Friday, April 30, 2010

TSA Purchases Additional Advanced Imaging Technology Units (And a Quick Word on Automated Target Recognition)

Why did TSA decide to use backscatter instead of millimeter wave advanced imaging technology (AIT)?

This is a question we’ve been getting a lot lately. The truth is we didn’t choose one over the other. We’re currently using both backscatter and millimeter wave technology, and we just announced that we purchased 302 additional imaging technology units. We are buying 202 millimeter wave units  and 100 backscatter units.

In order to be included in the competitive process, strict detection standards must be met. Currently, only two companies have AIT machines that meet those standards. As companies develop new über cool technologies, they can be included in the competitive process.

Speaking of fantabulous über cool technologies, many have also asked why we’re not using Automated Target Recognition (ATR) software since the technology exists. ATR software is used with AIT and displays a generic stick figure-like image on the monitor attached to the AIT machine to show potential threats concealed on a passenger, and does not display the actual image of the passenger. It provides stronger privacy protections and eliminates the need to staff an extra officer in a private room. We’re very interested in this next generation software, but ATR in its current form does not meet TSA’s detection standards.

Software development is currently underway and will be followed by testing to ensure it meets our detection standards.

We’ve posted many times on AIT. You can read much more about it here on our blog, or at

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team


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Anonymous said...

Blogger GSOLTSO said...

Anon sez - "IF the TSO monitoring the communication from the scanners hears the viewer discussing details of a passengers sex organs is he/she required to report the TSOs involved for breach of privacy?"

I have no official information on what steps are supposed to be followed if the described type of comment is made. I have been *told* by someone at one of the airports that making a comment like that is the easiest way to find yhourself turning in your badge and looking for another job - but I do not have that from HQ or the SOP.

"I have been *told* by someone at one of the airports that making a comment like that"

Was the person who told you a TSA employee or just some airport worker that has no knowledge of the TSA's SOP?

Anonymous said...

Actual picture from a Rapiscan 1000 - Circa 2006.
Courtesy of John Wild from the U.K.
You can bet money the pictures are much better today, what with better software and hardware improvements!

Anonymous said...

A recent news story I read about the AIT scanners says:

"....But TSA officials say they have taken precautions to protect passenger privacy. Genital and facial areas are automatically obscured"

Did the TSA just start blurring genitals? Or is this part of the story inaccurate?

GSOLTSO said...

Anon sez - ""I have been *told* by someone at one of the airports that making a comment like that"

Was the person who told you a TSA employee or just some airport worker that has no knowledge of the TSA's SOP?"

The person was a TSO that works with the machine almost everyday.

TSA Blog Team

Gerald Beuchelt said...

At Boston Logan Airport (BOS), I was asked to submit to a full-body scan using a X-Ray Backscatter scanner. While I do not subject to full body scans, I have very strong reservations regarding the use of ionizing radiation. In other airports I have made good experience with millimeter-wave scanners, and I would like to suggest replacing any machines using X-Ray technologies with scanners operating in the non-ionizing range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Anonymous said...

I know this is old, but I have to put in my two cents.

1. If I was sent to one of these scanners, I would be forced to make a choice: give a complete stranger a digital strip show (the fact that he's in a different room and can't see my face doesn't change the fact that I'd be letting a complete stranger see my naked body), or let a complete stranger molest me by groping my crotch and feeling up my breasts. (I guess your employees are really getting some new sort of "job satisfaction" out of these measures, huh?)

2. Claiming that it's voluntary because people get to CHOOSE between being exposed and being molested does not make it right.

3. If a 17-year-old girl (or younger) was sent to one of these, your employees would be engaging in either child pornography (viewing a nude image of a minor) or child molestation. Someone could legitimately call the police and have your employees arrested.

4. These measures are entirely reactionary, not proactive. Over the last ten years, TSA has engaged in an escalating spiral with terrorists, reacting to every attempted (or successful) attack with new policies which only serve to inconvenience and humiliate the general public and really does nothing to prevent weapons from coming aboard the plane - obviously, since the terrorists keep creatively coming up with new ways to smuggle weapons on board that work around the new security measures, so TSA is constantly reacting by limiting individual rights, freedoms, and DIGNITY even further. This escalation will not stop on their end. Do not underestimate the potential for human creativity when a person is determined to make something happen.

5. It's been noted that young and attractive people tend to be sent to these body scanners while older or obese people get sent to traditional metal detectors. Since the employee sorting people into lines is able to do so completely arbitrarily, what measures are you putting in place to make sure they aren't just choosing based on who will be pleasurable to look at or feel up? After all, based on this, if a person wanted to smuggle something on board, all they'd have to do is get fat.

6. I personally would rather let the airline run a background check on me when I purchased my ticket than let a stranger ogle or feel my breasts. I'm willing to bet that most other people feel the same way. Why not start being proactive instead of reactive?

Anonymous said...

Recent experience at BOS:
- Scanners in use.
- Passengers must remove belts
- Completely empty pockets (of paper, business cards, wallets)
- All passengers subject to physical pat down after the scan.
- I didn't know about the wallet problem until after the fact, so the agent had to go through all of its contents and compartments.

Apparently, the scanner is less secure than the metal detector because it requires significant additional screening.

The TSA is wasting more money than ever before by increasing the labor required to run an expensive and seemingly less effective machine.

Daryl said...

I'm sure it's pure coincidence that the manufacturers of these machines are represented by consulting firms headed by Michael Chertoff and Richard Perle -- two of the Project For A New American Century gang who openly pined for "a new Pearl Harbor" to rally American public support behind their goal of establishing a global American hegemony.

Anonymous said...

I have just been touched, rubbed, and proded by the TSA at Logan. I feel violated by the TSA and I am ashamed of my government.

Ozzie said...

I think that the TSA is doing what they can to insure that 9/11 doesn't repeat itself. I honestly don't mind the security measures that are in place to protect fellow passengers and myself. I have heard remarks from others about how this is an invasion of privacy, usually I don't say much, but sometimes I have to remind them of the horrible events of the past!

To TSA: Hats off and keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it great that the Government can now deploy such "fantabulous" and "über cool" technologies to finally and fully gut the Constitutional protections so carefully crafted by the Framers? Awesome, dude!!

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