received in two minutes of airplane flight at altitude (0.003* millirem by backscatter (2 scans) compared to .0552 millirem for two minutes of flight). Newer technologies require less scanning time, reducing individual X-ray exposure to .002 millirem for the entire process. The backscatter AIT meets and exceeds the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard for personnel security screening systems using X-rays.

Millimeter Wave - Uses non-ionizing radio frequency energy in the millimeter wave spectrum to generate an image based on the energy reflected from the body. The frequency range for millimeter wave technology exists in the range between 30-300 gigahertz. The three-dimensional image of the body is displayed on a remote monitor for analysis. The energy projected by the system is 10,000 times less than a cell phone transmission (.00000597 mW/cm2 for millimeter wave technology compared to 37.5 mW/cm2 for a cellphone).

Other Safety Information

“TSA security screening technologies are required to meet consensus standards, such as those issued by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), as well as regulatory requirements such as those issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Our systems are independently tested as well by such laboratories as Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and FDA. We also apply an aggressive maintenance program to ensure that these systems continue to meet these performance standards. Additionally, TSA Occupational Safety Health and Environment (OSHE) is an active participant in our project integrated project teams. TSA OSHE assists in the development and validation of technology safety requirements. We also conduct safety evaluations as part of our laboratory, TSA Systems Integration Facility (TSIF), operational and site acceptance testing procedures.”

TSA tells its employees, namely Transportation Security Officers (TSOs), about the safety of advanced imaging technology machines, including the radiation exposure, during training on the equipment. In addition, TSA’s Office of Occupational Safety Health and Environment has individuals who work directly with TSOs to communicate safety information about operating the equipment. Information is available to TSOs through the OSHE Web site and employees can contact members of OSHE directly with questions.

*.04 was posted in error. The corrrect number was added. 0.003 millirem. Edited on 1/5/10

Thanks,

Blogger Bob

TSA Blog Team

73 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am not worried about effects of these machines on my DNA, because I will not ever agree to go into one, especially with the person seeing the images hidden away in "an undisclosed location". A hidden person seeing me naked is creepy, and I still haven't been told how the image gets to this person without being transmitted or stored in any manner.

RB said...

"Our systems are independently tested as well by such laboratories as Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and FDA. We also apply an aggressive maintenance program to ensure that these systems continue to meet these performance standards."
......................
Bob, since TSA does such a fine job of the evaluation, testing and aggressive maintenance of screening systems perhaps you could discuss why TSA bought somewhere around $30 million dollars worth of puffers only to later throw them in the trash because TSA couldn't maintain them.

Little minor details like that certainly question any blanket statements like you provided.

and

Where is the new policy on ice?

On exactly what date did the ice policy change?

Where is the new policy on currency?

Why are people who refuse WBI screening subjected to mandatory pat down while a person one lane over who clears a WTMD without alarm is not automatically given a pat down?

Where are the rules all travelers must comply with to transit a TSA screening checkpoint?

Certainly TSA must agree that all rules, laws, and regulations that citizens must comply with are readily available to the public.

Trollkiller said...

This is old news, even the TSA haters and those opposed to the strip search machines have debunked the story.

Can we please get a post on OD-400-54-6 "Discovery of Currency During the Screening Process" Effective October 29, 2009?

Or maybe a post on the improperly screened TSA employee that prompted the hijacking concern at Northwest Florida Regional Airport.

BTW I caught your power point presentation "The TSA Blog: Best Practices & Challenges", it was very good.

I hope that other agencies listen to the wisdom you laid down.

TSOWilliamReed said...

Anonymous said...
I am not worried about effects of these machines on my DNA, because I will not ever agree to go into one, especially with the person seeing the images hidden away in "an undisclosed location". A hidden person seeing me naked is creepy, and I still haven't been told how the image gets to this person without being transmitted or stored in any manner.

November 7, 2009 3:58 AM
----------------

I am not 100% sure but it very likely that the machine is on a lone network with the computer in the other room with no internet acess and no other ports to hook up to either machines except for those actually locked up and internalized at the actual scanner and in the computer room. Also im farily positive the image is placed in temporary memory in the computer untill the TSO pushes clear or not clear button then the image is deleted and the system is cleard of all information before the next image comes in. That would be the best way to do it and I am sure thats what they are doing. DHS is very VERY paranoid about internet hackers.

Anonymous said...

Bob, are the images posted on this blog and at airports where TSA is using these strip-search machines of the same size and resolution as those seen by the operators of these machines? Please answer yes or no.

Anonymous said...

Why does TSA want to take naked pictures of children?

Anonymous said...

Given TSA's willingness to retroactively change its rules to avoid embarrassment (as in the Britney nonsense), why should we trust any assurances you give us about these machines?

Anonymous said...

Why does TSA assume any liquid below 3.4 ounces is safe but that any liquid over 3.4 ounces is dangerous explosive?

Why does TSA toss these dangerous explosives into open containers in the middle of airports?

Why does TSA dispose of these dangerous explosives as if they were exactly what is indicated by their labels?

