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The Ineffectiveness of TSA Body Scanners 494

Posted by Soulskill
from the they're-expensive-therefore-they-work dept.
TheNextCorner points out a video that lays bare a glaring flaw in the TSA body scanners used in airports to detect weapons and explosives. In such scans, citizens are depicted in light colors, while metallic objects show as very dark. The problem comes when you consider that the images are taken with a dark background. From the transcript: "Yes that’s right, if you have a metallic object on your side, it will be the same color as the background and therefore completely invisible to both visual and automated inspection. It can’t possibly be that easy to beat the TSA’s billion dollar fleet of nude body scanners, right? The TSA can’t be that stupid, can they? Unfortunately, they can, and they are. 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."
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The Ineffectiveness of TSA Body Scanners

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  • Scanner image hoax (Score:5, Informative)

    by sixtyeight (844265) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @01:33AM (#39271559)

    Images purporting to show what TSA scanners actually get have been demonstrated to be fakes:

    http://forum.prisonplanet.com/index.php?topic=154635.0 [prisonplanet.com]

  • the solution (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @01:37AM (#39271589)

    The workaround for this is to have people turn at 45 intervals in the scanner so that you can catch them at every angle. Of course this will increase the time it takes to scan each individual which means you will need to buy more backscatter x-ray machines and hire more TSA employees to keep people moving through at the same rate.

  • by afaik_ianal (918433) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @01:43AM (#39271651)

    How many guns were smuggled onto planes as part of 9/11 again? You could easily conceal a weapon in a tin that size.

    His point is that a metal detector would've actually detected that tin, and allowed them to inspect the contents to see if contained something that might be used as a weapon, with much less impact on his privacy.

  • Re:Stop aiding (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @01:56AM (#39271725)

    I really want to understand this joke.

    It's a saying - "they can't tell the difference between their ass and a hole in the ground'

  • by Riceballsan (816702) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @02:04AM (#39271797)
    Indeed all of the actual holes that were exploited on 9/11 were pretty much patched very early. The main holes being 1. Policies saying let hijackers do whatever they want, wait till they land to have them arrested. 2. the cockpit doors being weak. Even if the underware and shoebomber both succeeded (both of which succesfully being thwarted without the super overintrusive new TSA rules), air travel as a whole still has less total risks than driving to the airport. In the end soceity has to realize that to some extent we have to ballance control of horrible deaths. I would imagine there are far more ways that people die that could be prevented if we applied anywhere near the money we put into TSA post 9/11 than we saved in reality. There are no shortage of underfunded disaster control, rescue, fire departments, starving homeless etc... We also could improve the quality of life by putting things into schools, or encorage more science by funding NASA etc... Decisions inspired by sudden knee jerk fear are rarely good ones and often we forget the scale of what we are fighting against is actually very small.
  • Re:Test First (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mitreya (579078) <mitreya@LISPgmail.com minus language> on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @02:14AM (#39271875)

    You seem to be under the impression that the scanners are supposed to achieve something other than enriching the people who make them.

    The one thing I do not understand is why is this happening in so many countries. Is it that easy to get rich everywhere - just make ridiculous, useless, 6-figure machines? In London, there is not even a pat-down option if you are selected (so I am not flying out of there).
    And who benefits from the ridiculous 3-ounce liquid rules, besides the vendors inside airports??

  • Re:SSDD (Score:5, Informative)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @04:07AM (#39272391) Journal

    At the time of the 9/11/2001 attacks, it was legal to bring a box cutter aboard an airplane.

    Untrue. Pocket knives were legal. Box cutters and straight razors have never been allowed as best I can determine. (Source: planesafe.org [planesafe.org])

    Besides, there's reason to suspect that they were never taken through security in the first place [cnn.com], making the entire question moot.

    By the way, it might be happening again [go.com].

  • Re:SSDD (Score:5, Informative)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo @ w orld3.net> on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @05:52AM (#39272853) Homepage

    In Europe shelter is a human right, meaning that if someone really has absolutely nowhere they can stay then society (via the government) is responsible for getting a roof over their head. The accommodation provided is horrible and no-one would want to stay there, but basically we put an end to people sleeping rough on the streets. It didn't even cost that much.

    The US could do it too, and the problem isn't money. The problem is that such a move by the government would be politcally unacceptable. Charities helping is fine for some reason, but not making it an actual right that the government must uphold.

  • Re:SSDD (Score:4, Informative)

    by HopefulIntern (1759406) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @08:22AM (#39273465)
    Needlessly, because we have homeless shelters for them to go to.
  • by Caradoc (15903) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @08:24AM (#39273477) Homepage
    A millimeter-wave scanner looks like an oversized phone booth with either windows or large open spaces, while a backscatter scanner looks like a pair of large boxes that one walks between, turns to face one wall and assumes the "surrender" position.
  • Re:SSDD (Score:4, Informative)

    by RubberMallet (2499906) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @09:02AM (#39273779)

    The stupid part is, there is a place for them all to go in Germany. There is a whole infrastructure in place to help them out... a dry warm place to live (albeit basic and not luxurious by any stretch of the imagination, but it beats sleeping rough on a U-Bahn floor), food, medical. There is no valid excuse except maybe that they are so far gone they don't care anymore, or they are illegals.. and as such are not in the system... being IN the system in Germany is critical.

  • Re:SSDD (Score:5, Informative)

    by wvmarle (1070040) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @09:38AM (#39274049)

    That the UN fails in many situations does not mean the UN is not the body that is supposed to handle it. One of the reasons the UN fails is that many countries, the US being a notorious example, don't accept the UN's decisions and go their own way. Or simply do not pay their dues, either in cash or man power. That is the problem.

    The UN was set up to handle international conflict in a peaceful way, and to enhance peace in general. The fact that we have the UN is a success in itself. That it's not set up properly (e.g. giving six countries absolute veto power - thus allowing a single country to override consencus reached by the rest of the world), is another matter.

  • Re:SSDD (Score:5, Informative)

    by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @09:40AM (#39274077) Homepage Journal

    Everything going on in that region can be traced back to the pipelines. There is billions of dollars to be made. Natural gas is really cheap right now, there is lots of it, so the strategy is to destroy everybody else's pipeline so you can charge monopoly prices for transmission in yours. The US military is used for these energy companies. They are still in Afghanistan because it's an important transmission route for gas and oil [state.gov]. There is bombing and fighting is Homs Syria because that's where the construction of the Arab pipeline is stalled. The US is now supporting the TIPA pipeline, which will go through Afghanistan. The competition would be the TI pipeline, which is the real reason [cbsnews.com] for all the saber rattled over Iran.

    Here's a clue: Why is Gohmert trying to carve out an independent province in Pakistan [house.gov]? Because that's where the TAPI pipeline would be built through. The Pakistanis are rightfully pissed about it [newkerala.com].

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