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Electronic Frontier Foundation Privacy Security The Almighty Buck Transportation Politics

TSA Spending $245 Million On "Second Generation" Body Scanners 335

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the amtrak-promotion-program dept.
McGruber writes "Continuing its standard practice of wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, the TSA has awarded an indefinite delivery / indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract, worth up to $245 Million, to American Science and Engineering Inc. to deliver an unspecified number of 'second generation' Advanced Imaging Technology screening systems for use at U.S. airports. As previously reported, Jonathan Corbett proved that TSA's current nude-o-scopes are incapable of actually detecting hidden objects."
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TSA Spending $245 Million On "Second Generation" Body Scanners

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  • Note to TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @09:14AM (#41386595) Journal

    Second generation != better

    Maybe they should think about using the methods employed by countries like Israel which actually work.

  • by fredrated (639554) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @09:19AM (#41386657) Journal

    Nothing less than that. It's what government does today. I say that as a life-time Democrat that used to think the government could do some good.

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @09:21AM (#41386677)

    Call me crazy, but wouldn't a metal scanner and the cockpit doors being locked be more than good enough to prevent a new 9/11 type scenario?

    It would prevent stuff like a crowbar or whatever being taken in, so all in all, only about a 100 people could be killed and minimal damage done if the pilots never open the cockpits themselves. And to kill a 100 people without being able to take in a gun would be quite hard already. Thus it starts to be a harder terrorist action to pull of with little reward, following the concept of not being the fastest prey, but simply not being the slowest one either.

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reverand Dave (1959652) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @09:27AM (#41386751)
    No, because remember this has nothing to do with keeping anyone safe. It's all about the theatrics. Security theatre is our policy, not actual safety. Besides, what do we really have to protect ourselves from? The threat of terrorism is as marginal and idiotic as the threat of getting cancer from a hair dye. It's merely a scare tactic to keep people jumping through as many pointless hoops as possible.
  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by trout007 (975317) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @09:29AM (#41386775)

    In reality you didn't need to do anything post 9/11. Even on United 93 they figured out to fight back. The key weakness the terrorists exploited was not security but the policy of submitting to hijackers. After 9/11 passengers have shown time and time again that they will fight back.

  • by LeDopore (898286) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @09:32AM (#41386819) Homepage Journal

    I think it's a bad move that they chose X rays instead of THz for this generation. THz rays can't hurt you, while the TSA has been preventing independent safety analyses of the backscatter X ray machines.

    The total dose of backscatter X rays is low, but it's so concentrated that it might still be a problem. Cancer risk grows superlinearly with exposure, so concentrating exposure to skin effectively amplifies the effects of the small dose. Independent medical researchers are not permitted to investigate these machines, so we don't actually know if they present a problem. We're not all going to die, but it could be that choosing X rays over microwaves will result in a few dozen extra cancer deaths per year, in which case it's a bad move.

    In any case, microwave scanners are probably just as effective (read that how you will), so I'm surprised the TSA doubled down on the potentially risky bet that X ray backscatter technology is going to remain legal.

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cje (33931) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @09:40AM (#41386915) Homepage

    The problem with the Israeli model is that it isn't terribly feasible at a large scale. It works because Israel is a tiny country with only one major international airport (Ben Gurion) that needs to be secured. This type of massive security infrastructure (extremely tight physical perimeter around the airport, security personnel with extensive psychology training, countless constantly-monitored security cameras, legions of plainclothes guards, etc.) is not a realistic scenario when you have hundreds of major international and regional airports like the US does.

  • Re:Trolling (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @09:55AM (#41387105)

    Calling the spending "wasteful" is certainly opinionated and will certainly spark discussion and clicks. Calling the machines "nude-o-scopes" takes it into MoveOn territory.

    That may very well be the case, yet it's not the first time Slashdot has expressed this sentiment so you shouldn't be surprised to see it again. You may not realize that the whole purpose Slashdot exists is to spark discussion (and clicks, which is how they get paid) -- without discussion, I think few people would come here since the submissions that are posted largely come from other news sources. I didn't see your comments on either of the previous two Slashdot postings, so feel free to comment and explain why you think that the statements are over the top and unfair. That's why everyone is here, right?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @09:55AM (#41387107)

    So, wait, which president was it that founded the organization in the first place?

    Or are we pretending that 2000-2008 never happened, now? That's the new party policy, right, where Clint Eastwood rants to an empty chair about the wars Obama started in Iraq and Afghanistan?

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @09:58AM (#41387129)

    Seeing 300 doesn't make you an expert. Even if what you posit is true, that situation quickly turns into a standoff. People aren't going to pile into the attacker continuously until they're all dead like its a movie. They're going to see that they dont need to enter the galley, forcing the attacker to come to them where they have strength in numbers and room to maneuver.
    Also, If I were a pilot, I wouldn't open the doors even if they were threatening to kill the very last of the passengers on the plane. Opening the doors is means assured death for all involved. Leaving them shut means maybe the passengers still have a shot at this. Leaving them shut means theres at least a modicum of hope.