Why does TSA treat a bottle of Pepsi like soda when it's time to dispose of it, but as a dangerous explosive when it transits the checkpoint?

How does TSA screen the liquids sold past its checkpoints?

Does TSA test a random sampling if confiscated liquids to determine how many liquid explosives people are attempting to bring through checkpoints?

Why can't TSA point to a single piece of independent, peer-reviewed research to support its liquid policies?

Why does TSA continue to post inaccurate signage about the liquids policies in airports?

Anonymous said...

Why does the TSA continue to invest in these machines and expand their use as a primary form of screening when congress voted against this? Why use them as primary screening when they cannot detect explosives in body cavities, but can detect personal items no one should need to reveal to board an airplane (sanitary napkins, colostomies, insulin pumps, gel-bras, excess fat, etc.)?

These are good enough reasons not to use them. No need to add the health concern.

Anonymous said...

(I know… who knew that your DNA could be unzipped?"

Who knew? How about anyone with a high school diploma who has even the remotest interest in science?

Ayn R. Key said...

A while ago I wrote up a description on the difference between millimeter waves and X-rays. I pointed out how mmw was actually safe. I gave the TSA permission to use that information.

I suggest they read it again, because I specifically pointed out that mmw, UNLIKE X-RAY, was safe. I pointed out that mmw, UNLIKE X-RAY, was non-ionizing radiation.

I pointed out that the only problem with mmw, UNLIKE X-RAY, was a constitutional problem.

I suggest you re-read what I wrote back then.

Now it is nice you have all these safety precautions for the TSOs. What I find mystifying is that you use this on passengers. The same passengers you are supposedly keeping safe from the lethal 4 ounce lotion bottle.

It doesn't matter if it puts the passenger in danger, as long as it keeps the passenger safe? Do you realize how ludicrous that is? Do you realize what a laughing stock you are making of yourself with that standard?

Bob, if you have a single ounce of integrity left you would tell your boss "I'm not printing that nonsense. If you want it printed there do it yourself."

Anon_Charlie said...

Blogger Bob said "I forwarded the article around to a few subject matter experts here at TSA"

From previous results, this comment does not fill me with the wonderful "Ohh good, the TSA is on it, everything will be fine" feeling.

Which is a shame. The fact that so many citizens have lost faith in their government to provide basic services is disturbing and completely avoidable.

Trollkiller said...

Anonymous said...

(I know… who knew that your DNA could be unzipped?"

Who knew? How about anyone with a high school diploma who has even the remotest interest in science?


I have more that a remote interest in science and I had never heard the term "unzipped" in reference to DNA before.

Besides Blogger Bob was setting up a joke.

Anonymous said...

A study shows terahertz radition may destroy DNA, and TSA's excuse is that MMW maxes out at 300 GHz? That's awful close to 1 THz relatively speaking. And it's not like the study showed that 999 GHz radiation was safe and did not tear apart dna.

As for your backscatter x-ray only reaching the skin, I had a close relative diagnosed with melanoma last week. That's *skin cancer* for those of you at TSA who flunked science class and think ice is a liquid and 3.5 oz of H2O could take down a plan.

You're not getting me or any of my family into those machines. The only radiation exposure I'm taking, ionizing or terahertz, is that exposure discussed between me and a doctor and that background exposure incidental to living my life.

Anonymous said...

hmmm...

4 straight "Response to" blog postings, and tweets going out from the TSA to individual blog posters on multiple social networking sites at all times of day and night, weekends included.

Is the TSA going into full media defense mode?

What's up with the change, Bob????

Anonymous said...

I have more that a remote interest in science and I had never heard the term "unzipped" in reference to DNA before.

Besides Blogger Bob was setting up a joke.

Not a funny one. And I'm betting you have.

Patrick (BOS TSO) said...

As for your backscatter x-ray only reaching the skin, I had a close relative diagnosed with melanoma last week. That's *skin cancer* for those of you at TSA who flunked science class and think ice is a liquid and 3.5 oz of H2O could take down a plan.

You're not getting me or any of my family into those machines. The only radiation exposure I'm taking, ionizing or terahertz, is that exposure discussed between me and a doctor and that background exposure incidental to living my life.


I'm quite aware what melanoma is... would you like to see the scars around my body from pre-cancerous moles that had to be removed so they wouldn't become melanoma.

As far as I know... the only radiation that causes skin cancer is UV radiation from the good ole' sun (or tanning beds).

That'd only happen if I strapped one of UV lights on to me and kept it running 24/7.

I'd never heard of skin cancer being caused by good ole' ionized radiation... which can cause pretty much all other cancers.

Marshall's SO said...

TK, the term "unzip" WRT to DNA is very common. As I understand it, DNA unzips itself in order to replicate but unzipping can also be induced in a laboratory setting.

Trollkiller said...

To Anonymous & Marshall's SO, maybe I have heard the term but don't recall it. In any case it doesn't matter. Blogger Bob was setting up a joke and while you may not have found it funny it amused me.

If you want to bust on the TSA or even Blogger Bob for not releasing a video, bad policy or whatever that is fine. But busting on someone for making an obvious joke in an attempt to call them stupid is trollish in nature.

