Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Advanced Imaging Technology - Yes, It's Worth It

There's been a lot of public discussion about TSA's deployment of new screening technology known as AIT. Public discussion and debate is good, and we at TSA have worked hard to inform, educate and adjust our screening protocols in the interests of security, efficiency, safety and privacy. Our FY 2011 budget request includes $573 million to purchase 500 Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) units and to operationally staff, operate and maintain 1,000 units, which includes the 500 units we are deploying now. This is indeed an important investment decision and not something we take lightly. We don't take the threats we're facing lightly either.

We've greatly improved TSA's IED detection capabilities in bags through better technology and more rigorous training and testing of our officers. Getting to threats hidden on a body is more difficult, because of the limitations of metal detectors, and patting down everybody that comes through a checkpoint isn't an option anyone likes.

So starting in 2007, we began testing AIT at the Transportation Security Lab and TSA's own operational testing facility to study its capability to detect non-metallic items as well as metallic ones. Based on the success in the labs, we tested the units in the airport environment, where they proved effective in threat detection and they were accepted by passengers as a screening option. The airport testing also looked at throughput, staffing needs, real estate requirements, privacy protections, and reaffirmed all safety requirements were met for the public and our officers. We left no stone unturned.

All the work we have done in the past two years gives me confidence that this technology will significantly increase TSA's detection capability at the checkpoint. Using AIT, our officers are finding things like small packages of powder-based drugs hidden on the body. When I say small, I mean that one packet was smaller than a thumb print. We have also found small weapons made of composite, non-metallic materials.

Based on the intelligence reporting we see every day, this technology is absolutely essential to address the threat we see today. It can also be upgraded over time, either as the threats change or as the industry improves the threat detection software.

With our first 1,000 units we will be able to use AIT to screen over 60% of all air passengers each day. We take our responsibility to protect each and every traveler very seriously. We have used lessons learned from the past, and we deployed this technology only after we were fully confident it would work in an operational environment and after our acquisition process had undergone extensive reviews and approvals by DHS' Acquisition Review Board.

Which brings me back to the cost. At about 1.8 million passengers going through checkpoint screening a day - 650 million passengers a year - the annualized, full cost of purchasing, installing, staffing, operating, supporting, upgrading, and maintaining the first 1,000 units of this technology is about $1 per trip through the checkpoint.

Is it worth a dollar per passenger in the short term for increased long term security? You bet it is.

Gale Rossides
Acting Administrator

218 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Blogger Team,
Please do not respond to the anti-TSA naysayers on the blog. Their absurd and ignorant viewpoints do nothing but demean the agency and the thousands of good people working at TSA. Sure, let 'em post but refrain from engaging them with a reply. Why? Because you are simply taking the bait. They do not wish to bring any options or answers to the table; they simply wish to point fingers and spout silly and incessant jargon that has no real usefulness. They will find fault with any and everyting. Nothing you say will change or appease them. However, these ignorant folk would be the first to scream bloody heck if there was another successful attack. They would suddenly claim they were for enhanced AIT and increased FAMS all along!! This lack of character tells you all you need to know about people like this. Stay away. They are our biggest threat of all at the moment.

Ayn R. Key said...

West said...
I am sorry Ayn, I have no information on the decision process. I do not know why they are using more of one machine in the AIT stable than the other. It may be something as simple as lont term cost, or purchase price, or something as convoluted as one company didn't submit the correct paperwork on time for a contract bid. I simply have no idea.

Since you have Bob's ear, maybe you can explain to him that we really would like an answer to why the TSA decided to use physically harmful tech instead of completely safe tech.

Of course your answer, if your guesses are accurate, suggests the TSA decided to expose us all to dangerous radiation to save a few bucks.

Anonymous said...

Bob is already doing very well in not answering two key points: (1) Why use backscatter instead of MMW to collect data and (2) Why use people instead of software to analyze images.

RB said...

Anonymous said...
Bob is already doing very well in not answering two key points: (1) Why use backscatter instead of MMW to collect data and (2) Why use people instead of software to analyze images.