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @09:58AM (#41387137)

    I hate my fellow citizens. Their cowardice and stupidity motivate them to accept, and even approve-of and support, evils like the TSA.

    It is because of all the voters who overpower my own vote that I don't fly, and am becoming more afraid of all forms of public transit (the TSA viper squads do not limit themselves to airplanes).

    *I* get the government *you* deserve, and I therefore feel no remorse at shaming you for your stupidity and cowardice.

    And I hate you all.

  • by Entropius (188861) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:00AM (#41387165)

    Bush is the one who gave us the TSA, and started overpaying them in the first place. You really think Romney'd change anything?

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Entropius (188861) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:02AM (#41387197)

    And Bin Laden succeeded between his wildest dreams.

    Fly two airplanes into buildings and watch a giant autoimmune reaction hurt the US vastly out of proportion to anything he could have done.

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:03AM (#41387205)
    Prior to the 9/11/2001 hijacking, the expectation was that the hijackers has an agenda which ended in a hostage trade-off and everyone getting out alive. Cooperating with the hijackers ensured the survival of the hostages.

    I maintain that had we had locked and reinforced cockpit doors prior to 9/11, the hijackings would not have been successful. Expecting passengers and crew to risk their lives for the chance of stopping a hijacker entering the cockpit prior to the WTC attacks was pointless; They expected to live by cooperating. Locking the cockpit puts the idea of taking control of the plane out of their hands, making hijack less of an issue.
  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:11AM (#41387339)

    Maybe they should think about using the methods employed by countries like Israel which actually work.

    I know you were referring to airports, but another Israeli approach comes to mind when I think of the TSA: the approach to West Bank checkpoints. Read this:

    http://www.bostonreview.net/BR37.4/oded_naaman_israeli_defense_forces_palestinians_occupation.php [bostonreview.net]

    Arbitrary policies set by inept guards who know nothing about the high level reasons for what they do? Random harassment at will? Punishments for daring to say "no" or for standing up for your own dignity? Guards that have no idea whether or not they actually picked the terrorists out of a crowd of non-terrorists?

    This is what the TSA checkpoints are about. They are not trying to keep us safe from terrorists by humiliating us, punishing us for exercising our rights, or wasting our time and making us miss our flights. The checkpoints probably make us less safe, since we are standing in a neatly organized and easy-to-attack crowd before passing through. The goal is to attack our psychology, to remind us that the government can do whatever it wants and that we need to just go along with it if we do not want to suffer.

    After all, metal detectors and X-ray images of your luggage are more than sufficient to convince people that you are doing "something" to keep them safe (most people probably never noticed the available of glass at airport bars, or the fact that people who charter private jets go through no security at all). The purpose of the humiliating practices of the TSA is to make sure that people stay in line and do as their government demands. Eventually the TSA will spread these practices beyond airports, to trains, subways, and buses, until almost everyone deals with it on a daily basis. Then the TSA will have won: they will have conquered American psychology.

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brxndxn (461473) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:14AM (#41387387)

    I think the theatrics are 'part' of the goal - but the real goal is money and social conditioning.

    As far as money, as long as the TSA and DHS keep the 'terrorist threats everywhere' narrative alive, Congress will continue to throw taxpayer money at these agencies to waste on worthless unskilled employees (TSA agents) and 'mysterious technological devices' that cost a ton of money. Under this idea, it does not matter whether AIT machines are effective for their actual declared purpose - they are an effective part of the 'social conditioning' goal which is to make the American people believe that the Government has control of the situation.

    As far as social conditioning, it has become more obvious that people in control of this country (and the world) will do anything to maintain their control. The TSA serves to undermine and erode individual civil liberties - it is there to make people get used to willingly giving up their rights. Of course the TSA, left unchallenged, will eventually end up in all venues or transportation centers. If the TSA or DHS were not interested in total expansion throughout the US, you would be hearing Janet Napolitano talking more often on the legal limits of the DHS.

    And further, this is just my opinion.. This is how I interpret the situation. But, I am posting this with reservations wondering if this will get me put on a 'list' somewhere. I cannot be the only one deathly afraid of the direction of the US Government and completely fearless of any terrorist threat.

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:29AM (#41387561)

    Re: "Open the doors or we start killing people."

    Here's the solution:
    1. Add a bathroom to the cockpit, put their meals in there beforehand.
    2. Remove all communication /into/ the cockpit...
    2a. Except for a single EMERGENCY button that when hit informs the pilot that we are in an EMERGENCY situation.
    3. EMERGENCY protocol:
    i. Pilots go to nearest airport, no stops, on priority
    ii. Upon landing a SWAT team enters the passenger cabin before talking to anyone in the passenger cabin wearing NBC.
    iii. If the emergency is medical (most likely) paramedics follow upon all-clear from SWAT.

    How this helps: You can't coerce pilots if you can't communicate with them. The hostage takers have no chance to negotiate before police just show up. Medical emergencies are still handled.

