Tuesday, July 13, 2010

TSA Blog to Write Several Posts as Part of a DoD Live Blog Series

Armed With Science Banner
I've agreed to write a series of blog posts aimed at members of our armed forces over at DoD Live. Now that I think of it, maybe “aim” wasn’t the best choice of words when talking about soldiers. I’m a vet, so maybe they’ll cut me some slack.

Anyways, I’ll be writing several posts for DoD live and the first one was just posted on their “Armed With Science” blog for the Tech Tuesday series. Armed with Science highlights the importance of science and technology to military operations and celebrates those involved in cutting-edge research, development, and education.

The post talks about the various types of technology we use at our checkpoints. Future posts will address things that members of our military might have an interest in reading. As a former soldier, it gives me great pleasure to be able to write some blog posts directed at a military audience. Maybe I’ll reconnect with some old Army buddies?

Fighting Terrorism with Technology is the first post of the series. I’ll announce future posts here as they go live. Make sure to check out the other great posts at DoD Live.

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Only a matter of time before we hear the cries of the full body image machine and how terrible and evil it is in a post!

Bubba said...

Armed with Science?????

Bob, I'm sure you can you see the irony here. You work for an organization that has, for over a month, completely ignored an extensive analysis in the top scientific journal Nature stating that there is no Science behind the SPOT program. You work for an organization that believes that the liquid state of matter dangerous if not contained by ziplock baggies. You work for an organization that obsesses over every single object passengers carry, but does nothing about all other people who have contact with airplanes.

There is absolutely no Science in what the TSA does.

(and this post is way more on topic than the first post here - don't dare delete it)

Anonymous said...

On Topic: Considering the TSA's history of treatment towards members of the DoD and military services, I believe that 'aim' was was perhaps the most ironically accurate word choice possible.

Off Topic: Dubai-UAE has banned the use of full body imaging systems out of "privacy and well-being" concerns.

Bob Hanssen said...

This is an off-topic post if I've ever seen one.

Are you going to do as great a job as you did exploiting the amputees at Walter Reed a few months ago?

John Ohab said...

Bob, we really appreciate the opportunity to feature some of this important work on the Armed with Science blog. You've set the bar pretty high with your first post!

Thanks again
John | Armed with Science

Dr Eric Berg said...

this is a great post. nice information about science. keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Bob, why does TSA refuse to post a sample image of the images generated by its strip-search technology that is at the same size and resolution as those seen by the operator of the strip-search technology?

Anonymous said...

Bob, you discuss TSA's shoe alarmism in one of these posts. How many countries require all air passengers to remove their shoes at checkpoints? Please answer with a number.

Anonymous said...

If TSA is, as you allege in this blog post, "armed with science," why have you refused to acknowledge or respond to Nature's evisceration of your "BDO" program as complete nonsense?

Anonymous said...

So to respond to the blog Bob posted (as opposed to the myriad of other questions TSA refuses to answer):

"Step into the machine for a couple of seconds" For the AIT/WBI/virtual-strip-search? That's not what I hear from fellow pax. What I hear is that they stand in the thing for 30+ seconds, and then they are extremely likely to require a full pat down anyway, because the strip-search "alarms" on virtually any non-cloth item left on the body. Plus, passengers have to "divest" (take off) a bunch of items (jewelry, belts, wallets) that they did not have to prior to the strip-search machine. Plus, very private medical devices that previously were undetected (prosthetic breasts, colostomy bags, insulin pumps) now are seen by the strip-search and have to be explained to and "cleared" by TSA. And there's reports of TSA doing full-dump-bag searches on all passengers who are detected wearing insulin pumps out of some sort of perverse retaliation. Not to mention the radiation risks associated with backscatter--a bunch of med school profs at USF don't agree with TSA's rosy risk assessment.

Advanced checkpoint baggage x-ray: great. Now why haven't you abolished the war-on-water like TSA claimed they were going to do a year ago? Don't claim lack of 100% deployment. You don't ETD 100% of passengers, and a lot of other things (hint, cargo) don't get 100% physical screening.

