Surprise! Feds stored thousands of checkpoint body scan images after all

US agencies have long defended the use of body scanning devices at airports with the promise that all images will be discarded as soon as security staff have viewed them. Last summer, the TSA claimed "scanned images cannot be stored or recorded." Declan McCullagh at CNET:
Now it turns out that some police agencies are storing the controversial images after all. The U.S. Marshals Service admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse.

This follows an earlier disclosure (PDF) by the TSA that it requires all airport body scanners it purchases to be able to store and transmit images for "testing, training, and evaluation purposes." The agency says, however, that those capabilities are not normally activated when the devices are installed at airports.

Feds admit storing checkpoint body scan images [CNET via @declanm]


  1. So if any of those tens of thousands of images are of children, would that make the court security people guilty of making and distributing child pornography?

    1. Why, I do believe so.
      At least in the UK this has been discussed and that was the first result. If that has been changed then I’ve missed it.

      I think this needs to be tested in court. Abusing the child protection laws to actually HELP freedom, privacy and security would be a nice change of pace. As well as showing a pineapple up the TSA’s collective arse.

    2. Isn’t everyone with explicit material required to keep records to establish the age of the subject? Just not having those records should be enough to get these guys in trouble.

  2. So where’s the surprise again?

    We knew this was going to happen, even when they said it wouldn’t happen.

    “We’re buying machines, computers really, that don’t have the ability to store information. So nobody has to worry. We’re not going to be saving these pictures…”

    If you look at the product info page for the Gen 2, you see it looks like a Windows XP interface.

    So why were we supposed to believe they *couldn’t* save images?

  3. So, if they’re not storing the images and something does get through, how are they going to go back and review what/who went wrong?

  4. I’m not entirely sure I can understand why they’d even want to have these images on file, other than sheer perversion. Am I missing something? I’m not saying I like for strangers to look at me naked, I’m just saying I’d be happier if I could provided my own professional “full body scans.”

  5. They said “not normally activated when installed at airports”. The image-gate images are from a court house. Technically they have not been proven wrong.

    We really just need to get over our victorian era body prudishness. We seem to have no problem blowing people up and torturing them during prime time.

    1. Oh please. My discomfort with these scanners has nothing to do with “Victorian-era body prudishness.” It has everything to do with where the government’s rights end & mine begin. And I believe the government’s rights end far short of taking naked pictures of me whenever I engage in an activity that’s pretty much an integral part of modern life. I believe that who has access to what information about my body should be *my right* to decide. I’m transgendered & I’ve been subjected to enough involuntary exams in my life, thanks. These scanners are just the latest example of stripping away our rights in the name of “security.”

      1. how is it that you’ve been subjected to so many involuntary examinations? just curious what this means…

  6. Someone needs to make a nsfw pr0n type parody of these images, then the conservatives will cry foul and ban these things. Think of the children!

  7. Is that mouse in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

    (Someone was bound to say it. Might as well be me.)

  8. Not at all surprising, of course. Makes me think of a recent paper on how hard it is to actually, permanently erase data on a computer.

    After reading that, the idea that TSA or whoever could competently, securely erase the data was quite far-fetched. One would need a whole erasure-management and accountability system just to ensure citizen privacy and responsible record destruction. I hardly think they’re that invested in it.

  9. For a moment I thought, hey wouldn’t it be cool if we all freaked out TSA by mailing them anonymous pictures of our junk? Then the little paranoid part of me realized that they would just create a cock-and-balls database and try to match you up the next time you passed through security.

    From the picks I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem to pick up female genitalia as well, so maybe we need a million vagina march sort of protest here…

    1. Yes! The airlines could make millions adding a seat cover surcharge to the price of every ticket!

  10. It’s okay, folks, nothing to worry about. The people entrusted with these images wear official uniforms. Let’s all just all give them the benefit of the doubt. People in authority should always be trusted. If they kept scans of your kids it was for legitimate reasons. Only a terrorist sympathizer would think otherwise.

  11. Scanning any child with these devices is the creation of child pornography, and storing any such image is the possession of such.

    1. Well, this certainly isn’t a statement of the law. An image of a naked child is not child pornography per se — it has to have a lewd focus on certain bodily parts, or someone has to possess it for inappropriate purposes, etc. Otherwise, any number of medical textbooks and documents would be pornography and illegal.

  12. Maybe I only started paying attention recently, but this seems like part of a newfound devil-take-the-hindmost governance, a bit short on the civilian rights and governing responsibilities and long on the smarmy bureaucrats.

  13. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s about time that everyone saw that I really don’t have such large genitalia. In fact, it’s pretty laughable downstairs.

    I don’t have any problem admitting it here because I’m sure BoingBoing doesn’t actually save any of its comments for later viewing…

  14. How great a dose of X-rays do these machines emit as compared to say, dental X-rays? Would frequent travelers run the risk of radiation-induced diseases?