April 20, 2010 10:30 AM
........
It seems Bob only answers when his keepers tell him to.

HappyToHelp said...

avxo said...
“Ahh, the old secret laws... It's too bad the 9th Circuit allowed this nonsense to continue and the Supremes didn't step in. (Gilmore v. Gonzalez)

I only have one question for you HappyToHelp... Do you not think that it's a travesty of justice that we have secret laws and directives that apply to us and that we can be prosecuted under, but are not allowed to see what those laws or directives actually say and what they require of us?
As a result we have to deal with the travesty of justice that are secret laws that we must abide by but we cannot see...”

Hey avox. To better understand your claim “people are being prosecuted under secret laws and directives” you need to be specific so I can read the case in order to comment.

If you are ever charged with something at the checkpoint, you can go read the applicable law. It is not secret.

What about civil penalties? You might ask.
Read about it here.

Tim
TSA Blog Team

Anonymous said...

Still waiting to hear why the TSA switched to backscatter instead of MMW and why images must be analyzed by people instead of software.

GSOLTSO said...

Ayn sez - "Since you have Bob's ear, maybe you can explain to him that we really would like an answer to why the TSA decided to use physically harmful tech instead of completely safe tech.

Of course your answer, if your guesses are accurate, suggests the TSA decided to expose us all to dangerous radiation to save a few bucks."

I am quite certain that Bob knows you would like a break down of the decision process, but at this time has not recieved:

A) the information needed
B) the go-ahead to publish
C) it could be that the information is considered sensitive


I honestly think that Bob knows you would like this info, but is unable to give the info at this time.

West
TSA Blog Team

RB said...

You sure rushed to get this off the front page.

AIT is not worth it!

Virtually Strip Searching children should result in jail time for TSA employees who do so.

James said...

"Full-body scanners are waste of money, Israeli expert says"

You see TSA, there are better techniques outthere besides your expensive radiation machines.

Take some advice from other countries:

http://www.vancouversun.com/travel/Full%2Bbody%2Bscanners%2Bwaste%2Bmoney%2BIsraeli%2Bexpert%2Bsays/2941610/story.html

Anonymous said...

And we still have no answers to the pressing but simple questions:

Why did the TSA switched to backscatter instead of MMW?

Why images must be analyzed by people instead of software?

Certainly no reason to claim SSI on these points.

RB said...

GSOLTSO said...
Ayn sez - "Since you have Bob's ear, maybe you can explain to him that we really would like an answer to why the TSA decided to use physically harmful tech instead of completely safe tech.

Of course your answer, if your guesses are accurate, suggests the TSA decided to expose us all to dangerous radiation to save a few bucks."

I am quite certain that Bob knows you would like a break down of the decision process, but at this time has not recieved:

A) the information needed
B) the go-ahead to publish
C) it could be that the information is considered sensitive


I honestly think that Bob knows you would like this info, but is unable to give the info at this time.

West
TSA Blog Team

April 23, 2010 2:59 PM

,,,,,,,,,,,
Seems the simple solution would be to make a statement supporting the reason(s) why a response is not forthcoming.

Einhverfr said...

Is it worth a dollar? Sure if that's the way one does the accounting.

The larger question to my mind is whether a ritual of going through a security checkpoint of this sort is worth the erosion of our expectation of privacy and our erosion of standards of what is a "reasonable" search. Beyond air travel, eroding our expectations against unreasonable searches could be quite dangerous to our great republic.

Monte said...

TSA says airport security body-scan images cannot be saved. Apparently this is not true.

http://www.clickorlando.com/news/24519349/detail.html

AL said...

How about in 20 years were like dam we should have used them for all the IED snuck on to planes...

Anyway as far as being seen naked... didn’t you go to sex ed...? Open your children’s health books and see what you find!

We have men and women volunteering to be exposed to life threatening elements the least we can do is take up the opportunity that has been given to us to further our safety measures’.

Suck it up America stop being so soft and hiding behind our amendments.

Doc.(the expert...) build an X-ray machine ill buy it!

Get off the TSA's back at least there trying to come up with a solution. You DONT HAVE TO FLY, just look how much Moses himself walked.