To win our fight against stupid policies and security theater we must be very careful on how we conduct ourselves. Acting like a child in a playground fight paints all of us in a bad light.

Anonymous said...

Patrick,

Your post hurt my scientific mind. Ionizing radiation (not ionized, please) causes any kind of cancer, including skin.

RB said...

http://www.universalhub.com/node/28809

TSA stops Cape Verdeans from taking Tylenol, Vitamin C back to homeland for viral epidemic
..................
How about a quick start for the medical staff at TSA?

I really wonder just who TSA works for. Certainly not for the citizens of the United States.

So really, who's payroll are you guys on?

TSORon said...

Anonymous asked …..
Why does TSA assume any liquid below 3.4 ounces is safe but that any liquid over 3.4 ounces is dangerous explosive?
---------------
In the world of chemical explosives, size equals energy. The larger the size generally the more energy.
Anonymous also asked …..

Why does TSA toss these dangerous explosives into open containers in the middle of airports?
-------------------
Who says they are explosives? They are prohibited items, and “may be” explosives, that cannot go through the checkpoint.
Anonymous also asked …..

Why does TSA dispose of these dangerous explosives as if they were exactly what is indicated by their labels?
------------------
We don’t.

Anonymous also asked …..

Why does TSA treat a bottle of Pepsi like soda when it's time to dispose of it, but as a dangerous explosive when it transits the checkpoint?
--------------------
Because it might be, and it may be. We prefer not to take chances, and we have only your word that it is Pepsi.

Anonymous also asked …..
How does TSA screen the liquids sold past its checkpoints?
----------------
Carefully. SSI.
Anonymous also asked …..

Does TSA test a random sampling if confiscated liquids to determine how many liquid explosives people are attempting to bring through checkpoints?
-----------------------
Nope. As long as it didn’t get on a plane it has no other significance.
Anonymous also asked …..

Why can't TSA point to a single piece of independent, peer-reviewed research to support its liquid policies?
------------------------
Because “independent peer-reviewed research” has no meaning. Get over it.
And lastly Anonymous asked …..

Why does TSA continue to post inaccurate signage about the liquids policies in airports?
-----------------------
What makes you think the TSA signage is inaccurate? Be specific please.

And now back to our regularly scheduled thread….

Patrick (BOS TSO) said...

Patrick,

Your post hurt my scientific mind. Ionizing radiation (not ionized, please) causes any kind of cancer, including skin.


Alright, I concede that. I was writing that up as I left for work. So I didn't exactly have the time pull up Wikipedia (or a more authoritative encyclopedia or reference).

Also, I forgot that UV radiation is ionizing radiation.

So, in conclusion, I surrender to your superior scientific intellect.

BOS_TSO2 said...

If you are talking about signage of the liquid policy blogger Bob has already given you an answer before.

The signage is off for the liquid/gel policy because of the conversation between the metric system and ours, You complain that TSA wastes taxpayer money, do you really want to see your tax dollars go to changing signes from 3.0 oz to 3.4 all over the country?

Anonymous said...

radiation is everywhere. you urealize when you bypass these machines, you are still recieving a dose of radiation. Imagine that. Keep that cell phone in your pants pocket, clean up that gene pool.

RB said...

BOS_TSO2 said...
If you are talking about signage of the liquid policy blogger Bob has already given you an answer before.

The signage is off for the liquid/gel policy because of the conversation between the metric system and ours, You complain that TSA wastes taxpayer money, do you really want to see your tax dollars go to changing signes from 3.0 oz to 3.4 all over the country?

November 9, 2009 10:35 AM

Well, seeing TSA can't even get its webpages correct on this topic it looks like the only remaining choice is to replace signage that also has incorrect information.

The real question is why does TSA think providing false/incorrect information helpful.

Anonymous said...

"You complain that TSA wastes taxpayer money, do you really want to see your tax dollars go to changing signes from 3.0 oz to 3.4 all over the country?"

I would like to see TSA not lie to the citizens it is supposedly serving. And while TSA's record of dishonesty and perfidy is gargantuan, they could at least provide accurate information about the liquids policy's requirements.

NoClu said...

TSORon said
"Anonymous also asked …..
How does TSA screen the liquids sold past its checkpoints?
----------------
Carefully. SSI."

I call Bull food that has been eaten and passed through the entire digestive tract.

How about the full palet of soda I watched sent through the X-ray in OMA. Maybe there was some additional screening earlier in the process, I'm betting that, other than a cursory visual, nothing special occurs. After all, you and your team don't bother to screen all airport workers or air cargo...

Anonymous said...

I call Bull food that has been eaten and passed through the entire digestive tract.