    As for the government using my naked likeness for other than its presumed intended purpose…well, maybe I should get a modeling agent!

    1. At least your health isn’t be a concern with these things–they use non-ionizing radiation that is at a lower frequency than x-rays. In fact they rely on the waves not penetrating skin, only clothes, to get the nice detailed nudie pics.

  15. Hmm as much as I don’t like those scanners, there’s a lot of jumping to conclusions here. First of all this was at a courthouse and was not done by the TSA. Second of all, just because the people at the courthouse were feds and so are the TSA doesn’t mean the TSA also is doing this.

  16. I guess that explains why the US Marshall’s service bought up all those “” and “” urls!

  17. It should be illegal for administration officials to deliberately make false statements about their agencies’ practices to the public.

    Perjury laws should apply to such statements, as well as the associated jail sentences for committing such perjury.

  18. Take the number of people that have died due to terrorist acts that involve airplanes. Now compare this number to the number of people that die due to car accidents.

    Ok, now STFU about airport security and stop wasting my fucking tax dollars while pissing all over civil liberties in the name of security.


    When I think about how much money we are wasting on airport security… it really pisses me off. We have done two and only two things worthwhile in airport security. They are:

    1) We installed cheap reinforced doors to the cockpit.

    2) We told passengers to please beat the ever living shit out of anyone who even looks like they are pondering trying to hijack the plane.

    Those two extraordinarily cheap security measures have done VASTLY more to improve the safety of airplanes than any of the completely asinine multi-billion dollar security theater that the TSA or “homeland security” has done. The “strip the passengers naked” approach is just more of the same expensive security theater to fail to fix something that isn’t a fucking problem.

    The terrorist won on 9/11. They got US to spend far more money in completely fucking stupid “self defense” than they could even DREAM of inflicting in actual damage.

    It is a good thing that most of Al-Qaeda’s operatives are literally retarded, otherwise, they would just launch a few completely ineffective but showy attacks and get the good old government of U-S-of-A to bring out the big guns and really do some awesome self inflicted harm. The US government response to mosquito bites is to chop of their own hand.

    I really fucking hate politicians and the dumb scared masses that vote for them. Dude, you are going to die of something utterly boring like heart attack or cancer, not a terrorist attack. Get over it.

  19. The lackluster coverage of this issue frustrates me.

    It’s very important to note that the U. S. Marshals Service (in no way related to the TSA) was using the Brijot Gen2 scanner, which is completely different from the models used in airports. The procurement order requiring the ability to retain and transfer images is a procurement order entered by the Marshals service, NOT by the TSA. The Brijot Gen2 systems do not meet TSA requirements and as such cannot be used in airports.

    The Brijot Gen2 scanners produce images that are far less detailed than the images produced by the ProVision systems in use by the TSA. It would not be possible for an operator to determine the gender of the person being imaged from the millimeter wave images, much less identify their anatomy. The Troy Record has images and video of a Brijot system in use:

    You can see that the millimeter wave images are very blurred, and in no way could be called ‘x-ray’ or ‘naked’ images. Only the silhouette of a person is visible.

    I am disappointed to see BoingBoing repeating this news item without actually looking in to it at all. These systems are in no way comparable to the TSA systems, and the outrage over this news item is virtually entirely because of confusion over what exactly the Marshals Service machines did. This confusion is fed in to by the illustration featured in the quote on this page, which is completely and utterly unlike the images captured by the machines in question.

    1. Interesting, thanks JB! Noted. The duplicate post Cory published today has been removed (we always remove duplicate posts, when it happens).

    2. “It would not be possible for an operator to determine the gender of the person being imaged from the millimeter wave images, much less identify their anatomy.”

      Then what good are they?

      Seriously, how can weapons of various description be discerned with something so blurry?

      Sorry, I just don’t buy it.

  20. Wikileaks releasing those images would generate some real coverage from the cable news networks (“Just ahead, thousands of fuzzy photos of nekkid people released by Wikileaks — is YOURS among them?”). The stories would go on for weeks.

    Now, 400,000 pages of possible war-related crimes from Iraq documented, released and made public? Ho hum — 5 minutes of coverage and nobody visits.

  21. I don’t want my wife or teen age daughter going thru the scanner.
    I don’t some perv staring at them.
    I wont fly anymore until they get rid of that.

  22. They should have everyone fly naked.
    Then theres no need for a scan or pat down.
    Leave your clothes at the door.
    That would speed up check in, improve security and make the flight fun.

  23. What do they do about under age children.
    Would’nt the scanners be a form of child porn?
    Would’nt that be against the law?
    No more privacy or civil rights?
    If you want to fly you have to let your wife and kids be viewed naked
    or touched be a stranger?

  24. Next time you go through one of these, just ask the operators. “May I have a copy of my scans please? I want to have them printed out and hung above my bed at home.”

    Oh, flying naked is not as unreasonable as it sound. They could have you change over to disposable paper gowns (think hospital), at the airport.

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