Saturday, February 26, 2011

TSA Testing DNA? No way!


***Update 3/4/2011*** Even though we posted on this Saturday shortly after the rumors started to spread, many have still been incorrectly reporting that TSA was going to collect DNA samples from passengers this summer. Media Matters took this story on, and as of this morning, FOX news issued an on-air apology for misreporting the story. ***

 TSA is not testing and has no plans to use any technology capable of testing DNA.


An article was posted to "The Daily" today with the misleading headline "Genetic Patdown." Even more misleading, the first sentence leads off with the mention of airport scanners. So obviously, even though the rest of the article says nothing about airports or TSA, some readers naturally assumed this was a new technology that would be heading to the airports and the tweets went wild. It didn't help that "tsa-scanner" was included in the URL.


The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is doing preliminary testing with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) who already uses DNA testing in some cases to establish familial relationships in refugee processing.


DHS S&T expects to receive a prototype DNA analyzer device this summer to conduct a preliminary evaluation of whether this kind of technology could be considered for future use. At this time, there are no DHS customers, nor is there a timeline for deployment, for this kind of technology - this is a simply a preliminary test of how the technology performs.


Again, TSA is not testing and has no plans to use any technology capable of testing DNA.


Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.


Screening of Passengers at Savannah Amtrak Station

A video of Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) screening passengers at a Savannah, Georgia Amtrak station has been gaining quite a bit of attention and many are wondering why we were screening passengers who had just disembarked from a train.

We were wondering the same thing.

The screening shown in the video was done in conjunction with a VIPR operation. During VIPR operations, any person entering the impacted area has to be screened. In this case, the Amtrak station was the subject of the VIPR operation so people entering the station were being screened for items on the Amtrak prohibited items list as seen in the video.

It should be noted that disembarking passengers did not need to enter the station to claim luggage or get to their car.

Signs such as the one shown here are posted at the entrance to the impacted area. 

TSA SignageHowever, after looking into it further, we learned that this particular VIPR operation should have ended by the time these folks were coming through the station since no more trains were leaving the station. We apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused for those passengers.

So by now, you're probably wondering what a VIPR is? Is it a type of snake that we misspelled? A really cool car... Nope. It's a team that's made up of Federal Air Marshals, Surface Transportation Security Inspectors, Transportation Security Officers, Behavior Detection Officers and Explosive Detection Canine teams. The teams provide a random high-visibility surge into a transit system and work with state and local security, and law enforcement officials to expand the unpredictability of security measures to detect, deter, disrupt or defeat potential criminal and/or terrorist operations.

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team


If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.



Thursday, February 24, 2011

TSA Transportation Security Officers Denied Service At Mystery Seattle Restaurant? Not likely…

A travel blogger wrote a post earlier this week claiming that TSA Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) were being denied service from a restaurant near the Seattle-Tacoma airport. No restaurant name was given. The story has since gone viral and has even popped up on national TV. Being appalled by the story, we naturally looked into it and none of our workforce in the Seattle region had heard of or seen this mystery restaurant. Yesterday, the Seattle Weekly’s “The Daily Weekly” Blog posted a piece titled: “Sea-Tac "Anti-TSA Cafe" Story Sounds Like a Hoax.” The post raised some great questions on the legitimacy of the rumor, so we decided to share it on Twitter last night and now with our blog audience. 

Blogger Bob 
TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Traveling With a CPAP Machine

I recently received an e-mail from a gentleman who had just started using a CPAP machine. He was concerned about traveling with his CPAP and wasn't sure if it could go in his carry-on bag or if it would receive special screening. These are common questions we get quite often from people who have never traveled with their CPAP machines, so it seemed a blog post was in order. 

For those who don't know, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines are respirators that are commonly used to treat sleep apnea and as you can imagine, they are extremely important to the people who need them.

Our officers are very familiar with CPAP machines and see them numerous times daily. I wouldn't suggest placing your CPAP machine in your checked baggage, because if your baggage is misplaced, you'll be without your machine.

So here is how it all goes down. The CPAP machine will need to come out of its case and be placed in a bin prior to being sent through the X-ray, but the facemask and tubing can remain in the case. We realize the X-rays bins aren't exactly sterile, so if you like, you can place your CPAP machine in a clear plastic bag before you put it in the bin. After your CPAP machine is X-rayed, it may need to undergo an Explosive Trace Detection test where a small white swab will be run over your machine and then analyzed for trace amounts of explosives.

Testing a C-pap machine. If your CPAP machine needs an ETD test, you can request that gloves be changed and a new swab be used. 

Why the special treatment? As we've discussed before (here & here ), when we can't get a clear X-ray image of an item, we have to take a closer look. There are certain parts of the CPAP machines that are difficult to see on the X-ray. 

I hope this helps. Safe travels! 

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team




Monday, February 7, 2011

Update on TSA Contractor Screening Program

You may recall a recent post where I wrote about the TSA contract screener program. I posted because many were under the wrong impression that screening from contractors is or would be different than federal screening. The post explained how airports that opt out of TSA screening are still regulated by TSA.  In a nutshell, the screening is the same.

The program has reappeared in the news again as Administrator Pistole has decided not to expand it beyond the current 16 airports. TSA is still accepting applications, but unless a clear and substantial advantage to do so emerges in the future, the requests will not be approved. The 16 airports that are currently using contractor screening will continue to operate under TSA regulation just as they have been. Those airports are:

Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport (STS); Dawson Community Airport (GDV); Frank Wiley Field (MLS); Greater Rochester International (ROC); Havre City County Airport (HVR); Jackson Hole (JAC); Joe Foss Field (FSD); Kansas City International (MCI); Key West International Airport (EYW); L.M. Clayton Airport (OLF); Lewistown Municipal Airport (LWT); Roswell International Air Center (ROW); San Francisco International (SFO); Sidney Richland Regional (SDY); Tupelo Regional (TUP); Wokal Field (GGW)

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Airport Testing of New Advanced Imaging Technology Software Begins Today!


Monitor Showing Alarms
Monitor Showing Alarms

***Updated 2/2/2011 to upload image showing alarms.***

I can remember the first time we blogged about Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT). It was referred to as Whole Body Imaging back then, and is now more commonly referred to by the flying public as a “Body Scanner” as well as a few other clever but inaccurate monikers.

Anyway, ever since we first started talking about them, a small percentage of travelers have had privacy concerns with the AIT machines, and we have addressed those concerns in a variety of ways. TSA has implemented strict measures to protect passenger privacy, which is ensured through the anonymity of the image. A remotely located officer views the image and does not see the passenger, and the officer assisting the passenger cannot view the image. The image cannot be stored, transmitted or printed, and is deleted immediately once viewed. Additionally, there is a privacy algorithm applied to blur the image.

We are always looking for new technology and procedures that will both enhance security while strengthening privacy protections. That’s why we worked with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) and private industry to develop the software, and began testing in labs in Fall of 2010.

The software will be tested at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) starting today, February 1, and at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in the very near future.

So if you’re scratching your head at this point and asking, “What in the heck does this software do?”, it works with our AIT machines and eliminates passenger-specific images and replaces them with the generic outline of a person (see image below).

Here’s how it works: You step into the AIT machine and the new software will automatically detect potential threats and show their location on a generic image of a person. The image is on a monitor that is attached to the AIT unit in public view. Because this eliminates privacy concerns, we no longer have to staff an officer in a separate room.

If there are areas that need to be searched, the monitor will display this image.

If there are areas that need to be searched, the monitor will display this image.
If there are no potential threats, there will be no image and the monitor will look like this.

If there are no potential threats, there will be no image and the monitor will look like this.















Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team


If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.