How about the full palet of soda I watched sent through the X-ray in OMA. Maybe there was some additional screening earlier in the process, I'm betting that, other than a cursory visual, nothing special occurs. After all, you and your team don't bother to screen all airport workers or air cargo...
**************************
Call it what you like, I am a TSO at OMA, and I know its not bull. Besides our x-rays are not big enough for a pallet. Absolutely everything a merchant brings into the checkpoint in screened. No exceptions. X-Raying IS screening, just in case you missed that.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone else see the Orwellian change from "Whole Body Imager" to "Advanced Imaging Technology"??
Also, TSORon missed the point of the questions. If 3.5oz of a liquid, alone or in combination with other liquid(s), is what TSA fears, then tossing into open containers is turning the limits into a farce.
BTW: I think TSOs do a tremendous job with not much credit.
Finally, want to know why the puffers were bought? P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S.

TSORon said...

Anonymous said...
Finally, want to know why the puffers were bought? P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S.
------------------------

To a point you are correct. TSA needed a means of detecting explosives components on individuals without having to go through the whole ETD and swab the hands thing. The systems worked well in lab testing but just were not up to the environment of the checkpoint. Sure would have been nice if they had worked out better. One can only blame the TSA to a point though. Much of what they use is either left-over equipment from the former screening systems or some politicians idea working in the best interests of, and supporting his constituents.

NoClu said...

Hi there OMA Annon.

Perhaps I wasn't clear. The worker in the South Terminal wheeled his flat cart stacked with soda and other products to your xray, ran the racks of 20oz. bottles through individually until all went through. Then he stacked them back on the cart and wheeled them to his store.

Here's the point. If I'd have brought one 20 oz bottle of Diet Pepsi to the xray, it would have been prohibited. The worker brings 320 of them, and they are allowed.

Perhaps the super secret inspections (ssi), as cited by TSORon, conducted before the soda is stored and then transported to the airside lounge make them all safe...perhaps not. Perhaps random and occasional screening of airside workers scares away the bad guys or otherwise prohibits them from bringing bad things in...perhaps not. I'd still like you guys to do a better job of screening air cargo....

See ya at the checkpoint!

Trollkiller said...

I would like you all to join me in congratulating Blogger Bob for winning a Merit Award from Adobe and MeriTalk.

Good job Blogger Bob, you should be proud of your efforts.

Anonymous said...

"Good job Blogger Bob, you should be proud of your efforts."

His efforts at dishonestly and dissembling?

His efforts at insulting and ignoring the legitimate concerns of the citizens who pay his salary?

His efforts at making a big show of wanting reports of improper signage regarding TSA's strip search technology and then ignoring those reports?

Yeah, good job, Bob.

Sandra said...

More from retired Asst. Police Chief Dierdre Walker:

"Within a few moments, I was met by another uniformed agent, who directed me to a glass-enclosed cubicle located between the screening belts for the B gates at BWI. On my way to the cubicle, I had observed a sign indicating that travelers have the right to decline the imaging machine and “request” a pat-down instead. It struck me as odd that in order to really see and absorb the information posted on the sign, you would have already passed by or through the imaging machine."

Take note, TSA - you are NOT complying with your own PIA. Put the signs well in front of the machines and make them large enough to read.

Chris Boyce said...

Blogger Bob said "I forwarded the article around to a few subject matter experts here at TSA"

Who? Francine?

And, of course, we can always count on Ronnie, who replied to this statement: "Why can't TSA point to a single piece of independent, peer-reviewed research to support its liquid policies?"

...with this gem:
"Because “independent peer-reviewed research” has no meaning. Get over it."

I'm glad they don't give screeners guns (except for Alvin).

Isaac Newton said...

Sandra wrote:
Take note, TSA - you are NOT complying with your own PIA. Put the signs well in front of the machines and make them large enough to read.
I agree. One would assume that Ms Walker, a retired Asst Police Chief, has highly developed skills of observation. But do you think others won't notice that there's a sign after the machine when it's too late?

Your PIA also calls for brochures to be available. Not just the signs, Bob, but brochures as well. How's that coming along?

I'm also still waiting for your explanation of the methodology to determine a "98%" acceptance rate for the Whole Body Imager, and the airport-by-airport breakdown. Unless, of course, you just made up a number that sounded good.

avxo said...

TSORon said:

"Because “independent peer-reviewed research” has no meaning. Get over it."

Oh snap! Really? And here I was just about ready to start writing a paper to submit to a journal.

But seriously, what academic credentials do you have to justify that ridiculous statement Ron?

As far as I can tell, the only requirement to be a TSO according to USAJOBS is to be able to speak English and to "repeatedly lift and carry up to 70 pounds."

Apart from being a real-life Hercules, what, specifically, are your credentials in security, risk assessment and management and related fields?

Scott G. Lewis said...

Anonymous says:
A study shows terahertz radition may destroy DNA, and TSA's excuse is that MMW maxes out at 300 GHz? That's awful close to 1 THz relatively speaking. And it's not like the study showed that 999 GHz radiation was safe and did not tear apart dna.

--------------

Since when is 30% of 1000 close to a thousand?

Strange to worry about someone who can't see me seeing an xray of me, btw.

Anonymous said...

Scott says: "Strange to worry about someone who can't see me seeing an xray of me, btw."

First, it is not an X-ray image, it is a stripped body image. Second, would you like to have someone looking at images from a camera installed in your bathroom? Maybe posting the videos on the internet??

