OverTheGeicoE writes: TSA recently announced that it would remove all of Rapiscan's X-ray body scanners from airports by June. As part of this effort, it is trying to move a millimeter-wave body scanner from the Helena, Montana airport to replace an X-ray unit at a busier airport. Strangely enough, they have encountered resistance from the Helena's Airport Manager, Ron Mercer. Last Thursday, workers came to remove the machine, but were prevented from doing so by airport officials. Why? Perhaps Mercer agrees with Cindi Martin, airport director at Montana's Glacier Park International Airport airport, who called the scheduled removal of her airport's scanner 'a great disservice to the flying public' in part because it 'removed the need for the enhanced pat-down.'
OverTheGeicoE writes: If you're concerned about possible health effects from TSA's X-ray body scanners, you might be pleased to learn that TSA is making changes. TSA is removing X-ray body scanners from major airports including Los Angeles International, Boston's Logan, Chicago's O'Hare, and New York City's JFK. Then again, these changes might not please you at all, because they are not mothballing the offending devices. No, they are instead moving them to smaller airports like the one in Mesa, AZ. Is this progress, or is TSA just moving potentially dangerous scanners from 'Blue' areas to 'Red' ones right before a presidential election?
OverTheGeicoE writes: The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a motion in court yesterday regarding the court's ignored year-old ruling on EPIC vs. DHS. EPIC is asking the court to require DHS to start taking public comment within 60 days or, as an alternative, forbid DHS from using body scanners in primary airport screening altogether. If the court orders the latter, that would give EPIC what it originally sought in its lawsuit. Meanwhile, for what it's worth, the related petition on whitehouse.gov has a little more than half the signatures it needs to get an official 'response.' The signing period ends on August 9.
OverTheGeicoE writes: About a year ago, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on EPIC v. DHS, a lawsuit that sought to end TSA's use of body scanners. The Court found that DHS violated federal law by not seeking public comment before using body scanners as a primary search method. They ordered TSA to take public comment on its body scanning policy but did not require TSA to suspend its use of the scanners during the comment period. Several months later nothing had been done yet. One year later TSA has still done nothing, and even EPIC, the original plaintiff, seems to have given up. Others have apparently picked up the torch, however. Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute, has posted a piece on Ars Technica about TSA's violation of the court order. He also started a petition on Whitehouse.gov asking TSA to comply with the order. An earlier petition ended with a non-response from TSA Administrator John Pistole. Will the latest petition fare any better, even in an election year?
OverTheGeicoE writes: Over a month after Sen. Rand Paul announced his intention to pull the plug on TSA, he has finally released his legislation that he tweets will 'abolish the #TSA & establish a passengers "Bill of Rights."' Although the tweet sounds radical, the press release describing his proposed legislation is much less so. 'Abolition' really means privatization; one of Paul's proposals would simply force all screenings to be conducted by private screeners. The proposed changes in the 'passenger Bill of Rights' appear to involve slight modifications to existing screening methods at best. Many of his 'rights' are already guaranteed under current law, like the right to opt-out of body scanning. Others can only vaguely be described as rights, like 'expansion of canine screening.' Here's to the new boss...
OverTheGeicoE writes: Savannah Barry, a Colorado teenager, was returning home from a conference in Salt Lake City. She is a diabetic and wears an insulin pump to control her insulin levels 24/7. She carries documentation of her condition to assist screeners, who usually give her a pat-down search. This time the screeners listened to her story, read her doctor's letter, and forced her to go through a millimeter-wave body scanner anyway. The insulin pump stopped working immediately, and of course, she was subjected to a full invasive manual search. 'My life is pretty much in their hands when I go through a body scan with my insulin pump on,' she says. She wants TSA screeners to have more training. Was this a predictable outcome, considering that no one outside TSA has access to millimeter-wave scanners for testing? How powerful must the body scanner's emitter be to destroy electronic devices? Would oversight from the FDA or FCC prevent similar incidents from happening in the future?
OverTheGeicoE writes: Jonathan Corbett, creator of the video showing that TSA's body scanners can't see metal objects on our sides, has a new video out. This time he's interviewing an experienced TSA screener identified only as 'Jennifer,' and her allegations point to 'fatal flaws' in TSA and its procedures. Worse, TSA's screeners are well aware of these flaws. According to 'Jennifer,' body scanners frequently fail to detect objects on passengers, and this flaw is well known to the screeners on the job. People with visible items in their pockets can pass through scanners without detection, even when the items are simulated weapons or explosives. 'Jennifer' also alleges that training for screeners is severely lacking. Screeners are directed to operate body scanners, even the X-ray scanners, without any training whatsoever. The manual of standard operating procedures often can't be found at the checkpoints, let alone read. 'Jennifer' was so alarmed by what she experienced that she wrote her congressional representative to complain. She was ultimately fired as a result, effective today.
OverTheGeicoE writes: Blogger and anti-TSA activist Jonathan Corbett has just published a video showing how to bring any object through any type of TSA body scanner without it being detected. In his demonstration he places a small metal case in a side pocket of his shirt he sewed on himself. He then proceeds through two different body scanners, one millimeter-wave and one X-ray, while his video camera records through the X-ray carry on inspection process. When he returns to his bin to collect his items, he drops his metal case next to the video camera, showing that it made it through the scanner undetected. Corbett's demonstration seems to confirm the 2010 conclusions of Kaufman and Carlson, who wrote that 'an object such as a wire or a boxcutter blade, taped to the side of the body, or even a small gun in the same location, will be invisible.'
OverTheGeicoE writes: The European Union has adopted a proposal to regulate airport body scanners at Member State airports. No Member State or airport is obligated to use scanners, but if they do, the scanners must conform to new European Union standards. Here's a partial list. Scanners must not store, retain, copy, print, or retrieve passenger images. The image viewer must be in a remote location. Passengers must be informed how the scanners are being controled, and can opt out if they choose. Perhaps most importantly, x-ray scanners are banned 'in order not to risk jeopardising citizens' health and safety.'
OverTheGeicoE writes: ProPublica has a story on how x-ray scanners became the controversial yet mandatory security fixtures we in the US must now endure. The story title, "U.S. Government Glossed Over Cancer Concerns As It Rolled Out Airport X-Ray Scanners," summarizes a substantial part of the article, but not all of it. The story also describes how government attitudes about the scanners went from overwhelmingly negative in the early 1990's to the naive optimism we see today. How did this change occur? The government weakened its regulatory structure for radiation safety in electronic devices, and left defining safety standards to an ANSI committee dominated by scanner producers and users (prison and customs officials). Even after 9/11 there was still great mistrust of x-ray scanners, but nine years of lobbying from scanner manufacturers, panic over failed terrorist attacks, and pressure from legislators advancing businesses in their own districts eventually forced the devices into the airports. The article estimates that 6 to 100 cancers per year will be caused by the x-ray scanners.