HOWTO get metal through a TSA full-body scanner

Jon Corbett, an engineer who is suing the TSA over the use of full-body "pornoscanners," has developed and documented a simple way to smuggle metallic objects, including guns, through the scanners. He tested the method at real TSA checkpoints, producing video-documentation that shows him apparently passing through the scanners with odd-shaped metal objects in a hidden pocket sewn into his garments. The method relies on the fact that the scanners show subjects' bodies as light objects on a dark background, and also render metal as dark objects. If an object is off to the side of the subject -- in a side pocket, say -- it shows up as black-on-black and is thus invisible.

To put it to the test, I bought a sewing kit from the dollar store, broke out my 8th grade home ec skills, and sewed a pocket directly on the side of a shirt. Then I took a random metallic object, in this case a heavy metal carrying case that would easily alarm any of the “old” metal detectors, and walked through a backscatter x-ray at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. On video, of course. While I’m not about to win any videography awards for my hidden camera footage, you can watch as I walk through the security line with the metal object in my new side pocket. My camera gets placed on the conveyer belt and goes through its own x-ray, and when it comes out, I’m through, and the object never left my pocket.

Maybe a fluke?

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FBI anti-terrorism expert: TSA is useless

Steve Moore, who identifies himself as a former FBI Special Agent and head of the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force Al Qaeda squad, says that the TSA is useless. He says that they don't catch terrorists. He says they won't catch terrorists. He says that they can't catch terrorists. Oh, he also claims 35 years' piloting experience and a father was United's head of security and anti-hijacking SWAT training and experience.

Frankly, the professional experience I have had with TSA has frightened me. Once, when approaching screening for a flight on official FBI business, I showed my badge as I had done for decades in order to bypass screening. (You can be envious, but remember, I was one less person in line.) I was asked for my form which showed that I was armed. I was unarmed on this flight because my ultimate destination was a foreign country. I was told, "Then you have to be screened." This logic startled me, so I asked, "If I tell you I have a high-powered weapon, you will let me bypass screening, but if I tell you I'm unarmed, then I have to be screened?" The answer? "Yes. Exactly." Another time, I was bypassing screening (again on official FBI business) with my .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, and a TSA officer noticed the clip of my pocket knife. "You can't bring a knife on board," he said. I looked at him incredulously and asked, "The semi-automatic pistol is okay, but you don't trust me with a knife?" His response was equal parts predictable and frightening, "But knives are not allowed on the planes."...

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German cops call airport full-body pornoscanners "useless," EU requires opt out from scanning

Bruce Schneier rounds up a series of links about problems with airport full-body "pornoscanners." The German police call them "useless" (35 percent of fliers repeatedly set them off, though they weren't carrying anything dangerous), some scanners are set off by sweaty armpits, and the European Parliament requires EU aviation authorities to allow you to opt out of full body scans (both UK and Dutch airports have a "get scanned or don't fly" requirement for people pulled for full-body scans). Here a bit from the Agence France Presse:
The report said the machines were confused by several layers of clothing, boots, zip fasteners and even pleats, while in 10 percent of cases the passenger's posture set them off.

The police called for the scanners to be made less sensitive to movements and certain types of clothing and the software to be improved. They also said the US manufacturer L3 Communications should make them work faster.

In the wake of the 10-month trial which began on September 27 last year, German federal police see no interest in carrying out any more tests with the scanners until new more effective models become available, Welt am Sonntag said.

German Police Call Airport Full-Body Scanners Useless Read the rest

DHS documents show agency isn't sure pornoscanners are safe

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is going great guns with its Freedom of Information requests to the DHS on the full-body radiation scanners ("pornoscanners") used in airports. EPIC's liberated documents suggest that the DHS itself has failed to adequately test scanners for radiation risk, that they're worried about this, and that they're taking steps to cover this up. Based on this stuff, I think you'd be nuts to go through a scanner -- and that the DHS's employees should refuse to operate them.
EPIC v. DHS Lawsuit -- FOIA'd Documents Raise New Questions About Body Scanner Radiation Risks : In a FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, EPIC has just obtained documents concerning the radiation risks of TSA's airport body scanner program. The documents include agency emails, radiation studies, memoranda of agreement concerning radiation testing programs, and results of some radiation tests. One document set reveals that even after TSA employees identified cancer clusters possibly linked to radiation exposure, the agency failed to issue employees dosimeters - safety devices that could assess the level of radiation exposure. Another document indicates that the DHS mischaracterized the findings of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, stating that NIST "affirmed the safety" of full body scanners. The documents obtained by EPIC reveal that NIST disputed that characterization and stated that the Institute did not, in fact, test the devices. Also, a Johns Hopkins University study revealed that radiation zones around body scanners could exceed the "General Public Dose Limit." For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v.
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Proposed TX law would criminalize TSA screening procedures

