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Government Privacy

Airport Scanners Can Store and Transmit Images 350

CNN is reporting on findings from a Freedom of Information request initiated by the Electronic Privacy Information Center that has revealed that, contrary to public statements by the Transportation Security Agency, full-body scanners can store and transmit images. "In the [FOIA] documents, obtained by the privacy group and provided to CNN, the TSA specifies that the body scanners it purchases must have the ability to store and send images when in 'test mode.' ... 'There is no way for someone in the airport environment to put the machine into the test mode,' [an anonymous] official said, adding that test mode can be enabled only in TSA test facilities. But the official declined to say whether activating test mode requires additional hardware, software or simply additional knowledge of how the machines operate."
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Airport Scanners Can Store and Transmit Images

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  • ... So? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:18PM (#30731294)

    What's the big deal? I can think of better places to get porn.

  • No duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:18PM (#30731296)

    The picture they show in every article about the things must have come from somewhere.

  • amusing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kharchenko ( 303729 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:19PM (#30731312)

    The paranoia that someone may see a fuzzy resemblance of your actual body seems to have no bounds in the US. You'd think people would be more worried that the chemical scanners used in airports fail to detect most explosives, but no ...

  • So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mononoke ( 88668 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:19PM (#30731314) Homepage Journal
    It doesn't matter, and nothing we think on this subject matters anyway.
  • Re:amusing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:25PM (#30731360)
    I'd be more concerned about the explosives getting through the scanners if I was actually afraid of getting blown up in a plane (or having an exploding plane fall on my head). Even if we'd had a few more successful attempts at pulling that off, I still wouldn't be afraid. You are STILL far more likely to get in an accident in your car on the way to the airport than having a terrorist strike your plane. On the other hand, EVERYONE has to deal with all these layers of asinine security.
  • Re:amusing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LockeOnLogic ( 723968 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:27PM (#30731386)
    I'm concerned about both. I'm not ashamed of my body but that doesn't mean I want a complete stranger looking at a picture of me naked, no matter how fuzzy.
  • by ebonum ( 830686 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:31PM (#30731422)

    "cannot be hacked"
    This should be a massive red flag. The is the same as stating to the world, I'm unqualified and have no idea what I'm talking about.

    "employees who misuse the machines are subject to serious discipline or removal"

    Hmmm. So when pushed, they admit that security is ensured by the fact that the government employees are going to behave. Just like those Blackwater guys?

    I would be temped to get a job with the TSA just to get a chance to hack these things. Plus, working with a partner, you could easily get high value images of celebrities.

  • Re:amusing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by santax ( 1541065 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:34PM (#30731450)
    It's not the fact that someone sees me naked, it's about the fact that I want my damn privacy. I have yet to see the first terrorist ask me to strip naked. Yet apparently when the first goverment-official tells me he wants to have a look at my dick that I have to comply! One thing is sure. I have lost 0% safety and privacy to terrorist. But I lost 100% safety and privacy to goverments the last 20 years. And I bet this goes for 99.9% of the people in the western world. It has to stop you know...
  • Re:amusing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:34PM (#30731460)

    The "fuzzy resemblance" of a body has little to do with anything. People who would just as soon walk naked on the beach have serious concerns about what amounts to no less than a strip search with not even so much as reasonable suspicion.

    This is the most invasive government search, justified by less than the smallest legally acceptable standard of criminal suspicion. The reason strip searches are so narrowly confined has less to do with dignity or moral discomfort at being handled by a police officer than with the incredible invasiveness of the procedure. There's quite a difference between being comfortable with your body and enjoying nude beaches...and the government telling you "strip down, you're not trusted and have no rights."

    The government simply should not be empowered to demand this of its citizens with no basis whatsoever. Without these protections, what is the point of having gradations in police voluntary contact vs. detention vs. arrest? Why limit searches based only on reasonable suspicion to immediate surroundings and officer safety searches?

    If some sub-police TSA agent can give you a digital strip search merely for wanting to fly from Chicago to New York, then there's nothing stopping them from rifling through your shopping bags in your locked trunk when you roll through a stop sign; there's nothing to stop them from a "harmless" invasion into your hard drive because there's an infinitesimal possibility there might be some terrorist information in there.

    The line has been crossed with warrantless wiretapping, suspicionless searches, and generally unnecessary, unproductive, and invasive government behavior. If naked pictures of air travelers is the straw that breaks the camel's back, so be it. At least they've finally noticed that something's rotten in the state of wherever-you-are.

