Airport security part 4: Attack of the body scanners!

Airport security part 4: Attack of the body scanners!

Summary: If you read my blog postings semi-often, you know that I'm very, very critical of problems with airport security.  Nicole Wong of the Boston Globe reported that Boston's Logan International Airport will become the next airport to implement full-body scanners (thanks for the link from the LiquidMatrix guys!


TSAIf you read my blog postings semi-often, you know that I'm very, very critical of problems with airport security.  Nicole Wong of the Boston Globe reported that Boston's Logan International Airport will become the next airport to implement full-body scanners (thanks for the link from the LiquidMatrix guys!) that can see through clothing to detect whether travelers are concealing objects.  Nicole states:

The TSA plans to outfit the airport in October or November with more than one of these so-called whole-body imaging machines, which have raised privacy concerns where they have been tested. The scanners produce three-dimensional images of people's naked bodies, but the agency says procedures have been modified to protect passenger privacy.

The technology "allows us to screen passengers for any prohibited items quickly and unobtrusively," said George Naccara, the TSA's federal security director for Logan. "Efficiency and effectiveness will improve with whole-body imaging."

[See Video Here] 

[Image courtesy of LeatherneckM31 blog]

Read on...

TSA ProfilingMy favorite part is where it says it has "been modified to protect passenger privacy".  What does it do?  Black out my naughty bits?  You know, I went to Japan last October, and you can see all over the electronic district of Tokyo that the porn has the naughty bits blacked out.  Funny, they still consider it porn.  So, I guess I feel like even if this device blacks out peoples' naughty bits, it's still showing a naked picture of them. 

George Naccara, the TSA's federal security director for Logan claims that the process is quick and unobtrusive.  I challenge George then, if it's so unobtrusive, how about giving us a screenshot of yourself going through the scanner?  Seriously, I don't really want that, but think it through before you make a claim like this.

Why don't they just cut to the chase and order full-blown strip searches?

The article continues:

"They've turned down the intensity a bit so some of the images under the clothes will be fuzzy," he said. "They've also remotely located the person viewing the images so that person can't associate the image with the passenger. We don't have any capability to store or to print any of these images."

Remotely located?  Guess what that means... images sent over network.  Hmm... funny, I seem to remember a story where I talked about the wireless networks by the security lines.  Just a theory, but it's certainly possible.  The madness continues:

The machines can detect nonmetallic objects hidden under clothing, such as explosives, and will replace pat downs of travelers who trigger a metal detector or are flagged as a "person of interest."

TSA NunSo, are they saying the current machines can't detect explosives?  That's certainly how it reads.  Also, it mentions it replaces patting people down.  You know, maybe the people should have the choice, naked pictures streaming over networks, or a pat down?

The article continues, saying that passengers could refuse the scan, opting for a pat down, but I think we all know what this means.  It's not simply refuse it and get patted down, it's refuse it and get a pat down and a nice hour long conversation with TSA officials (if not the police/FBI), and possibly a full body cavity search. 

I'm not sure if I'm more upset about the ridiculous restrictions on toothpaste, deodorant, and bottles of water, or the invastion of privacy.  Either way, I'm going to start taking Amtrak whenever I can.

[Images courtesy of and]

[poll id=11]


Topics: Software, Banking, Data Management, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Legal, Security

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Airport Security

    I'm fairly sure if anyone was to see me naked... their eyeballs would no longer function anyway. I say go ahead, it's more a punishment for them than me. But I can certainly understand why many people would find this upsetting, and how this is just the next step on the stairway of stupidity.
    • Hahaha!

      Well played!

  • OUTSTANDING Article and a sad reality

    While this was VERY entertaining to read (the most I can recall since I have started reading your blogs), it also shows that privacy is being thrown to the wind needlessly. I am glad someone else is finally writing about how the TSA and the new "security" standards..really are nothing more than criminalizing every person who walks through that terminal.

    No one will agree that September 11, 2001 was an absolute tragedy - however - throwing all means of privacy (and now the ability to bring your own drinks on the plane..well long as it was bought from their shops in the terminal...)is just too much. Frankly, I'll just stop flying if I see these pop up in the airports - I would hope others feel the same.
    • Thanks JT82

      Thanks, definitely appreciate the kind words.

      It's rough man... it's become such an accepted form of travel. I'm not sure work will be cool with paying for me to ride the Amtrak... that's extra time I'm not working.

  • wait... wait... here is the Video!

    let see what happens when the first youtube/torrent of videos of people going through those things surface on the Internet.

    Person A: hey guess what I saw last night.
    Person B: what?
    Person A: I downloaded that video someone recorded off those airport person scanning thing-a-ma-jig and I have to say, one of those guy's shape looks awefully like you... Do you have a mole on your ass?
    Person B: No.. get out! Lemme see! Nah.. that's Andrew from Accounting.
    • Hahaha! (NT)

      • seriously though...

