Body scanners used as porn by airport security

It had to happen sooner or later.

The Nigerian newspaper This Day has reported that security officials at Lagos airport are getting their jollies by watching female passengers go through a full-body scanner.

Nigerian investigative reporters visited the airport during a slow period when security officials had time to spare. The journalists found some of them hanging around the scanner display. Since the scanner blurs the face in an attempt to give anonymity, the officers were hurrying over to the line to peek at the passengers before going back to the scanner to check out their favorites.

The scanner was installed after the failed attack by underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was from Lagos, yet technicians have revealed a full-body scan wouldn’t have caught him. An Israeli security expert who helped plan security at Israel’s super-strict Ben Gurion Airport says body scanners don’t work. Israeli airports don’t use the device.

Many Nigerians feel it is against their religion to expose themselves to a stranger, while others fear the effects of radiation. The investigative journalists witnessed passengers objecting to go through the scanner until security turned off one of the metal detectors, giving them the choice of using the full-body scanner or waiting in a longer line.

Feds cop to airport scanner porn

The feds are keeping an archive of under-the-flesh security shots. Though the TSA has said in the past that airport body scans can’t be stored or recorded, some agencies are now revealing archives of the revealing. Well, that isn’t true after all, according to 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.

The TSA, it seems, requires all airport body scanners to be able to store images and transmit them – strange for a device that is supposed to do neither for “testing, training, and evaluation purposes.” Don’t worry, though. The TSA says these capabilities aren’t “normally activated when the devices are installed at airports,” reports CNET.

Translation: “Trust us. We could do something bad … but we won’t.”

So, next time you fly and fear that images of your privates may end up being stored somewhere, consider sticking some “Flying Pasties” to your unmentionables.So, how much security porn has been accumulated? According to William Bordley, associate general counsel with the U.S. Marshals Service says: 35,314 images in an Orlando, Florida courthouse. The device can store up to 40,000 images.

Relax, says the TSA. It’ Constitutional:

“The program is designed to respect individual sensibilities regarding privacy, modesty and personal autonomy to the maximum extent possible, while still performing its crucial function of protecting all members of the public from potentially catastrophic events.”

What are “individual sensibilities”? I think I’ll go with Justice Potter Stewart on this one: I know it when I see it.

[Photo credit: ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images]

Video shows the cause of Newark Airport shutdown – a couple in love

On Sunday, thousands of passengers ended up stuck at Newark airport for several hours, forced to evacuate the terminal, go through security again, and wait for the many flight delays and disruptions that happened as a result.

Some passengers tried to make the best of the situation. Many probably expressed frustration with the TSA employee who allowed a mystery man to walk the wrong way through a security checkpoint. And others may have wondered who the man was who caused them to suffer through the ordeal.

Was he a terrorist checking out the security system? Was he a man who made an Innocent mistake? No, as the just-released video footage of the incident suggests, he was a just a guy in love, looking for a few more minutes with his sweetheart. On the video below, you can see him hanging out by the security desk. He’s asked to move and does so, but when the guard leaves his post just a few seconds later, the guy takes that opportunity to duck under the rope and join his lady friend.

Ah, love. Cute, right? No. Not even a little. As a result of this guy breaking the law, and of the TSA employee’s failure to do his job, thousands of people were needlessly evacuated from the terminal. Time and money were wasted. And a few hundred people probably missed important connections or meetings, or at least had their vacation get off to a really bad start.

This guy wasn’t a terrorist (just an idiot), but the next person who tries and succeeds in getting past security could be. More than just frustrating travelers going through Newark on Sunday, the incident exposed just how insufficient TSA security is. What good are X-ray scanners and full-body pat-downs when a guy can simply breeze past an empty guard desk? It looks like our biggest threat to security may not be underpants bombs, but rather the lax attitudes of some employees within the TSA.

The TSA employee has been placed on administrative leave. The man who slipped past security has not been identified.

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Check out these other stories from the airport checkpoint!

Airport pat-downs: exercise in futility

Is this really a shock? Pat-downs don’t work well. Aviation experts say that government rules limit where the security folks can check, which means that would-be bombers only need to stash their illicit goods in the uncomfortable places that can’t be touched. Any frequent traveler has been subject to this ritual at least once – and has probably wondered what good it does. Arms, armpits and legs are felt … but is this where anybody would stash something illegal or dangerous?

Making the ritual more troublesome is that the pat-down only occurs when there is a triggering event, specifically the chirp of the metal detector. Clear the technology, and the effectiveness of a pat-down is irrelevant.

The current pat-down technique was shaped by a 2004 TSA list, which was based on complaints by female passengers … and even the revised approach, which protects sensitive body parts and hasn’t been released to the public, hasn’t been enough to prevent the occasional irritation over underwire.

A Government Accountability Office report last year led to some changes, because federal investigators were able to sneak liquid explosives and detonators through airport security checkpoints. The changes that followed opened up the areas open to search – including breasts and groins – but only in certain situations.According to a statement by the TSA, “This new procedure will affect a very small percentage of travelers, but it is a critical element in ensuring the safety of the flying public.”

Of course, the Christmas bombing attempt has prompted a renewed interest in airport pat-downs. They may not be effective, but action is better than nothing, right? Yet, passengers again pushed back, with Gerry Berry, a Florida-based airport security expert, telling The Associated Press, “People just wouldn’t stand for it. You wouldn’t. I wouldn’t.”

And, there’s always the fear of litigation when normally covered and protected body parts are involved. The TSA says that security balanced with privacy concerns is its top priority.

Meanwhile, the comforting touch of a TSA staffer could become more common. As full-body scanners are deployed more widely, passengers will be able to choose personal contact over a total scan.

[Photo by The Consumerist via Flickr]

The Netherlands to start full body scans of all US bound passengers

The Dutch government held a press conference this morning announcing their plans to beef up security at Amsterdam Schiphol airport.

Within three weeks, fifteen bodyscan machines will be in place (sources say the machines are the Rapiscan Secure 1000 scanners), and a 100% screening of all US bound passengers may help prevent a repeat of the Northwest Airlines incident.

See – THIS is how you tackle security. Something happens, and within 3 weeks, you implement the technology required to prevent it from happening again. I’m not a big fan of the bodyscanners, but given how the terrorists are operating, I don’t see any other solution, short of asking people to fly naked.

Government officials made it clear that only one person will be able to view the scanner screen at a time, and that images can not be stored. The initial implementation requires border protection police staff to view the screens, but the next version will be fully automated, and a computer will determine whether any items are on your body that require closer scrutiny.

Of course, the Dutch privacy groups are very much against the scanners. My biggest concern is that images of naked children leak out, and make their way into the hands of pedophile groups. If governments are indeed going to start an accelerated roll out of these scanners, they’d better be 100% sure they protect our privacy – if they screw this up (and chances are, they will), the backlash will be fierce.