Sasha Zbrozek said...

I don't understand why we're so concerned about airplane security. We lost on order of 10^4 people in an incident on September 11. That's happened once in decades of commercial aviation. We lose a similar number of people to highway crashes _every year_. We lose ten times as many people to tobacco, _every year_. Yet we spend massive amounts of money, infringe on our rights as a free people, and inconvenience everyone to make us feel safer.

To be honest, I think the best security policy change since 9/11 was the bulked up door to the cockpit. That pretty effectively prevents the use of the plane as a weapon. If you're still concerned about baddies breaking through that, you could have a "silent alarm" button that locks the plane into auto pilot until released remotely by ground control.

Millimeter wave scanners are just another piece of expensive technological whizbangery that we don't really need. They violate our privacy to prevent people from sneaking water bottles on board planes. Plus, I bet you could hide something underneath a fat suit and look completely normal on the screen. There are plenty of dangerous, nonmetallic things you can bring on to planes.

Just wait. Soon enough we'll have full cavity searches for everyone before they can fly home for the holidays.

Shadowchasr said...

Hi, I work for TSA.

Research me, nitpick, w/e your time allows to find me, but in the end it's going to be like this:

Consider the screening you go through a blessing. It can always be worse.

Do you really think that the feds are going to botch up a process that 2 million people are subject to on a daily basis? Any 'mistakes' would have come out by now (LOL).

Now, in short of producing a user's manual for your entertainment (which you could easily come by for most any of our equipment), TSA cannot tell you any more than what you can find on your own or what they tell you here.

If you want to nitpick equipment, pick your battle with the people that build the equipment for us. Frankly, the people that CAN change the concerns shown here are working hard to ensure that all potential concerns are already taken into consideration. Less energy than a cell phone? Shoot, go give the airlines a hard time because of the exposure to gamma radiation on an aircraft due to its height within our atmosphere while operating (7 miles of air is quite a nice radiation shield).

I liked the point that one brought up about picking up a physical science book from a high school... the mass of information multiplied by the users of poorly informed internet bloggers would equal Einstein's theory of relativity!

Thanks goes to Blogger Bob for continuing to inform the public without getting 'too' much on your guard.

Oh... and since on the left hand of my screen, I see the comment regarding the 'puffers' - we don't have issues maintaining the equipment; the equipment was flawed from the beginning. Now... given the scientific guru's that troll here, I challenge you to use existing technology and develop an explosive trace portal using millimeter wave technology. Yes, grab your science books and read up :)

To those that appreciate what we do, I apologize for putting you through the pain of reading the statements above - I'm told, no pain - no gain. Just like anything you do in life, there are always steps taken and sometimes those steps aren't the best steps. Over time, some will see what we bring to the table for protecting the freedoms of this country, and others will never accept that it is enough. This will be one of those steps that can be painful, but acceptable.

Enough philosophy for one day - safe travels!

TSORon said...

Anonymous said...
First, it is not an X-ray image, it is a stripped body image.
---------------------------
No Anon, it’s not. It’s a non-realistic image of an individual in two dimensions and in “black and white”. It could only be an image of an individual without clothing if they entered the device without clothes, and if the image was lifelike. They don’t, and it’s not. Time to start telling the truth, and not hysterical rantings attempting to incite the uneducated masses.

RB said...

Shadowchasr said...
Hi, I work for TSA.
........

Oh... and since on the left hand of my screen, I see the comment regarding the 'puffers' - we don't have issues maintaining the equipment; the equipment was flawed from the beginning.
..................
So your saying that TSA purchasing agents bought millions of dollars of known defective equipment?

If true then some people need to be getting some jail time.

Anonymous said...

"No Anon, it’s not. It’s a non-realistic image of an individual in two dimensions and in “black and white”. It could only be an image of an individual without clothing if they entered the device without clothes, and if the image was lifelike. They don’t, and it’s not. Time to start telling the truth, and not hysterical rantings attempting to incite the uneducated masses."

Of course, we have only your word on this, since Bob refuses to say whether the images posted here and in airports are at the same size and resolution as those seen by the operator of the strip-search machines. And no one has ever explained how security is enhanced by photographing children's genitals. Why do you want to photography children's genitals, Ron?

GoodFeelingGone said...

This is a violation of our basic rights as individuals. So, thanks TSA for making our lives more difficult. You know, life isn't hard enough as a military spouse, now instead of flying to our new posts and making life easier, we'll have to drive.. so that a bunch of visual rapists can't see myself or my son naked. Unfortuantly my husband doesn't have a choice sometimes, (i mean really he's only defending this country's ass why should he have any rights at all?) so he'll have to fly, but my son and I are never flying again. Even if these machines aren't mandatory, I don't trust that you won't disguise the machine and let us use it anyway. (without telling us... really who needs to know that someone is staring at their naked bodies.. who needs to know that their husband isnt' the only one getting off to their naked bodies, because yes, i'm sure your tsa agents are all unable to get all hot and bothered when they see a hot woman/man/child... naked.)