A Republican Texas legislator has introduced a bill that would make the TSA's grope-and-fondle secondary search into a felony, and would also criminalize installing and using a pornoscanner:
HB 1937 includes the following:

(3) as part of a search performed to grant access to a publicly accessible building or form of transportation, intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:

(A) searches another person without probable cause to believe the person committed an offense; and

(B) touches the anus, sexual organ, or breasts of the other person, including touching through clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person.

(f) .... An offense under Subsection (a)(3) is a state jail felony.

The Tenth Amendment Center adds, "the Texas legislature stands on solid ground. Local governments control airports and no enumerated power in the Constitution gives the federal government the authority to regulate them. Under the Tenth Amendment, airport operation falls under state jurisdiction."

Texas Legislation Proposes Felony Charges for TSA Agents (Thanks, Anulla!)  Pornoscanner advisory flier - Boing Boing TSA head: We know nothing of Chertoff's pornoscanner conflict of ... Man at San Diego airport opts out of porno scanner and grope, told ... Molecular biologist on the dangers of pornoscanners - Boing Boing Pornoscanners trivially defeated by pancake-shaped explosives ... Pornoscanner CEO flew with Obama to India - Boing Boing NJ, ID legislators ready to ban airport pornoscanners - your help ... TSA has no regular testing system for its pornoscanners - Boing Boing Read the rest

TSA has no regular testing system for its pornoscanners

Many experts are skeptical that the TSA's new backscatter pornoscanner machines are safe, but even the experts who endorse them are careful to bracket their reassurances with certain caveats: the safety of the machines depends heavily on their being properly maintained, regularly tested, and expertly operated. Whether or not you're comfortable with the intended radiation emissions from the scanners, no one in their right mind would argue that a broken machine that lovingly lingers over your reproductive organs and infuses them with 10,000 or 100,000 times the normal dosage is desirable.

But when Andrew Schneider, AOL's public health correspondent, contacted the TSA to find out what maintenance and testing is in place to ensure the safe operation of the scanners, he discovered that the TSA appears to have no regime at all to ensure that they are functioning within normal parameters. While the TSA claims that entities like the FDA, the US Army and Johns Hopkins all regularly inspect their machines, none of these groups agrees, and they all disavow any role in regularly maintaining and testing the TSA's equipment (the Army has tested machines in three airports, but has not conducted any further testing). And Johns Hopkins denies that it has certified the machines as safe for operation in the first place -- let alone taking on any ongoing testing and certification program.

For example, the FDA says it doesn't do routine inspections of any nonmedical X-ray unit, including the ones operated by the TSA.

The FDA has not field-tested these scanners and hasn't inspected the manufacturer.

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Pornoscanners trivially defeated by pancake-shaped explosives

In case you were wondering whether pornoscanners are harder on the vast majority of innocent, non-terrorist fliers, or the minuscule minority of terrorists, wonder no more. From Leon Kaufman and Joseph W. Carlson's "An evaluation of airport x-ray backscatter units based on image characteristics," published in the Journal of Transportation Security:
The penetration not only distributes exposure throughout the body (this affecting the calculation of effective dose, which comprises a sum over all organs), but tends to diffuse the effects caused by contraband materials. Images can be made at low entrance exposures, but of very poor spatial resolution and S/N. The calculated signal excursions at high kilovoltage are so small as to make it doubtful that at any reasonable exposure levels density differences will be noticeable unless the contraband is packed thickly and with hard edges. Although the excursions are larger at low kilovoltage, they are still small and in the noise of the device's operational limits. The eye is a good signal averager at certain spatial frequencies, but it is doubtful that an operator can be trained to detect these differences unless the material is hard-edged, not too large and regular- shaped. Anatomic features and benign objects add structured noise that interferes with signal averaging. Figure 18 shows a widely-distributed backscatter image. On the left is a complete view of her torso, on the right, a section has been blacked out. While the breasts are easily recognized at right, without some prior knowledge of the subject, it would be hard to distinguish the increase of intensity in the superior part of her breasts from the natural gradients of the image.
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Pornoscan Santa xmas card

This funny xmas card was in my PO Box this morning, courtesy of Eric Mueller!