And I’m sure half the people who complain on these web sites of Radiation and all that crap, will die of natural causes early, get hit by a car because they were texting and driving, or some other means because you did something dangerous.... hell most probably smoke too cause they are so stressed about trying to make a point.

Granted I’m no expert and 99%(look... random number... "I’m an expert too"...) of the critics are not either we are all entitled to our opinion. This is my very first response to any rant on the internet, but i figured since I’m doing a paper on it why not...

Anonymous said...

I have been attempting to find information concerning the new “Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT)” devices at the airports to no avail for legitimate reasons.

I have metal rods with screws in my lower spine and metal anchors in my left elbow. In a month or two I will need to have a programmable morphine pump implanted.

The detailed information I have on this pump lists possible “Adverse Events”. Among these are “significant or fatal drug overdose”. I called the manufacturer and was told that the TSA will not release any information to them on the imaging equipment. I was told that considering the number of people that have these implants, the fact that some of these patients have flown, and that the company has not received reports of problems, they assume the system is safe.

I find this less than reassuring. Why will TSA not release information concerning the RF field strength, magnetic field strength etc. to the manufacturers of medical equipment? Could the “Advanced Imaging Technology” scanners corrupt the program of my implant and kill me?

The TSA web site states “the energy projected by millimeter wave technology is thousands of times less than a cell phone transmission.” Is this a one minute, five minute, or half hour cell phone transmission? A one millisecond pulse, one thousand times the power of a cell phone could still be “thousands of times less” than a five minute cell phone transmission. How well are the imaging stations shielded? From looking at the pictures it appears they are not shielded at all. Could walking past a station corrupt the program of my implant and kill me?

I will not even go into the backscatter X-ray imaging system, but I would like more information on both systems.

Anonymous said...

November 26, 2010 6:20 PM Anonymous said...
I have been attempting to find information concerning the new “Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT)” devices at the airports to no avail for legitimate reasons.

I have metal rods with screws in my lower spine and metal anchors in my left elbow. In a month or two I will need to have a programmable morphine pump implanted.

The detailed information I have on this pump lists possible “Adverse Events”. Among these are “significant or fatal drug overdose”. I called the manufacturer and was told that the TSA will not release any information to them on the imaging equipment. I was told that considering the number of people that have these implants, the fact that some of these patients have flown, and that the company has not received reports of problems, they assume the system is safe.

I find this less than reassuring. Why will TSA not release information concerning the RF field strength, magnetic field strength etc. to the manufacturers of medical equipment? Could the “Advanced Imaging Technology” scanners corrupt the program of my implant and kill me?

The TSA web site states “the energy projected by millimeter wave technology is thousands of times less than a cell phone transmission.” Is this a one minute, five minute, or half hour cell phone transmission? A one millisecond pulse, one thousand times the power of a cell phone could still be “thousands of times less” than a five minute cell phone transmission. How well are the imaging stations shielded? From looking at the pictures it appears they are not shielded at all. Could walking past a station corrupt the program of my implant and kill me?

I will not even go into the backscatter X-ray imaging system, but I would like more information on both systems.

I now have the pump implanted and am still waiting for a reply.

Anonymous said...

It sure seems clear that the overwhelming response and reaction to the TSA is one of distrust and justified contempt.
218 comments... nearly all opposed to the agency and its baseless intrusions into our privacy.
Not a single response from the TSA (as far as I can tell).
Please, let us take our chances. Perhaps a separate airline for people who don't want to be molested and degraded and humiliated. People who don't want to hand over their dignity for a false sense of security.
I'll fly there.

Anonymous said...

I've read many of the posts here and on other websites given by the TSA in support of WBI and AIT. No one seems to be concerned that every other source of ionizing radiation we are subject to requires that it be administered and interpreted by a highly trained, licensed medical professional. All machines that produce ionizing radiation must be properly maintained and monitored by identifiable, responsible individuals. Why anyone would trust TSA employees (or anyone else, for that matter) to shoot potentially cancer-causing radiation through their bodies with no medical training is beyond me.

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