What is this country coming to that NOTHING is sacred anymore. Some stranger can take a picture of my son naked, and its LEGAL? well crap guess we sould let all the kiddie porn people out of jail.. since they obviously didn't do anything wrong. Oh.. and lets let the rapists out too, because teh idea of some stranger seeing my naked body is the equivilant of rape to me, so obviously... the rapists arent doing anythign wrong either.

Its getting hard to be proud to be an american.

Anonymous said...

GoodFeelingGone said a lot of things...

Venting is a good thing huh? Your whole last paragraph read to me like a spoiled brat/princess who expects everything in life to go her way. And Lord forbid if it doesnt, because we will all hear about it.

TSA doesn't take away your "individual rights". TSA doesnt want to see you or your children naked. And TSA doesnt want to release convicted felons back into this ever fragile society. They are here to keep bombs,weapons, and flammables off of the aircrafts, that the people of this country, of whom your husband fights to protect.
I guess as simple of a concept as that is, you still cant see it for what it is and you hold distain for it because it inconvienences you. I should apologize to you now for existing.... sry!

Anonymous said...

"TSA doesnt want to see you or your children naked."

Someone should tell TSA to stop buying machines that take naked pictures of people, including minor children, then!

Anonymous said...

Someone should tell TSA to stop buying machines that take naked pictures of people, including minor children, then!

November 30, 2009 2:47 PM

Then tell me how to confirm that there is not anyone walking through security with a giant sheet of explosives wrapped around their legs or belly. How do you confirm that? huh? hmm? ehh? By patting their body down? Nope, cant do that either, thats too invasive...
I'm sure blogger bob had a whole head of hair before he started reading your ignorant-based questions.

Anonymous said...

"Then tell me how to confirm that there is not anyone walking through security with a giant sheet of explosives wrapped around their legs or belly. How do you confirm that? huh? hmm? ehh? By patting their body down?"

Tell me, how many people have brought down airplanes by doing this? TSA needs to stop wasting its time dreaming up plots too stupid for Hollywood and focus on real threats.

Anonymous said...

Tell me, how many people have brought down airplanes by doing this? TSA needs to stop wasting its time dreaming up plots too stupid for Hollywood and focus on real threats.

December 2, 2009 1:35 PM

OK so you dont want the TSA to be reactive when it comes to screening AND you dont want them to be proactive to future attacks. WHAT DO YOU WANT?!!? You want things to go back to the way they were? Time to snap out of your trance.

It's funny to me that you find it unfathomable for someone to wrap sheet explosives around their legs to get it through security. Someone did bring a liquid explosive device onto a plane (bojinka plot) and you still ignore the threat of liquid explosives. I find it hard to continue having this conversation with you until you get some solid facts of your own.

C-map said...

im farily positive the image is placed in temporary memory in the computer untill the TSO pushes clear or not clear button then the image is deleted and the system is cleard of all information before the next image comes in

Bestavrin said...

"Tell me, how many people have brought down airplanes by doing this? TSA needs to stop wasting its time dreaming up plots too stupid for Hollywood and focus on real threats."

TSA doesn't have to dream up anything. It's already happened. Two passenger jets were brought down in Russia by two women wearing bomb belts under their clothes. Everyone on board both aircraft were killed. Can we please do at least the minimum amount of research before sneering at bomb vests, bomb belts, fake-pregnancy bomb strap-ons, etc. They've all been used in real life, not dreamed up in some TSOs fevered imagination. Terrorists around the world have used children, women, people with disabilities, etc. to deliver explosives to their targets. Can't happen here? Only in a Hollywood movie? That's what you say until it happens. Then you'll cry that TSA should have been on the look-out for this "foreseeable" and "inevitable" threat. The terrorists are thinking up these plans everyday. We can't afford not to be doing so as well.

Amateur6 said...

The last "anonymous" comment on Dec 2 is rather ironic given the Dex 26 attempt in which the attacker had explosive material strapped to his leg.

However, what I want to know why all of the new focus is on Backscatter X-ray when explosive "sniffers" are already in use at the CN Tower and the Statue of liberty, are less invasive, and no more expensive than backscatter (as far as I can tell: $100,000 - $200,000 each for backscatter and $150,000 for a sniffer).

Anonymous said...

While these new machines look like they may be effective, the last bomber-attempt originated in Amsterdam. The one before that in Paris. How many airports will be required to have these machines? Will the USA fund poorer countries and provide them these machines? What will stop the terrorists from simply choosing an airport without them?

None of these previous attacks came from inter-state travel, they were all international, so to expend the funds required to outfit every single airport in the united states with this technology - and make us all endure invasive security measures - seems like we are barking up the wrong tree here. This would certainly affect airline flight sales in a bad way.

Shanimal said...

I do think its mildly ironic that our fundamental problem with a 'naked scanner' is that along with our privacy, our personal preferences (e.g. "I hate the naked scanner", "I want eggnog 365 days/year") are being 'stripped' at every turn and sometimes because a powerful lobby needs to fill its coffers with proceeds from pork barrels. IMO, if our leaders would see our personal choices as technical challenges instead of something to simply toss and recycle, we could find the technical solutions to overcome these challenges and put more people at ease.