    Possible failure modes: The emergency button is going to put the plane over a major population center while landing. This is a good time to set off a bomb.

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:39AM (#41387703)

    explain why we're allowed to take them on aircraft but nailclippers and scissors are banned

    Because Ma and Pa Kettle "feel" secure when scissors are banned. They don't feel that way when jewel cases are banned. US security is all about making the Kettles feel comfortable so they keep buying plane tickets, not actual security.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:41AM (#41387739)

    Bush gave us the TSA so Romney won't change anything? Dude, it's been years since Bush has been in office. The Obama administration could have thrown them out in the past 3.5 years and they did not.

    The TSA was formed under Bush, but do you think Gore or Kerry would have done any different? The TSA was created as a reaction to the public panic over 9/11. Any sitting President would have done the same thing, and to be honest not knowing what exactly was coming or what was going on, any President would have erred on the side over caution. Also, the TSA is not going away any time soon; an article posted on Slashdot awhile back showed that most people in the US think the TSA's doing a good job (news flash, Slashdot thinks they suck but the slashdot crowd is a small minority of the population and not even entirely American). Prove that the TSA is a waste of time and money and isn't doing anything, get the public against it, and then it won't matter whether Obama or Romney is President; they'll have to follow the will of the people if they want to get re-elected. Easier said than done, sure, but that's what it will take. Obama will not get rid of the TSA. Neither will Romney. But if the public is turned against the TSA, then either one as President will get rid of them.

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @11:02AM (#41388105)

    Re: "Open the doors or we start killing people."

    Here's the solution:

    Your solution is unworkable and unnecessary. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for the crew to communicate with the cockpit. There is a much better and simpler solution: train the crew. Make sure everyone understands that you never open the cockpit doors under duress. Crews are already trained in mock emergency situations, so adding this would cost little (and is probably already happening). If the training is realistic, then in a crisis the crew will do what they have been trained to do.

    In the history of commercial aviation, this is the number of times a cockpit crew has unlocked a secure cockpit door under duress: 0. So I don't think this is a pressing problem that requires the sort of extreme measures that you advocate.

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @11:06AM (#41388181) Homepage

    So you expect a human being to sit by while 200 people are killed on the other side of a door. Are we going to start hiring sociopaths to be airline pilots?

    Options:

    a) Let the terrorist kill everybody on board (unlikely, even with an assault rifle)

    b) Open the door, let the terrorist crash the plane somewhere. Everybody dies including the pilot and the people on the ground.

    You don't need to be sociopathic to choose option a.

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RobertLTux (260313) <robert@nOSPAM.laurencemartin.org> on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @11:07AM (#41388205)

    No i expect the Pilot to disable the AutoNav and do some maneuvers aimed at turning the cabin into a DICE CUP. don't forget the biggest weapon on an airplane is THE AIRPLANE ITSELF.

    "This is your captain speaking Sorry about the turbulence but we have had a bit of trouble in the cabin. As you disembark please be aware you will need to make a statement to security."

  • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @11:16AM (#41388365) Homepage Journal

    "The TSA was created as a reaction to the public panic over 9/11"

    The TSA was implemented by responding to the public panic over 9/11. I could argue its creation had been planned for YEARS - awaiting the PNAC anticipated "new Pearl Harbor" event. The whole of the voluminous "PATRIOT" act was obviously crafted through many years of effort. Only the final collation of this voluminous compendium of human oppression occurred after 9/11.

    The TSA is now an institution that will not be eradicated, without the complete dissolution of the USA.

    US out of North America, NOW!

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deanklear (2529024) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @11:54AM (#41389043)

    My guess is that you just don't remember life before the TSA.

    When I was a kid, my whole family could meet me at the gate where I arrived. Now, you're not allowed unless you have special permission. Before the TSA, you were allowed to keep your shoes on. You didn't have to disassemble your luggage on the conveyor belt. Security check lines were short. You didn't have to worry about spending hours in detention if they mistakenly had you on the no fly list, or if someone thought you looked suspicious, or if you had dark skin. Eighty and ninety year old individuals and children were never strip searched, and nor was anyone unless there was some serious suspicions about that person. Now we are all terrorists until proven innocent, which we can only do by giving up our Constitutional rights.

    So, the reason there was no security theater outrage is because we didn't have to watch a TSA agent pat down a infant, or read about them requiring a 95 year old cancer patient to remove her adult diapers. Entire city blocks weren't shut down over suspicious packages, and we weren't spending billions of dollars on processes with dubious security value.

    One reason the TSA is receiving funding instead of technologies to scan containers is because actually inspecting our imports would slow business down, and while giving up large parts of the Bill of Rights is just fine, the people who own our government through lobbyists would never allow a fraction of their profits to get eaten up by providing actual security measures. The other reason is because it subjects more people to the idea that terrorism is our greatest threat, and establishes the normalization of constant search, seizure, and fear whenever the government cares to abuse citizens. No Administration is going to give up that power without a fight.

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