  • Re:amusing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:38PM (#30731482)

    The paranoia that someone may see a fuzzy resemblance of your actual body seems to have no bounds in the US. You'd think people would be more worried that the chemical scanners used in airports fail to detect most explosives, but no ...

    A large part of our objection is due to that second part exactly: it's TSA, operator error and general incompetence will likely preclude it actually being effective. It would be objectionable enough even if it would actually increase our safety, but it's not going to do that.

    What it's going to be used for primarily is to catch more drug smugglers. I don't give a flying fuck about that goal, I definitely am not willing to sacrifice more privacy, the waste of all that taxpayer money, or the hassle of even longer lines. No.

    In fact I think it's more likely that this will be counterproductive by making longer lines. Fairly often, the lines to go through the scanners have more people than are actually on a plane. That bombers aren't targeting those lines is a real testament to how stupid TSA and terrorists are, it's only a matter of time before they realize this. I'd prefer security checkpoints be faster so fewer people are in the real danger zone when they do.

  • by $beirdo ( 318326 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:39PM (#30731496) Homepage

    Just imagine some TSA creeps snickering at an image of your girlfriend's, your father's or your mother's naked body.

    We are all endowed with certain inalienable rights, including the right not to be examined nude en masse by the government when we travel.

    Dignity is an essential human right. How dare we sacrifice it to terror?

    Freedom? Yeah, right!

  • Duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <> on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:41PM (#30731514)
    They probably record every single image generated by those things, and hold it at least until the passenger's flight is over. I don't see why they would do it any other way. It flies in the face of reason. I know they say otherwise, but I doubt they feel bad about lying to the general public. It's for the greater good, right?
  • Re:amusing (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:41PM (#30731520)
    So then you will never get an x-ray or a mammogram, which are transmitted over a network and by law are stored for years.
  • Anyone wonder... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lattyware ( 934246 ) <> on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:45PM (#30731554) Homepage Journal
    Just get a really, really ugly person to do it. They are not going to be looking.
  • by chiph ( 523845 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:47PM (#30731564)

    Got a real hot babe going thru the scanner here.
    - TSA Perv

  • Re:amusing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ziekheid ( 1427027 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:52PM (#30731628)

    Exactly! I'm so sick and tired of people saying "if you have nothing to hide why whine?" or "you must have a small penis if you're so concerned with body scanners".
    It's just none of their damn business and we've given the terrorists EXACTLY what they wanted, mass paranoia and giving up our freedoms for "the war on terrorism".

    Add to this the fact that in a moment of hysteria the airport that let the Nigerian through (Schiphol) ordered 60 of the WRONG bodyscanners which would not be able to detect the kind of "bomb" the Nigerian was carying [] (source in Dutch, since Schiphol is in the Netherlands).
    They are ordering the same bodyscanners in the US but possibly with the addition of x-ray scanners that are able to find anal insertions, I'm guessing these will only be used in case of doubt but are likely to be bad for your health (I have no idea to what extend).

    Police in the Netherlands is already talking, and set aside money for research, about a mobile bodyscanner.
    I'm wondering what the next step will be, body scanners before I enter the bus or train?
    Body scanners when I enter the university?

  • Re:amusing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:53PM (#30731642)

    You'd think people would be more worried that the chemical scanners used in airports fail to detect most explosives, but no ...

    Considering we've seen WAY more cases of TSA malfeasance than we have seen terrorist attacks, is it really so surprising?

    Just you watch - we'll see a new kind of pr0n from the pervs who brought us "up-skirt" - scanner pr0n.

    Furthermore, these machines are obsolete before they are even deployed - they only see through clothing, not through the body and we've already had one case of an "ass bomber" in Abdullah Hassan Taleh al-Asiri this past september in Saudi Arabia. And while he mostly succeeding in killing only himself with little harm to others, that's because he detonated it in his ass. Even the underwear bomber spent 20 minutes in the lavatory getting ready - nothing to stop someone from taking the bomb out of their ass before detonating it on a plane. Get three or four of these guys on a plane and that's lot of bomb material sailing right past the latest billion dollars boondoggle.

    Personally, I'm waiting for the schlong-bomb. Some poor schlub gets castrated and then fitted with a horse-sized prosthetic full of bomb, detonators in the balls of course. The TSA will just let him pass as they will be shocked and awed by the size of his tool, not realizing who he's really going to use that tool to fuck over.