CastScope: You guys really like exposing passengers to ionizing radiation, don't you? It's like your new favorite toy. See previous comment about USF med school profs. By the way, is the castscope mandatory or "voluntary" for passengers wearing casts? What if I don't want my arm, leg, etc., exposed to additional radiation, particularly since it almost certainly received one or more x-rays in treating the condition that required the cast? What if I have a serious family history of skin cancer, and don't want you bombarding my limb's skin with needless x-rays?

Anonymous said...

You do realise you get radiation from being up in the plane right or was that not in the USF prof. studies? You can always choose a different way to travel. :)

Julie Marshal said...

Fighting Terrorism with Technology>> Wow, what a great post. the one thing tech can't change is the terrorist's minds. can it?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous wrote:

You do realize you get radiation from being up in the plane right or was that not in the USF prof. studies? You can always choose a different way to travel. :)


I get (ionizing) radiation from lots of sources.

I get radiation from flying, but I benefit from that exposure by getting to experience different places, seeing family/friends, and making a living.

I get radiation from x-rays at my dentist, but they help diagnose and maintain my teeth. I get radiation from x-rays at my physician, but they also help diagnose issues.

I gain nothing from letting TSA x-ray me. I already know I'm not a terrorist. I already know I'm not carrying WEI. The only people who benefit from me getting x-rayed by TSA are nervous nellies who want to "feel safe" by doing "anything for security" and TSA bureaucrats/agents who gain power. No person should be subjected to the risks of ionizing radiation for the benefit of someone else.

Oh, and the radiation from my flights is mostly high-energy particles that pass through the body. The radiation from my dentist and physician is energized to mostly pass through the skin. In contrast, TSA's backscatter is designed to bounce off of but not pass through the skin. Thus, the energy that does not bounce is designed to be absorbed by the skin. Of all of the radiation forms mentioned, this is the only one that targets skin absorption, thus concentrating the energy on the human organ most vulnerable to carcinogenic mutations.

RB said...

So Bob, will you ignore the questions asked by readers of the DoD Live Blog like you do here?

Justin Robinson said...

Lol, ARMED WITH SCIENCE.

Bubba, I 100% agree with you.TSA doesn't have any way, shape, or form to consider it science.

DoD and Military services are going to keep us alive!

Keep up the good post, love the content!

Anonymous said...

"The only people who benefit from me getting x-rayed by TSA are..."

Don't forget the folks who sold 'em the equipment. The ones who are getting our tax dollars.

julie said...

you have written about "Advanced Imaging Technology" in you post. is that the machine that was installed in American airports for screening & then later after the protest of Pakistan's foreign office it was discontinued?

Chris said...

Thank you for your military service Bob, the cellphone scanner in particular is cool, I'm glad TSA is quicker with technology than some DHS processes.

RB said...

julie said...
you have written about "Advanced Imaging Technology" in you post. is that the machine that was installed in American airports for screening & then later after the protest of Pakistan's foreign office it was discontinued?

July 16, 2010 2:47 AM
....................
Julie, I'm not TSA but the Advanced Imaging Technology are Whole Body Imagers that TSA uses to look under your clothing and at your totally nude body. It has been reported that the images leave nothing to the imagination and TSA is even using these devices to look at little kids and teenagers.

TSA has been asked thousands of times to provide the public with images from these devices in the same size and resolution as seen by the machine operators but has refused to do so.

What is TSA trying to hide?

There are two types of these devices in use, one uses X-Rays and is very likely to be dangerous to the public, while the other uses Millimeter Waves and from available reports is not hazardous.

The former Secretary of DHS, Michael Chertoff, represented the company that makes the X-Ray version and TSA suddenly started buying this machine in great quantities.

You will have to draw your own conclusions if the former Secretary of DHS influenced TSA purchasing decisions, just recognize that the devices are likely deadly!

Anonymous said...