For instance, if your only objection was privacy, and they could improve the scanner to only show suspicious items on a person (e.g. If they had nothing in their pockets they would be invisible) would you be willing to let your children walk through it?

If your only objection was health, and the government did some hard core "peer reviewed" studies to ensure the device is safe to your tissue, would you walk through it?

If your only objection is Orsen Wells - "1984", that's just silly, everyone knows they can track you wherever you go and pick up your conversations/thoughts via satellite... where have you been?

Anonymous said...

A question regarding storage of full body scan images,



I was wondering if it is at all possible, as remote as it may be, that a millimeter wave or backscatter x-ray image taken by a TSA full body scanner would ever need to be maintained or saved for later use? It says it "may" not be maintained for later use. Does that mean in some extreme circumstances it can be stored for later use? If so can you give me some examples of circumstances that would constitute storing a millimeter wave or backscatter x-ray full body image? If so is there a time limit on how long that "stored image" my be kept?



As indicated in the info below that I got from the PIA document posted on website http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/privacy/privacy_pia_guidance_may2007.pdf.



In some cases the technology "may" only collect personally identifiable information for a

moment. For example, a body screening device "may" capture the full scan of an individual.

While the information "may" not be maintained for later use, the initial scan may raise

privacy concerns and a PIA could be required. Examples of technology with privacy

implications could include systems utilizing radio frequency identification devices (RFID),

biometric scans, data mining, or geospatial tracking.


Can you please post a diffinitive yes it is possible or no it will never be stored answer?

Thanks.

Cori said...

More focused risk analysis would be helpful. What sort of risk does this kind of system have on those populations who are already at elevated risk of cancer? People who have previously had cancer and/or people who have received radiation therapy (usually for cancer, sometimes for other conditions) are at higher risk for secondary cancer.

If the TSA, etc are stating that it's safe for the general population, what about the populations who're at higher risk already? Can people like me (history of total body irradiation for cancer) safely use this technology, or will we be able to opt-out for something safer for us? (This is an honest question--I'm not being snide or judgmental, just genuinely curious.)

Co de Naam said...

I understand the urgency for a handling, but haven't we seen a lot of problems before in the past with stuff that wasn't tested properly to then only find out that it is actually damaging? Think of DES for instance, which influenced a whole generation of kids... Maybe we should do a little more testing before we go ahead. But again, it also solves a problem of safety, so it is not an easy call to make.

StarSearchCasting.com said...

The government does not have a very good track record when it comes to allowing unsafe and even dangerous chemicals to be used in everything from food to makeup to hand lotion so it isn't surprising that they have no problem radiating us each time we board a plane and say its totally safe.

Everyone knows Mercury is a poison but the FDA still says its fine to use for "silver" fillings in our teeth. If its safe then why is it shipped to the dentist at a hazardous material?

Same goes for X-ray radiation. And many times the long term effects from repetitive exposure to low levels of radiation are difficult to track and connect to ailments later in life.

Anonymous said...

The weakest link in the chain, is the TSA itself. Do TSA Agents have a Secret Clearance? I think not. What is to stop a terrorist from blackmailing an agent, to look the other way, when coming through a checkpoint? I had a secret clearance and they investigated me back to the point, I was a gleam in my daddy's eye. Why aren't TSA Agents investigated the same way? Yeah, I know it's expensive, but if the government was really worried about our security, they would require these extensive background checks for the TSA (and all personnel who have access to the planes and cargo). Also, where are the dosimeter stations? How do we know for sure how much radiation is leaking from these machines? Do TSA Agents wear dosimeters to check for their radiation exposure? If not, why not? If the government isn't concerned about radiation exposure for TSA Agents, what makes anyone think they are worried about us? If the TSA Agents are wearing dosimeters, then good, because the accumulated radiation exposure they receive may be a danger to the Agent's health.

Anonymous said...

they make all of it up as they go, to inconvenience people and frustrate them, that gives them a reason for living, also the pat down
does too.

Anonymous said...

I am a industrial radiographer.I will be going through one of these machines primarily to find out the truth. I have sensitive dosimetry that will tell me what MR's. I will get. Additionally; Children 16 and under are way more sensitive to radiation and I hope they do not make children go in the machines. Oh, As for the cost that TSA endured WHO DO YOU THINK FUNDS TSA??? The TAX PAYERS! So dont act as if they are hurt by spending money and throwing equipment away that cant be maintained. All that means is OUR MONEY WASTED!

David Emme said...

I kind of wander from time to time, when at a hospital you bump into these people who are highly qualified for their tasks as xray techs-Maybe it is just me, is it not a bit off putting that quite a bit is dealing with scanning people searching for terrorists using xray machines by people not trained to use them(or if they were-probably would really want to work in a hospital).


I cannottell you whyI hadtogo through thisother than maybe making sure you knowyour job before doing it. After going in to school in FT Lee in 2001(before 911 as this was where I stayed until finally getting orders-and trust me-I do not complain about staying for the duties we werepressed into.