  • Re:amusing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by saaaammmmm ( 1650977 ) < minus distro> on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:59PM (#30731690)
    Who would have guess that those child porn laws would be good for something?
  • by doomy ( 7461 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:59PM (#30731696) Homepage Journal

    How does this stop terrorists who board plans elsewhere and come here (with the thought of blowing up the plane?). These scanners need to be where a terrorist is most likely to board a plane. Thus a push for having them in international airports all over the world would be a much better plan than having them all over the US including tiny domestic airports.

  • Re:amusing (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 11, 2010 @08:59PM (#30731708)

    You know when I hear about all this airport security I think back to some of the incidents here such as when the confused irate and mentally disturbed young men attacked children in our colleges. None of these billions in extra security measures had any impact on this, and the more I read these things the more I wonder how effective they will be at preventing these types of attacks. But I don't have to wonder much as I know the answer is they won't. Think about what happened in India, where groups of armed men hit the city and randomly killed people. How long are we away from something like that happening here in our homeland? Are we really naive enough to think that we are somehow outsmarting the terrorists and not understanding that if they really wanted to, how easily they could attack a nightclub like in Israel, or some other place full of innocents?

    Personally I think our paranoia in the government is well warranted. When a government constantly promises things it can't deliver on, or does things that it says are safe, but later we find out are neither safe nor do they provide the security that was promised, mistrust becomes common. Besides, after hearing stories of young children in juvenile facilities - that are supposed to be protected - being abused, how many of us truly believe abuses of millions of naked images including those of youth will not occur? What about the stories of how all this security is supposed to protect us when it doesn't?

    The more I read these things the more I'm worried, but not in the scared lets give away every ounce of freedom for protection worried, but more of the how much longer are we going to persist with policies that assist in the creation of more desperate people who would rather die in a violent explosion, than live in our colonies.

    I hope nobody takes my comments out of context. I understand how difficult some of these decisions are and I know there can be no easy answer. However, I am praying that people pay more attention to these things and our elected officials make sure that these investments are really investments to provide security for us and our children and not for their financial interests.

  • Re:amusing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by biryokumaru ( 822262 ) * <> on Monday January 11, 2010 @09:00PM (#30731710)
    I dunno, the rate we're going people won't realize they're prisoners until they've put the bars up in their own homes.
  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @09:05PM (#30731758)

    C'mon now, all this talk about celebrities and hacking those "high-profile" images. Please. Most celebrities don't bother with this now.

    Let's see, I'm a celebrity making millions. Do I A) Pay $1000 to fly first-class on a public airline and risk my career being ruined by a horny airport scanner operator stealing my "naked" image, or B) Realize I have enough "ah, fuck it" money lying around to lease my own NetJet where I don't have to deal with the bullshit of either scanners or the pubic.

  • Re:amusing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Monday January 11, 2010 @09:10PM (#30731798) Homepage

    There's quite a difference between being comfortable with your body and enjoying nude beaches...and the government telling you "strip down, you're not trusted and have no rights."

    I agree with you generally, but I think there is still another side to this whole thing, which is that your rights are not quite as absolute as our talking about that sometimes implies. Like yes, I have the freedom of speech, but if someone in the House of Representatives decides to run toward the President during the state of the Union yelling "Sic semper tyrannis!" then you'd better bet he's going to be detained for a little while. There's the issue of context, and these rights are still subject to reason. Likewise there have been court decisions, I believe, that school administrators can search student lockers without probable cause-- or at least that the standard of probable cause needed is quite a bit lower.

    So given this issue of context, I would say that airports are already situations where we endure a lower expectation of privacy than elsewhere. I don't know if that's a legally appropriate way of saying it, but what I mean is, we already essentially allow our bags to be searched at airports. If a police officer stopped me randomly on the street and asked to look in my bag, I'd say no. If the same police officer asks to look in the same bag when I'm going through security at an airport, I'll agree. When I showed up to the airport that day, I knew ahead of time that I'd have to allow my bags to be searched (or at least viewed through an xray machine). Likewise when I pass over the border from another country, I know that I'll be expected to have a passport. If a police officer asked me for my papers while I was just walking down the street, that would seem far more sinister to me. I've also emptied my pockets, walked through a metal detector, and allowed myself to be pat down at an airport. I wouldn't approve of police doing that randomly on the streets.

    So looking at it that way, I can't quite decide whether these scanners are going too far. I suppose if the consensus is that you feel like you've been stripped of your dignity by being asked to step into one, then it probably is too far. However, I think I wouldn't really feel worse for being scanned than I feel for being asked to take my shoes off. Maybe that's just a mental defect on my part.