RB said...
TSA has been asked thousands of times to provide the public with images from these devices in the same size and resolution as seen by the machine operators but has refused to do so.
-----------------------------
Actually RB, that request was granted some time ago, and the link is still available for those who choose to put forth the effort to find it. But, since you seem to refuse to do so I will be happy to provide you and the other posters here with the link.
http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ait/how_it_works.shtm

I won’t hold my breath waiting on a public apology for your inaccurate claim. After all, I’m pretty sure you have seen the information at that link before but just cannot bring yourself to admit the error.

Anonymous said...

Anon, thanks for the link:
http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ait/how_it_works.shtm

I could not see any statements that those images are the same size as are generated by the machine. They seemed to be provided only as being representative. Did I miss something there?

Has the staff here on the blog claimed that these images are the exact resolution (i.e. x pixels wide by y pixels high) that are displayed on the machine?

Is someone from the blog willing to say that now?

I find it odd that both images are 900 pixels wide.

It is not impossible for 2 vendors to have chosen the exact same widths and different heights, but it is very unlikely.

900 pixels is a common width for web content. That suggests that these images are not at their original size.

Can we please have an official response from the blog stating whether or not those images are the exact resolution (W x H) that are displayed on the machine?

Maybe this can be resolved and put to rest. Or maybe we still have not seen an exact copy of the image yet.

RB said...

Anonymous said...
RB said...
TSA has been asked thousands of times to provide the public with images from these devices in the same size and resolution as seen by the machine operators but has refused to do so.
-----------------------------
Actually RB, that request was granted some time ago, and the link is still available for those who choose to put forth the effort to find it. But, since you seem to refuse to do so I will be happy to provide you and the other posters here with the link.
http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ait/how_it_works.shtm

I won’t hold my breath waiting on a public apology for your inaccurate claim. After all, I’m pretty sure you have seen the information at that link before but just cannot bring yourself to admit the error.

July 17, 2010 11:20 AM
................
No apology needed Anon since these images are not in the same size and resolution as seen by operators of the Strip Search Machines. A fact that BB even admitted.

Now if you're claiming these images are exactly the same in size and resolution that operators of the WBI'ers see then I would suggest your being dishonest?

Anonymous said...

Here's an actual scan from 1996 made on a Rapiscan 1000 Secure in England.

http://rupture.co.uk/Terminal%204.html

Anybody over 8 years old knows that the image quality will have improved, maybe substantially improved.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

RB said...
TSA has been asked thousands of times to provide the public with images from these devices in the same size and resolution as seen by the machine operators but has refused to do so.
-----------------------------
Actually RB, that request was granted some time ago, and the link is still available for those who choose to put forth the effort to find it. But, since you seem to refuse to do so I will be happy to provide you and the other posters here with the link.
http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ait/how_it_works.shtm

I won’t hold my breath waiting on a public apology for your inaccurate claim. After all, I’m pretty sure you have seen the information at that link before but just cannot bring yourself to admit the error.

July 17, 2010 11:20 AM
---------------------------------

What date and year are the TSA provided sample images from?

Are the TSA provided sample images from the newest generation scanner with the most recent software?

I have asked these questions before and emailed the TSA but they still have not provided me with an answer. If the bloggers cannot answer these questions please forward the questions to someone who can. If the TSA won't answer the questions please just say so.

Muhammad said...

RB
...................
Julie, I'm not TSA but the Advanced Imaging Technology are Whole Body Imagers that TSA uses to look under your clothing and at your totally nude body. It has been reported that the images leave nothing to the imagination and TSA is even using these devices to look at little kids and teenagers.

TSA has been asked thousands of times to provide the public with images from these devices in the same size and resolution as seen by the machine operators but has refused to do so.

What is TSA trying to hide?

There are two types of these devices in use, one uses X-Rays and is very likely to be dangerous to the public, while the other uses Millimeter Waves and from available reports is not hazardous.

The former Secretary of DHS, Michael Chertoff, represented the company that makes the X-Ray version and TSA suddenly started buying this machine in great quantities.

