100 controversial whole body imaging photos revealed

Gadget blog Gizmodo.com has obtained access to 100 images captured by a whole body imaging machine that was installed at a Florida courthouse. We covered the incident back in August, but a Freedom of Information Act request has finally produced the actual photos.

When these machines were installed, we were all told that none of them would actually store photos. As images started leaking out, it became obvious that these claims were of course false. In the video clip created by Gizmodo, you see people occupying the scanner, along with his or her body scan.

There is some good news – as the images clearly show that they don’t reveal all that much. People hoping to see clear images of genitalia will be quite disappointed.

Still, it is quite alarming that the images were stored in the first place – though we do need to point out that this particular scanner was not operated by the TSA – it is a millimeter wave scanner, operated by the U.S. Marshals service. Even though the technology and operation is slightly different from the airport machines, the resulting images are very similar.

Of course it also means that despite all the reassurances, the machines are capable of storing photos, and I am confident that it is just a matter of time till an airport is involved in a similar privacy incident.

What do you think? Do these photos make you more or less afraid to use the whole body scanning machines?


[Image from Gizmodo.com]


Scientists question safety of airport full body scanners

As soon as the underpants bomber was caught, the US department of Homeland Security started a rapid deployment of full body scanning equipment. These new scanners can see under clothes, and are designed to check for bombs or other suspicious items.

The technology is by no means new, and the Transportation Security Administrations has been using similar technology for years, but only on a very limited basis. Since the first of these machines made it to an airport, the TSA has been very vocal about telling the traveling public that they are 100% safe, and that we have nothing to worry about.

Except for the risk of too much exposure to ionizing radiation that is…

Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco are disputing the claims that the machines are safe – and have presented their own research on the effects of the radiation from a trip through a whole body scanner.

According to the researchers, the calculated amount of radiation was based upon an average over the whole body – but the number that actually gets deposited in your skin may be higher – though they don’t know by how much.

Rapiscan, who build the majority of the machines being installed around the nation refused to comment on the findings, but the TSA repeated that travelers would need to go through the machines thousands of times just to reach the radiation levels you receive when you get a chest X-ray.

David Brenner, head of Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research also aired his concerns – “There really is no other technology around where we’re planning to X-ray such an enormous number of individuals. It’s really unprecedented in the radiation world”.

I’m not sure about you – but those findings don’t sit too well with me. I’m obviously not against technologies that can prevent terrorism, but there are limits to what the traveling public should be subjected to. When the scanners were first tested, their purpose was for secondary scanning procedures, not for mass scans of every passenger.


(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Small dick joke has TSA worker beaten up after security scanner incident

It was only a matter of time till the whole body imaging machines being installed around the country would set off some kind of nastiness. After the “love those gigantic tits” incident in the United Kingdom last month, the United States is finally getting a taste of the problems these machines can create.

During a training session at Miami International Airport, a TSA supervisor joked about the size of the manhood of one of his colleagues who had just stepped into the machine. The supervisor was operating the equipment when he made the remark – so his joke could have been based on facts.

Rolando Negrin couldn’t appreciate the jokes about his genitalia, so at the end of his shift, he used a police baton to beat up the supervisor in an airport parking garage. The police report states “victim stated he was in fear and complied with [Negron].” after being told to get down on his knees and apologize.

Negron was arrested the next day where he told police he had been made fun of by his co-workers. He has been arrested and booked into the local jail.

As usual – the first thing that comes to mind is that we yet again get evidence of the professionalism of the TSA – the people hired to protect our skies apparently think it is OK to assault someone in a parking garage. That said – I can totally understand why someone would get a little upset over a bunch of “small dick” jokes, especially if said colleagues have actually seen naked images of you.

Of course, this is the worst kind of PR you can possible get when trying to convince the public about the effectiveness of whole body imagers. We’ve all been told that our privacy is safe, and that images will never be stored – but the good folks at the TSA managed to screw that up in just one afternoon, all thanks to their juvenile pranks.

For all the details on the incident, head on over to The Smoking Gun for the police affidavit.

Update: The TSA blog has issued a statement about the incident. As usual, they are “taking it seriously” and are “looking into it”.

Israeli airport security specialist – full body scanners are a waste of money

For years – supporters of strict airport security have pointed to the effective systems in place in Israel, and claimed that those systems would finally make the TSA a more effective organization.

Unfortunately for the government, one of the men that helped design the security programs at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport has spoken out against the implementation of full body imaging machines.

Rafi Sela told the Canadian Parliament that the machines are useless, and that he could pass through them undetected with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747.