  • Re:amusing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linhares ( 1241614 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @09:18PM (#30731876)
    who needs to bring a bomb through these machines anyway?

    "We've got to face the fact that you can build a bomb in the duty free shop, after you've gone through screening.

    Source: []

  • No crap! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by /dev/trash ( 182850 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @09:19PM (#30731882) Homepage Journal

    Say you catch a guy with something and they have a trial. And the judge asks for the evidence to be presented. Well. Yeah they need a copy of that in initial scan.

    You don't even have to watch Law and Order to know that shit.

  • Re:amusing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 11, 2010 @09:27PM (#30731958)

    That's not the point, the point is that they deliberately lied to the public about the machine not being able to store images, they got caught and now they are (doubtless) lying again when they say there is "no way" to put the machine into test mode outside of TSA "test centers".

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Unoti ( 731964 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @10:23PM (#30732392) Journal

    The only way this will stop is if we can convince enough people to stop flying

    You're right, of course. It'd be really great if we lived in some sort of democratic society where the people have a say in what the govenrment does, and the officials are responsible to the will of the people.

  • Re:amusing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by russ1337 ( 938915 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @10:24PM (#30732408)

    So then you will never get an x-ray or a mammogram, which are transmitted over a network and by law are stored for years.

    Which are medical procedures. Same as gynecological and rectal examinations. All of which I reserve for someone who's graduated Med school.... not some $2 an hour night-club qualified security guard.

  • Re:amusing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rikkards ( 98006 ) on Monday January 11, 2010 @10:40PM (#30732524) Journal

    A mammogram is proven to help
    Citation needed.
    There is more and more studies showing that unless you are high risk, the odds of a mammogram helping is pretty even with not getting one: [] []
    On a similar (yet offtopic subject), same can be said with pap smears, it is coming to light that only reason why doctors push their patients to have them annually is basically something they can bill for. HPV (an STD) is the main cause of cervical cancer and more people a year die from melanoma than cervical cancer ( yet you don't see doctors pushing for moles to be removed. Prostate cancer still kills more people but yet men are not expected to bend over on a yearly basis unless they are high risk. Why is that? There is also suspicion that some of the abnormal cells found in pap smears may be actually caused by the continuous scrapings that women are undergoing rather than cervical cancer thus women undergoing unecessary surgery.

    This website in general has been most enlightening: []

  • Re:amusing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trillian_1138 ( 221423 ) <> on Monday January 11, 2010 @11:17PM (#30732802)

    Exactly! I'm so sick and tired of people saying "if you have nothing to hide why whine?" or "you must have a small penis if you're so concerned with body scanners".

    Without being sarcastic, some of us are concerned about having their small penis put up for display. This will inevitably be TMI, but I know I'm not the only trans woman who reads Slashdot, and presenting and being perceived as a woman but smuggling a dick through security runs the risk of harassment (if you're lucky) and arrest/sexual assault/murder (if you're not).

    I'm all for safe air travel, but I can see a million ways to abuse this technology, and use it to harass and humiliate people who aren't terrorists for every one way it can be used to "fight terrorism."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 11, 2010 @11:46PM (#30733002)

    By the way, the assumption the parent must have been posted by a man is also sexist.

    I don't want anyone seeing details of my crotch through a scanner and I don't care what the gender of those looking may be.

    We are animals, but one trait humans share is modesty. We wear cloths. If we didn't, no big deal with a scan like this. However, we do wear cloths and we do for a reason. Something that bi-passes me making a decision about my own body isn't OK particularly when that decision is made not by me but for me.

    If principle is always abandoned for the practical assumption, I don't think we would have such things like the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights (probably the most significant part of the Constitution even though is it shit on the most... ever wonder why or consider who does the shitting and why they do it?), the Magna Carta, ect.,...

    So, since its not about PRINCIPLE at all, I make my own PRACTICAL decision - I won't fly. That doesn't mean I'll drive instead - it means I won't travel as much if at all. PRACTICALLY speaking, I don't NEED to travel.

    Sometimes, making a decision based on principle IS the practical thing to do. To not do this based on PRINCIPLE seems to me to be the PRACTICAL thing to do given the numbers and statistics and probabilities. The reverse, as many have said indicates that 'the terrorists' have won - they did and continue to terrorize us to the point that we throw away our principles and on top of if make arguments about which gender should run the scans based on assumed levels of perversion due to gender.

    How bas-ackwards can we be?