        No offense or anything, but I've always felt my southern neighbors' mind is going down the drain and taking everyone else with them.

        by no mean of bashing US, here in Vancouver when I went through the airport the security is just a bit tighter and of course with the liquid rule. I don't feel any less safer OR safer really. However, what I heard is that if you are boarding a flight to US then you'll have to go through the whole mess. (I usually fly Asia and back)

        I have never entered US for the last... 6 years, either boarder or plane, just because of all the horror stories I heard. It's just not worth it. Now with a bad economy down there, they really should open up and welcome people and their business, but all I heard is how they are getting tighter, not looser. I don't understand why they don't realize that they are just 'suffocating' themselves.

        anyway, I just wonder how many people actually feel safer with all these 'procedures'. To me, it seems like a lot trouble for nothing. I think the past, standard procedure is good enough for safety and security. Not only is it logical, but also *sane*.
    • is the video

      Whole body scanners, nice going TSA.

      Then again, if I were to go through one, I wonder if they would speculate about the scar, and cavity where a surgeon dug an abcess out of my ...!!
  • RE: Airport security part 4: Attack of the body scanners!

    And yet people will allow this because they want to believe that they are safer. Sad really, if you want to feel safe, lock your fu**ing ass in a padded cell with triple filtration a straight jacket and no way in or out once you are in there. Oh and make sure you are strapped down nice and secure so you can hurt yourself accidentally if you move.

    I have to agree with JT82... if these keep popping up and the idiocy continues I will have to stop flying in the US. Mexico isn't that far away, I can always drive there and fly from Mexico. Less hassle at least, and I know they are all crooked down there so no surprise.

    The bottom line is this is not what it means to be an American. Hiding in shivering fear of a bogey man that may or may not strike again. All I have to say is that we have gone from being the home of the brave to the home of the chicken shyte morons addicted to fast food and bull shyte tv. Shouldn't be too much longer now... ]:)

    [B]PS[/B]: And by the way, the curtailing of our freedoms and rights is a clear and very loud victory for those that "attacked" us in the first place. By allowing the idiots in office to curtail and inhibit our freedoms they are essentially surrendering to those that wanted this in the first place. What a bunch of rocket scientists we have in this nation! ]:)
    Linux User 147560
    • Agreed!

      By giving into the fear, we're losing.

      I was at SeaTec airport not long ago, and the security line was all the way down the hallway... just freaking ridiculous.

      And they confiscated the water I bought at the airport.

      • .....

        Yeah... you might try and drown the pilot with it! Can't have that! What I don't get is how supposedly intelligent people can allow this sort of behavior to happen. ]:)
        Linux User 147560
      • I disagree

        People will submit to this for the following reasons:
        - to busy to deal with the fall-out of objecting
        - to dangerous to object (who wants to be flagged?)
        - feeling of powerlessness to object or create change
        - missing a flight costs money and affects the agenda at the destination.

        There may be more, but I have never heard of people claiming that this stuff made them feel more secure. I might not hang around those groups, but still, not sure that I have ever heard this.
  • RE: Airport security part 4: Attack of the body scanners!

    The world must be living in a glass bubble or something.
    We were never the land of freedom. Instead of scan and go scan and go. Nothing in this world is safe from prying eyes. If we want to move that line faster in the airport and get where we are going. Step in line for those scanners. Now its just your body. next its a microchip!!!
    • Ah yes, the mark of the beast...

    • RE: Airport [job] (in)security

      Quote: [i]Now its just your body. next its a microchip!!! [/i]

      Microchip, huh!!!!!

      I have a good idea of who should be first to have chips implanted - politicians, bureaucrats and TSA dimwits.

      And, I have the perfect place to implant them - it just happens to be a 'place where the sun does not shine'!!!!

      BTW, these select first receivers should have their implanted with a large diameter pipe.
  • All kidding aside,

    what is the solution?
    • re: All kidding aside

      Well, if enough people complain or choose the touchy feely method they'll be forced to change the policy. Getting enough people to complain however, might be diffcult.
      • this is know as...

        'Take the high road attack' or "for the greater good attack"

        It's very very hard to argue once they use the "it's for the safety of all" approach.
      • Not a policy issue

        [i]or choose the touchy feely method they'll be forced to change the policy[/i]

        If everyone asks for the touchy feely method, then these units will sit there collecting dust.

        Make it a money issue (as in waste of) not a policy issue. Might actually be easier then trying to change the policy.
  • What would you have them do?

    Full disclosure: I work in the security industry, including systems used at airports.

    No, the magnetometers, or metal detectors, don't detect non-metallic explosive agents. The X-ray systems can help detect suspicious objects to some degree, but those are easily bypassed if the agent can be carried on the person. Anybody with an advanced knowledge of chemistry could probably slip a combination of inert agents through that, when combined, are destructive.

    There's been lots of work, especially from GE Security, to improve the technology to pick up such agents. The puffer systems in place at some locations, like Denver and the D.C. area airports, are one such example. The millimeter wave systems, like described here, are another attempt, and while I understand the intent, I'm torn over the application. Several other companies have previously demonstrated similar systems that can be projected into crowds to enable bulge detection of foreign objects without revealing dermal-level images.

    Unfortunately, any system used has to pass TSA approval, a process that is painstakingly long and heavily political. The only reason, I think, that the existing systems are even in place is because they were already present before the new security measures were put in place and the airports needed something, even if they were insufficient. I've watched people slip through with Zippo lighters in their pockets without a blip from the systems. That's a significant chuck of metal. If those can slide through, what else is?