Of course, he did not specify how to do this, but he did point out that there is a reason Israel has not invested in the machines.

The news probably won’t change the direction the TSA is taking, but it does once again make clear that the mass implementation of these very expensive scanners will not be as effective as they are hoped to be.

Mr. Sela published a very insightful article about U.S. airport security back in 2004 – and sadly, it does not appear that much has changed since then.

(Image: Getty Images)

Airport security — what works, and what does not?

With so much talk about new explosive detection equipment and the upcoming full body scanners, we decided to look into some of the current technology in place at airports around the world. What works, and what does not?

Will the future of airport security involve everyone stripping down to their underpants? Or will technology evolve to the point where computers can detect terrorists from a distance?

Metal detector

The airport metal detector is a piece of equipment that works absolutely perfectly – for finding metal. It won’t detect explosives, ceramic knives or anything else that is not metallic. And it isn’t designed for that – its sole purpose is to detect metal objects.

Anyone who has left their belt on, or had some loose change will know how sensitive these things are.

Why they don’t always work: Can only detect metal. Can’t sense explosives, ceramic blades or liquids.

The x-ray machine

At the airport, baggage is checked at two places – at the security checkpoint, and at the checked bag drop-off. These machines are pretty good. But they have a fatal flaw – they can’t detect anything without the presence of a human operator. And lets be honest – someone that has to sit in front of a monitor looking at bags move past them will never reach a 100% accuracy. Things will slip through the cracks.

Why they don’t always work: The human element is the weak spot. Unable to “sniff” for explosives.

Passenger puffer machine

The “puffer machine” was supposed to be the ultimate in airport security. You step into the machine, it blows puffs of air on you, and “smells” for explosives. It all sounds like the perfect solution. These machines were in place at several airports on a trial basis before they were all removed due to “unforeseen technical problems”.

Millions were invested in the devices, which are now probably collecting dust in a storage facility. High profile research labs are still working on better solutions, and there are several very promising technologies in the very early stages of development. Sadly, without some really serious government money, those machines won’t be at your local airport any time soon.

Why they don’t always work:
Citing “technical difficulties”, they are no longer in use at US airports.

Swab explosives detector

Anyone who has been pulled aside for a secondary search (the dreaded “SSSS” on your boarding pass” will have seen the screening expert “swab” their bag and place the sample inside an expensive looking machine. The machine sniffs for explosives, and can detect the smallest trace of stuff that can blow up a plane.

Why they don’t always work: only passengers selected for secondary screening are pulled aside for a swab detection. Easy to get a false positive.

Full body imager

The full body imager (or whole body imager / millimeter wave scanner) is supposed to be the holy grail of airport security. After the Nigerian underpants bomber was pulled off his plane, these new machines popped up in the news and within days, the first ones were being ordered for European airports.

Tests have been conducted on the machines, and there is a very big chance that the underpants bomber would not have been caught had he passed through one. Then there is of course the issue of privacy. We all want to fly on a plane without any terrorists wearing bombs wrapped around their groin, but apparently we draw the line at letting security staff stare at our naked bodies on a TV screen. To make matters worse, we were promised that none of the US based machines could store or send our images, but CNN already discovered that was was a lie.

Why they don’t always work: Only at select airports, only passengers pulled aside for secondary screening are asked to voluntarily go through the machine, possibly not 100% reliable.

Passenger no-fly lists

The super secret passenger no-fly lists collect data from several sources. It isn’t necessarily filled with the names of the worst terror suspects in the world, and the list has been proven to be terribly inaccurate. Worst of all, those people that have a name that matches something on the list have had a hell of a time getting through airport security.

The Nigerian underpants bomber was on one list of terror suspects, but apparently was not considered dangerous enough to warrant adding to the no-fly list. At the same time, 8 year old kids are stopped because their name matches someone dangerous.

Why they don’t always work:
Too much data, but not enough ways to find the bad guys.


Pat-downs have been proven to be ineffective – and for one simple reason; fear of embarrassing travelers. The underpants bomber would have successfully passed a pat-down because screening staff don’t do a comprehensive search. The only kind of search that will work, is the kind used in prisons.

You can’t find explosives attached to someones private parts if you don’t physically search that area. Is a full effective pat-down embarrassing? You bet it is. But it is a heck of a lot more effective than just waving a wand up and down your legs.

Why they don’t work: You can’t perform a full search, without performing an actual FULL search,

(Images courtesy of Flickr users Daquella Manera and jcortell – click images for direct source)

What strange things have been found on planes?