Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

What’s wrong with this picture? Put quite simply, it’s a fake. The picture (minus the black boxes) has been gaining popularity ever since it was used on several popular web pages and blogs.

The TSA Office of Information Technology (OIT) was able to determine that the original images used to make these pictures were taken from a stock photo website and doctored to mimic Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) images. The doctored images are nothing more than full frontal photos (hence the black boxes) with the colors inverted. The image of the gun and belt were superimposed. This can be done with any basic image editing software.

It’s obvious that the woman shown on the left is not the woman in the doctored photos on the right. Notice that the bracelet on the right wrist in the clothed image does not appear in the doctored images. Her arms and legs are also in different positions in the clothed photo. It can be argued that maybe the photo was taken before she entered an AIT machine. Even so, just like X-ray images, hair does not show up in authentic AIT images and faces are blurred with a privacy algorithm.

Please take a look at this blog post to see larger versions of the images below and video of what AIT images actually look like.


Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Friday, January 22, 2010

Can TSA Copy Your Laptop Hard Drive and Search Your Files?

I read comments every now and then about how TSA officers at checkpoint and baggage locations can search the files on your laptop and can also confiscate your computer and copy your hard drive.

This is not true. In fact, we blogged about it back in February of 2008.

Our officers might visually inspect your laptop and perform an explosives trace detection test, but that’s it. Our officers don’t even turn computers on during inspection.

So where are the reports coming from? They’re coming from people who have had their laptops searched by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). For more details on CBP’s mission, check out this post from the recently retired Deputy Commissioner at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Jayson Ahern.

So where is the confusion taking place? Well, many passengers often confuse CBP with TSA. Why? They have uniforms with the Department of Homeland Security patch and some people automatically assume they are TSA officers since they’re working in an airport capacity. TSA and CBP officers have different uniforms. The CBP uniform is navy blue, while the TSA uniform is more of a royal blue. You will only interact with CBP when you’re coming into the country.


Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Happened in Philadelphia?

You have likely by now heard the story about a TSA employee who decided to play a joke on a passenger in Philadelphia. You can read the details of the passenger's unfortunate experience here.

TSA views this employee’s behavior to be highly inappropriate and unprofessional and as of today, the employee is no longer with TSA.

Incidents like this are a kick in the gut to our entire workforce who strive daily to do their best and keep the next attack from happening on their watch.

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Friday, January 15, 2010

There Are No Children on the No Fly or Selectee Lists

It’s inevitable that every several months or so, some cute kid gets their mug posted on a major news publication with a headline reading something like: “Does this look like a terrorist to you?” Anything involving kids or cats gets tons of mileage and everybody starts tweeting and retweeting that there’s an 8 year old on the no fly list.

There are no children on the No Fly or Selectee lists.

What happens is the child’s name is a match or similar match to an actual individual on the No Fly or Selectee Watch List.

From Airlines can and should automatically de-select any 8-year-olds out there that appear to be on a watch list. Whether you're eight or 80, the most common occurrence is name confusion and individuals are told they are on the no fly list when in fact, they are not. If you get a boarding pass, you’re not on the no fly list.

The no fly list is reserved for individuals that pose a known threat to aviation. The list is an important tool in our multi-layered approach to aviation security and is used daily to keep individuals that pose a threat to aviation off airplanes.

For more information on the list and to learn about the redress process for individuals that believe they may be on a watch list erroneously, click here.

Secure Flight will fix most of these problems in the future. Secure Flight matches passenger information provided by the airlines with data contained in government-maintained watch list records and verifies any potential matches.

Airlines are beginning to ask for name, date of birth, and gender as it appears on the government ID you plan to use when traveling. This is a part of the Secure Flight program requirements. The program will be in full effect for domestic airlines by mid-year and the rest of the airlines are scheduled to be on board by the end of 2010. Initial estimates indicate that under Secure Flight, in excess of 99 percent of passengers who provided the additional data elements will be able to use Internet check-in, kiosks and experience no delays in obtaining their boarding passes.

In the short term, individuals who have been misidentified as a match or possible match for a Watch List can work through the DHS Redress process to resolve the issue.

Secure Flight Related Posts on the TSA Blog

***Update 1/19/2010 - 4:45 PM***

First and foremost, I want to clarify that my post wasn’t directed at this or any family who have been inconvenienced in situations such as this, but more at the perpetual reporting that there are children on the No Fly list. As a father of two young children, I sympathize with any parent’s frustration at being told their child is on a terrorist watch list, and empathize with any parent going through that situation. It’s terrible.

We’ve said it before, there are no 8 year olds – or other children – on the No Fly or Selectee lists. We may not own the lists (the Terrorist Screening Center does), but we know that kids aren’t on them for sure. The ticketing agent, sky cap or other airline employees at the airport do not know who is on or not on a watch list, and they have no business telling a parent that their kid is on one because it’s simply not true. Airlines can and should automatically de-select any child that appears to be on a watch list when they see them at the check-in counter. You can also check this out for other debunked myths about watch lists.

Anyone who can’t print a boarding pass from home or at a kiosk because they are currently misidentified with someone who is actually on the list should apply for redress to fix the problem. And as I’ve said before, TSA is working to implement the Secure Flight program, which brings watch list matching back to TSA from the airlines. When people provide their date of birth and gender when booking their flight under Secure Flight, it will eliminate about 99% of misidentifications once its fully implemented.