Rapiscan Santa and reindeer, Xmas Card from Eric Mueller and Ramona Ponce Read the rest

Molecular biologist on the dangers of pornoscanners

Jason Bell, "a molecular biologist and biophysicist... a Ph.D. candidate in Steve Kowalczykowski's lab at UC Davis," has posted a detailed critique of the research on the safety of airport backscatter radiation scanners. His specialty is the "molecular mechanism of how mutations in the breast cancer susceptibility gene, BRCA2, result in cancer," and he's posted a detailed, lay-friendly explanation of the scientific concerns expressed by the UCSF team that believes that they are unsafe for use.
Which brings me to how the scanner works. Essentially, it appears that an X-ray beam is rastered across the body, which highlights the importance of one of the specific concerns raised by the UCSF scientists... what happens if the machine fails, or gets stuck, during a raster. How much radiation would a person's eye, hand, testicle, stomach, etc be exposed to during such a failure. What is the failure rate of these machines? What is the failure rate in an operational environment? Who services the machine? What is the decay rate of the filter? What is the decay rate of the shielding material? What is the variability in the power of the X-ray source during the manufacturing process? This last question may seem trivial; however, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory noted significant differences in their test models, which were supposed to be precisely up to spec. Its also interesting to note that the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory criticized other reports from NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) and a group called Medical and Health Physics Consulting for testing the machine while one of the two X-ray sources was disabled (citations at the bottom of the page).
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German Pirate Party members strip off for Berlin airport scanner protest

Hardy members of Germany's Pirate Party stripped down to their underwear and went to Berlin airport, their bodies marked with slogans in makeup or on paper signs: "Something to hide?", "Be a good citizen -- drop your pants."

One woman has the word diaper scrawled on her lower back with an arrow pointing to her underwear and the word prosthetic printed on her leg. The word piercing and an arrow point to one of her breasts.

The full-body scanners use high-frequency radio waves to produce an image of a passengers naked body beneath clothes. Anything a passenger is carrying against the body -- weapons, drugs or explosives -- would be exposed. The scanners would also reveal the presence of prosthetic devices and breast implants.

As such, there have been privacy and legal concerns raised about the invasive equipment, particularly because its unclear if the scanners would be able to detect explosives hidden in body cavities and would therefore likely provide only minimal security.

Full Monty Scanner or Enhanced Pat-Down - the Only Options? (Thanks, J9C, via Submitterator)  Pornoscanner advisory flier - Boing Boing Pornoscanner CEO flew with Obama to India - Boing Boing TSA head: We know nothing of Chertoff's pornoscanner conflict of ... Man at San Diego airport opts out of porno scanner and grope, told ... Traveller re-enters USA without passing through a pornoscanner or ... Federast: t-shirt for the age of TSA pornoscanners and grope-a ... Read the rest

Menstruating woman subjected to TSA grope because panty-liner obscured her vulva on pornoscanner

A self-described "rule follower" went through an airport pornoscanner wearing a panty-liner (she was menstruating). Because the hygienic item obscured the screener's view of her vagina vulva, she was made to endure a humiliating fondling, "so invasive that I was left crying and dealing with memories that I thought had been dealt with years ago of prior sexual assaults."
These new scans are so horrible that if you are wearing something unusual (like a piece of cloth on your panties) then you will be subjected to a search where a woman repeatedly has to check your "groin" while another woman watches on (two in my case - they were training in a new girl - awesome). So please, please, tell the ladies not to wear their liners at the airport (I didn't even have an insert in). I'm a strong, confident woman; I'm an Army vet (which is why those camo liners crack me up), I work full-time and go to graduate school full-time, I have a wonderful husband, and I don't take any nonsense from anyone. I don't dramatize, and I don't exaggerate. I'm trying to give you a sense of who I am so you won't think that this is a plea for attention, or a jumping on the bandwagon about the recent TSA proposed boycott. I just don't want another woman to have to go through the "patting down" because she didn't know that her glad-rag would be a matter of national security."
There are plenty of TSA apologists who say that objections to the TSA's invasive "pat-downs" are just whining from people don't want to go through the backscatter radiation machines -- we bring it on ourselves. Read the rest

TSA looks at Adam Savage's junk, misses his two 12" razor blades

Back in May, before the widespread introduction of pornoscanners at US airports, Mythbusters' Adam Savage was selected for an early test of the machines. As he recounts in this presentation from w00tstock Seattle, the pornoscanner turned up a long and loving look at his penis, but the screeners missed the fact that he'd forgotten to leave his two 12" razor blades at home before setting out for the airport.