After getting to my unit and goingthrough a transformation to a Stryker BDE in Ft Lewis-lo and behold I get placed into an Army school required of me to do a supply/logistics job which taught me the same cirriculum I got in MOS school.

For me, there is quite a few questions in why I had to go through this beyond it was required of anyone doing a job like mine-I wander what classes those people using xray machines-what classes did they have to go through to work the xray machines?

On the other hand-was sent to a different school just so I could order cleaning stuff(Hazmat) and of all thingsa-had to take a class in NBC stuff for the simple fact I would sign for new equipment dealing with NBC, but not dangerous unless you did not goto this class to learn how to ship it when going into the playground of many soldiers dreams.

After being blown up in Iraq and now retired-yah-I think I have some objections just seeing all I had to train with to do my job including qualifying on weapon systems I would use in Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Hello all, I work for Tsa,

Ive read all the comments above and saw that some of you are honestly concerned while the rest of you are just being really ignorant about the whole thing. Is it okay for you to worry about your health,of course. And some of you are put off with the "lack of privacy". Every single equipment we use,tsa agents have been through and have tested. What we tell the public has been told to us. Is it correct or truthful,I don't know. It is a job. We wake up every morning just like you and go to work. I don't wish and hope and dream my every moment to look or touch your bodies. Seriously, we hate it as mush as you do. That someone that said we like to look at children's naked bodies...grow up, and that's putting it nicely. If you have a bone to pick with someone,please for the love of god, talk to your goverment. It's their rules. I do this to make a living, same as everyone else. All the crock of lies they may or may not tell us is worth while when I see families meet on the other side. I don't want another 9/11. Also, think about this, if as passangers who pass through the machines quickly, think about those Tsa personel that have to work on those things every day.

Thank you. :)

Brian said...

A very good point, i dont think people are aware that those who work for the TSA are just like you and me, theyre always considered to be the enemy. So thanks for your comment, i'll be kinder to security staff in future.

Jeff said...

The mm-wave/terahertz is non ionizing but no long term studies a have been done on this new technology. A dose of ionizing backscatter radiation applied head to toe for security is truly irresponsible, no dose is 100% safe, particularly to the 5% of the population that has DNA repair issues due to defect in BRCA gene. The dose measurement has technical issues that are beyond explanation here but are explained in links below. The real difference between the instant dose to the body and average is about 2000-4000 times the 10x "math error". Current REM dose units are based on rushed 1940s A-bomb internal organ cancer estimates and are not applicable to focused soft x-rays used in the back-scatter machines.
www.rockyflatsgear.com/Airport-Back-scatter-Scanner-Dose-Explained.html
www.rockyflatsgear.com/How-penetrating-are-airport-back-scatter-x-rays.html

Anonymous said...

what a nice article!

UrsulaO said...

I wrote to TSA yesterday to complain about the experience I had with a security pat down at Reagan National Airport last week. They replied to ask for more information and also stated the reasons for the intrusive searches. I thought I would share my response, below.

To TSA: The rationale you give regarding security patdowns - that you recognize it makes some people uncomfortable but it necessary because people are known to hide explosives in certain areas of the body - is fundamentally flawed. Essentially what you are saying is that anything should be deemed acceptable if done in the name of security. It's as if you want the public to accept that you actually CAN protect it from any threat, so long as we are willing to hand over our privacy and dignity. This is a false tradeoff, and you know very well that no matter where you touch people or how roughly you handle them or how much you intimidate them, you cannot make us 100 percent safe. Please understand: the backscatter technology is NOT an acceptable option as long as it is not conclusively proven safe - you hold the well-being of millions of travelers in your hands, and that is a great responsibility. Patdowns as an "alternative" are also unacceptably offensive as currently performed by at least some of your officers. Having a stranger repeatedly touch a person's breasts, buttocks, waistline (under the shirt), and crotch is inappropriate, no matter what part of your hand you use and no matter the gender of the examiner. Travelers are not suspected criminals.

So the question is, what policy approach strikes the right balance between safety and privacy? TSA has a long way to go in figuring that out, and I will do everything I can to urge the agency to take an approach that does a much better job of treating people with dignity and respect. What I experienced was a violation - it is unacceptable. And I know I am not alone. I look forward to your response, both regarding the safety issues related to the backscatter technology, and with respect to the serious misuse of authority that is occurring during patdown procedures.

Anonymous said...

Would you care to comment on the NIST email just released?

http://epic.org/privacy/backscatter/radiation_NIST_USAToday.pdf

You know - the one where NIST complains that TSA mischaracterized the NIST testing of a single machine

danny said...

Patrick,

Surely we all know ionizing radiation can cause any kind of cancer, especially skin cancer.

Are you doing a follow up post?

Anonymous said...

Actually, you do in fact undergo an extensive background check in order to gain a federal clearance.

Abigail Patricia Dole said...

I do not think that people who are concerned about these machines are TSA haters. They have a good reason for not trusting this new technology since government officials have historically been less than honest about the dangers involving them.