You will have to draw your own conclusions if the former Secretary of DHS influenced TSA purchasing decisions, just recognize that the devices are likely deadly!


so what do you think. is it good to see other nude ethically & legally supportive even the person to whom you are checking will not come to know that who is watching what..
is it align with basic privacy rights around the world?

RB said...

Muhammad said...

so what do you think. is it good to see other nude ethically & legally supportive even the person to whom you are checking will not come to know that who is watching what..
is it align with basic privacy rights around the world?

July 19, 2010 6:34 AM

............
To be honest I'm really not sure what your question is.

If your asking if it makes it ok for TSA employees to view your naked image if your not aware of who is doing the viewing and they cannot identity the person being viewed then I say no it is not ok, not if you are unaware of how your image is displayed which is the case with how TSA has deployed these Strip Search Machines. Many people have asked for sample images that are in the same size and resolution as seen by WBI operators but those request have been ignored by TSA.

A second issue is the viewing of children with WBI and I do not find it acceptable to do so unless some very strong reason is presented for this form of screening. TSA's screening of children with WBI is to my mind the same as child pornography! Children should be screened with WTMD and ETD. If evidence indicates a seconday level of inspection is required then approval should be obtained from the most senior TSA offical available at that aiport at that given moment.

The third issue is that the Backscatter machines emit dangerous X-rays and regardless of what TSA says exposure to any form of X-ray should be limited and only to those instances when it is beneficial such as a medical x-ray. Given that TSA has available a WBI that does not emit x-rays draws a question to why they have purchased a potentially deadly machine. Another question TSA seems not willing to answer.

If these responses did not cover your questions then follow up and I will try to give a more pointed answer.

guargum said...

nice to see the initiative for creativity. keep the good work UP guys.

Isaac Newton said...

So now you're going into science Bob? Cool. I love science; done quite a bit of it myself.

I hope your future science columns will explore the following subjects:

What is the difference between 3.4 ounces (liquid) and 3.4 ounces (weight)? Why does a toothpaste tube labeled 4 ounces have less than 3.4 fluid ounces in it? (Get a smart high school student to help with this one.)

Why is one 8 ounce can of soda, unopened, potentially dangerous, but 3 unlabeled 3 ounce bottles of liquid and one empty 9 ounce container are safe?

What dangerous items can be hidden in the sole of an infant's cloth shoe but cannot be hidden in an adult's mouth?

How many liquid explosives are there which are both stable enough to carry around in an airport and onto a plane and would not alarm an ETD? How many liquid explosives are there which could pass the ETD as separate components and then be mixed in an airport bathroom or on a plane without extensive equipment and smelly fumes?

Where is the relaxation of the liquid restrictions that you and the TSA management have been promising, for several years, will occur "in the next year."?

Anonymous said...

"To be honest I'm really not sure what your question is."

Then please don't write lengthy responses. :)

Bill Wayne said...

Arming ourselves with higher technology is great when followed through by competent individuals. The problem with leaving the government in charge is the loads of bureaucracy which usually leads to an expensive, uninformed solution that sounds good in a speech but in practicality doesn't work all that well.

Tech Ed Guy said...

On the explosive trace detection, is the technology good enough now not to need canines?

Austin Cushing said...

Looking forward to reading more of your posts, Bob - it's always important to understand what's going on out there from all perspectives.

Pell said...

Technology will not help, its humanity which you should have focus on.

RB said...

Tech Ed Guy said...
On the explosive trace detection, is the technology good enough now not to need canines?

July 27, 2010 3:34 AM
..................
The technology is so good that TSA can't tell Clear Care brand contact lens cleaner from an explosive.

Good enough for ya?

Jake said...

You can't just sit in your den and use robots to talk to people. They are alive and they have feelings. Be good to people, lead by example so that people will consider you worth talking to

Big Squid said...

The TSA needs to go. Too much power and when they unionize its going to be a much bigger problem