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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dogma of Stupid: TSA Body Scanners

We've all been told by the TSA how wonderful and safe these new devices are.

But, according to this video demonstration, this is perhaps not true:

(If you're too busy to watch where a $1 billion USD of your money went I will be glad to explain.  The TSA scanners show an image of your body against a black background.  You've probably seen the images - a sort of ghostly naked person sanding, arms up, in front of a black background image.  What this means is, if you conceal metal against the side of your body it becomes part of the black background.

The guy in this video convincingly demonstrates this at several airports.  He sews a pocket onto the side of his shirt and walks through the security systems in two airports.)

First off, even without first testing this myself I can see how it would easily work.  My guess is that disguising things inside your body or wrapping them with material that had the same molecular makeup as body fat might work too - concealing a dangerous item is something that's "white" to match the ghostly images.

Personally I've had only one experience with these machines a few years ago so I don't really know much about them nor had I thought about them much until I saw the video above.

The fellow in the video, Jonathan Corbett, is not alone in his assessment of this technology.

For example, Rafi Sela, the former chief of security at the Israel Airport Authority concurs. “I don't know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines,” Sela commented. “I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747. That's why we haven't put them in our airport.

Mr. Sela told the Canadian House of Commons Transportation committee “You are reacting to incidents instead of being one step ahead of them.

So what does our TSA here in the US say about all of this?

From the TSA blog we find this: "Imaging technology has been extremely effective in the field and has found things artfully concealed on passengers as large as a gun or nonmetallic weapons, on down to a tiny pill or tiny baggies of drugs. It’s one of the best tools available to detect metallic and non-metallic items, such as… you know… things that go BOOM."

And this: "However, our nation's aviation system is much safer now with the deployment of 600 imaging technology units at 140 airports. It is completely safe and the vast majority use a generic image that completely addresses privacy concerns. Also, keep in mind that is optional. Anybody can opt out of the body scanner for a pat-down."


No counter claims technically (though they do claim the video is "crude").

Yes we've deployed a lot of these...

Yes, we've found a gun, some big metal things, and some baggies of pills...

Is this the best our government can do?


All because we can't simply observer and interact the people getting on airplanes.  This is how the Israeli's do it.  There are no body scanners, only basic metal detectors and X-ray machines.

Yet the Israeli's are very successful.

Here in the US there would, I suppose, be claims of discrimination.

Yet what are the scanners designed to do?

Discriminate those with weapons and dangerous items from those without.

What if these devices find more men than women with contraband?  Is that illegal?

And, in fact, here in the US we discriminate anyway based on "country of origin" according to this: "Since early January, the United States has in fact introduced new requirements based on passengers’ country of origin or citizenship. Travelers from 14 countries — including Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Syria — are now required to undergo an extra search before boarding planes to America."

Notice the list of countries - many Arab countries...  No doubt many people from these countries "look alike" or "fit a stereotype"...


So despite spending a billion dollars on a system some guy with a video camera and some spare time can quickly and easily defeat we profile anyway.

This is what's wrong with us and our country.

We haven't come up with a better solution - we've instead spent money we don't have on a system that requires us to do what we're not supposed to anyway - and we do it anyway.

This is the dogma of stupid - better to pretend to do "the right thing" while actually doing it badly that to simply bite the bullet and deal with reality.

According to the forward article an Arag-Israeli student, Saleh Yaaqubi, described his experience at Ben Gurion airport: “This is the most offensive and humiliating experience I have ever had. I was immediately suspect because I am Arab...”

I feel Mr. Yaaqubi's pain.

I am humiliated by how stupid our TSA is.  Here's some young geek guy effortless passing through the TSA security at multiple airports.

I am humiliated by how the TSA can spend billions on something a guy with a little brains and a sewing machine can defeat so easily.

I find this offensive.  Offensive that we are a second rate security country.

I am offended at having the TSA show screen savers like "My First Cavity Search" - openly exposed to passengers as I wrote about over a year ago.

I wonder if the Israeli security folks at Ben Gurion airport sit around joking about things like that?

I think not...

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