For anybody who is new to the TSA Blog, please know that I’m a blogger and not an official TSA media spokesperson.

The way I write and address issues is different than a spokesperson would address issues with traditional media, and I certainly didn’t mean to belittle the experience of any families who have been through this.


Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Help for Haiti: Learn What You Can Do

The Whitehouse has set up a webpage for the Haiti earthquake relief effort.

The page is a great resource for information on news and updates, donations to the American Red Cross, ways you can help in the relief effort, getting information about friends or family, and the federal response. You can sign up for e-mail alerts and get the code to add a “Help for Haiti” image to embed on your blog or webpage.

If you’d like to be involved or get information on the effort, please visit:

Our hearts here at TSA go out to the people of Haiti.


Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Advanced Imaging Technology: Storing, Exporting and Printing of Images

It's being reported that the Advanced Imaging Technology (also known as body scanners) being used by TSA has the ability to store, print and export images.

The truth is, the procurement specifications require these machines be capable of functioning in both a screening operation environment at the airport, and in a test mode environment. A test mode would be used at our testing facilities at the Transportation Security Integration Facility (TSIF) and the Transportation Security Lab (TSL). As you can imagine, the ability to store, export and print are crucial in a testing environment. TSA documents and manages approved configurations for all procured equipment, which are verified both in the factory and in the field prior to operational use.

All functionality to store, export or print images is disabled before these machines are delivered to airport checkpoints. There is no way for Transportation Security Officers in the airport environment to place the machines into test mode.

The Privacy Impact Statement (PIA), versions of which have been out since 2007, have each said the same thing: "While the equipment has the capability of collecting and storing an image, the image storage functions will be disabled by the manufacturer before the devices are placed in an airport and will not have the capability to be activated by operators."

AIT machines do have USB, hard disc and Ethernet capabilities, but these are for limited data transfer only - an officer's user ID, log-in and log-out time, and statistical data. Images cannot be transmitted or stored. Also, these machines are not networked, so they cannot be hacked.

TSA has been forthcoming with the traveling public about this technology, including the strong privacy protections we have in place. We've posted many times on Advanced Imaging Technology and you can read more on our blog and at

Also, contrary to popular rumor, AIT portals cannot "beam you up."

On a slightly unrelated note, there are many different inaccurate images circulating out there. Below, you will see accurate examples of what our officers see while using advanced imaging technology. Anything else you see is inaccurate.


Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Friday, January 8, 2010

Incident on Flight 253 and TSA’s Role in International Security

Over the holidays, I was home with the family in southern Ohio watching the news of the incident on Christmas Day unfold amidst a surreal smattering of garland and wrapping paper. As you can imagine, I got lots of questions from friends and family (including my crazy uncle) back home, as well as right here on the blog, and I'll be covering a few of those topics now that I'm back in the blog team cockpit.

One of the biggest misperceptions I found was that people thought that TSA conducts screening in Amsterdam and in other places around the world. Not so. We only screen passengers at airports in the United States and U.S. Territories. Each country has their own screening workforce - some are government, some are private sector, some are even military.

While each country has sovereignty over their aviation systems and controls the level of security measures at their airports, over 190 countries worldwide—including the United States—use the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) standards and recommended practices for civil aviation security as their baseline. In the United States, TSA has built even further on these standards with security initiatives like Behavior Detection Officers and Advanced Imaging Technology. The United States also sets additional security standards on top of ICAO's for U.S.-bound flights coming into or through the United States from international airports. If those standards aren't met, the U.S. can deny entry to a specific flight, airline, or flights from a specific airport.

On Dec. 25, TSA took swift action immediately following the incident to strengthen those standards even further at airports across the country and around the world—enhancing screening for individuals flying to the United States and deploying additional airport law enforcement, air marshals and explosives detection canine teams, among other security measures. Because effective aviation security must begin beyond our borders, and as a result of extraordinary cooperation from our global aviation partners, TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening. TSA’s new directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random screening for passengers on U.S. bound international flights. This means the majority of ALL international travelers will go through enhanced screening under this new security directive.

Moving forward, we will continue to work with our airline and international partners to ensure they meet both international and TSA security standards. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday outlined five recommendations—part of her report to the President on aviation screening, technology and procedures—for actions to protect air travel from terrorism. These include a wide range of enhancements, from modified criteria and process used to create terrorist watch lists to partnering with the Department of Energy to develop better technologies to deploying far more advanced imaging technology and Federal Air Marshals throughout the aviation system. It also includes continued work with international partners to strengthen international security measures and standards for aviation security. Secretary Napolitano announced she will travel to Spain later this month to meet with her international counterparts in the first of a series of global meetings intended to bring about broad consensus on new international aviation security standards and procedures. We are looking to enhance global aviation security standards, increase information collection and sharing and improve and deploy more detection technology.

So, while we have our Transportation Security Officers screening passengers and bags in the United States, we are also committed to strengthening coordination with international partners to implement stronger and more effective measures to protect U.S.-bound flights, with a goal of keeping people safe when they fly.


Blogger Bob

TSA Blog Team