#w00tstock Seattle: Adam Savage says "WTF, TSA?" (Thanks, EMJ, via Submitterator!)  Naked airport scanner catches cellphone, misses bomb components ... Read the rest

Traveller re-enters USA without passing through a pornoscanner or having his genitals touched

Matt returned from Paris to Cincinnati, where he was given the choice of a pornoscanner or a bit of the old nutsack-fondling from the TSA. Instead, Matt insisted that it was his right as an American with a passport who was n ot suspected of any wrongdoing to enter his country. The TSA told him the airport cops would arrest him if he didn't comply. The airport cops told him it was up to the TSA and clearly didn't appreciate being made to do someone else's dirty work. In the end, he was escorted out of the airport without having to submit to either procedure. He recorded much of the encounter on with his iPhone's audio recorder, too.
He offers as an alternative, "What if we were to escort you out with us? It would involve a pat-down, but it would be us doing it instead."

"Would you touch my balls?"

"I don't want to touch your - genital region, but my hand might brush against it."

I clarify, "Well, like I said, I'll do whatever you say is mandatory. If you tell me that you have to touch my balls--"

"--I said no such thing. You're putting words in my mouth."

"OK. I apologize. If you say that a pat-down is mandatory, and that as a condition of that pat-down, I may have my genitals brushed against by your hand, even though you don't want to, I will do that. But only if you say it is mandatory."

"I'm not going to say that."

You Don't Need to See His Identification (via Reddit)  Don't TSA me, bro: Boing Boing open thread, and new rules for ... Read the rest

What John Pistole means when he talks about "enhanced" TSA checkpoints

In this video, YouTube user SpinRemover adds subtitles to TSA boss John Pistole's now-infamous Anderson Cooper interview, translating bureaucratese into plain English.

John Pistole gets honest about Porno Scanners and pat downs.. (Thanks, Jumbie, via Submitterator!)  TSA head: We know nothing of Chertoff's pornoscanner conflict of ... Read the rest

Federast: t-shirt for the age of TSA pornoscanners and grope-a-thons

At $34.99, this "Federast" t-shirt may be one of the more expensive means of getting singled out for punitive treatment at an airport checkpoint.

Federast (Thanks, Janee!)  Stop Groping Me TSA shirt - Boing Boing TSA tee: "We get to touch your junk" - Boing Boing More TSA "grope vs porno shoot" tees - Boing Boing TSA: Transgender Shirt Association - Boing Boing Security theater tees - Boing Boing Read the rest

Pornoscanner advisory flier

Here's a PDF flier on the dangers of pornoscanners to print and alarm your fellow aviation sufferers with. (Thanks, Meredith!) Read the rest

How TSA screeners feel about junk-touching

Here's a survey of 17 anonymous TSA Transportation Security Officers, discussing their discomfort with being required to touch strangers' genitals to earn a living:
"It is not comfortable to come to work knowing full well that my hands will be feeling another man's private parts, their butt, their inner thigh. Even worse is having to try and feel inside the flab rolls of obese passengers and we seem to get a lot of obese passengers!"

"Do you think I want to go to work and place my hands between women's legs and touch their breasts for a few hours? For starters, I am attracted to men, not women and if I was attracted to women, it would not be the large number of passengers I handle daily that have a problem understanding what personal hygiene is."

"Yesterday a passenger told me to keep my hands off his penis or he'd scream. Is this how a 40 year old man in business attire acts? He'll scream? My 3 year old can get away with saying he'll scream, but a 40 something business man? I am a professional doing my job, whether I agree with this current policy or not, I am doing my job. I do not want to be here all day touching penises."

TSA Enhanced Pat Downs : The Screeners Point Of View  TSA head: We know nothing of Chertoff's pornoscanner conflict of ... Man at San Diego airport opts out of porno scanner and grope, told ... We Won't Fly: national aviation opt-out day in protest of TSA ... Read the rest

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