  • Sure it does (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @12:08AM (#30733188)

    If it pisses you off enough to stop flying, then do so. Also, if you do stop flying, make sure to let the airlines know. You can send a letter to all the ones you use, but in particular any you have a frequent flier program with. Send them something like:

    "I regret to inform you that as of this date, I will no longer by flying on your airline. The reason for this has nothing to do with your company or the service I receive, but rather with the onerous, arbitrary, ineffective, and demeaning security theater inflicted on passengers before we are allowed access to flights. I cannot suffer it any longer, and thus am no longer flying until such time it has been rectified. I suggest you let congress know that this security theater is costing you business."

    Guess what? If people start doing that, shit will change. The airlines will notice sales falling, the letters will give them a big reason why (companies know for every person that writes a letter there are generally many that feel the same way but don't) and they'll lean hard on congress. They give big dollars, and as is obvious from past bailouts, congress considers the important. If the air carriers push hard enough, congress will yank on the TSA's chain and stop this crap.

    Do remember that your vote for political candidates is not your only vote in this country. Voting with your wallet is exceedingly effective in many situations. Make the airlines feel the pain, and they'll tell congress to fix it.

  • Re:amusing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @12:55AM (#30733468) Homepage

    And even after that, what happens when the bomb is surgically implanted?

    There's probably no need to resort to surgery even, someone could just swallow a number of small timed explosives. Hell, drug smugglers have been swallowing condoms full of cocaine for years, and it (usually) works for them...

  • Re:No duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GumphMaster ( 772693 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @01:12AM (#30733578)
    The machines must be able to produce a hard copy for use in any court action. Further, they probably have to store the image for a few days in case any aircraft carrying a person that passed through the machine comes to grief (accident or deliberate). Can you imagine the "scandal" if a plane goes down, it's suspicious, and the investigating body does not have this imagery?
  • I'd say the Internet has proven that somebody can get sexually aroused by anything.

  • Re:amusing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @02:50AM (#30734030) Homepage

    If the government *REALLY* wanted to save lives, they would help people eat healthier (which might help some of our health problems), work to improve safety in cars, pull people over for texting and driving...all things that cause many more deaths than plan crashes.

    I agree entirely. Heart disease and car accidents are a couple big killers, but if you put a tax on fatty foods or talk about increasing public transportation, then people start complaining about socialism and bemoaning their loss of freedom. On the other hand, if the government suspends habeas corpus, tortures prisoners, and conducts wiretaps and invasive searches without cause, everyone's fine with it because "we're fighting terrorists". It doesn't make any sense to me.

  • Re:No duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chatsubo ( 807023 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @03:40AM (#30734220)

    At the end of the day, it's pretty easy to just whip out a camera-phone (these days this translates to "every cellphone"), and take a picture of the screen.

  • Re:amusing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lena_10326 ( 1100441 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @05:02AM (#30734586) Homepage

    When being singled out and abused for being transsexual is institutionalized, you tend to get a bit nervous when technology is installed that would expose you as a transsexual to individuals with great power. Nearly every transsexual person has had bad experiences with police, clerks behind a counter, and those expecting your identification papers to fit within a narrow set of parameters. []

    Also, a fat man with man boobs will not look the same on the image as a pre-op transwoman of normal weight. It will be very obvious who is transsexual with that scanner. Remember these scanners will be installed in airports around the world in countries having despicable records for abusing if not killing LGBT people.

  • Re:No duh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bdraschk ( 664148 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @06:22AM (#30734950)

    These pictures are taken from, a magazine (won't call it newspaper here), comparable to the SUN. Source: [] (sorry, German only).

    Basically, they've taken pictures from a CD of various images, among them "50 images of a naked woman", inverted them and added some images of weapons.

    Totally false and no true representation of actual images, these should not be used for arguing against nudie-scanners.

  • Interesting point! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gmai l . c om> on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:30AM (#30736700) Journal
    These scanners reflect off of skin. So if you're a fatass, what's keeping you from going through the scanner with explosives (similar to what the "underwear bomber" used - no metal, no smell) tucked between your fat rolls? Way less uncomfortable and way more capacity than anal storage...
  • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gmai l . c om> on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:50AM (#30737926) Journal
    Someone should make a mockumentary like that and release it. It will make people think and push back against this. Show fake TSA agents getting turned on by scans of hot girls in the backroom, laughing at scans of people with fat/strange bodies, taking pics of the screen with their cell phones and sending it to their friends. All totally possible IRL (in fact I'd be shocked if it didn't happen). If public outrage can kill anything, this is it.

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM