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Censorship United States Your Rights Online

TSA 'Warning' Media About Reporting On Body Scanner Failures? 465

OverTheGeicoE writes "When anti-TSA activist Jonathan Corbett exposed a severe weakness in TSA's body scanners, one would expect the story to attract a lot of media attention. Apparently TSA is attempting to stop reporters from covering the story. According to Corbett, at least one reporter has been 'strongly cautioned' by TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz not to cover the story. If TSA is worried that this is new information they need to suppress to keep it away from terrorists, that horse may have left the barn years ago. Corbett's demonstration may just be confirmation of a 2010 paper in the Journal of Transportation Security that concluded 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' to X-ray scanners."
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TSA 'Warning' Media About Reporting On Body Scanner Failures?

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  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @08:17PM (#39295757)
    Sorry, but a private citizen with no legal enforcement power (which TSA is and lacks) can not declare you an enemy of the state and have you sent to Guantanamo.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @08:20PM (#39295785) Homepage

    I remember back in 2002 I had this huge inner door house key, like really big old fashioned solid iron thing. It ended up being in my pocket as I walked through the metal detector, so I just clenched it in my palm thinking I'll have to show it anyway. Passed right through, not a beep. It was big enough it'd easily be the blade of a pretty good knife. And it beeped for some other passengers so it wasn't defective either. Of course this was after 9/11 so everybody was on their toes, I showed it to a friend and he was like "Seriously? You got to be kidding me..." but it happened.

  • by decora ( 1710862 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @08:27PM (#39295855) Journal

    because thats pretty much what happened in Afghanistan in 2002, and how we got people like Khalid Sheik Mohammad put in the same facility with random teenagers and goat herders.

  • Not Surprised (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @08:31PM (#39295901)

    I recently went through a major southeast U.S. airport. When I stated my desire to opt out of the millimeter scanner, the TSA agent tried to convince me otherwise. When I stated my desire to opt out again, she deadpan "joked" it is $20 extra screening fee for a pat down (but relented after a further exchange). I would not be surprised if supervisors suggested their agents try that to discourage as many people from opting out as possible to make the numbers look better in their favor.

  • by asher09 ( 1684758 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @08:33PM (#39295917) Homepage
    Since I work in a lab, I use razor blades for many different reasons. I used to keep one in my wallet for convenience. Then I forgot about it when I went through security at an airport, and I got through it no problem with my razor blade on the flight! This was right after 9/11 like early 2002, I think.
  • by cygtoad ( 619016 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @08:45PM (#39296023)
    The TSA doesn't care if the backscatter scanner doesn't detect contraband. They don't even care if the terrorists know it. They don't want the general public at large knowing it because this kind of thing really messes up the security theater magic act. They also don't want to answer the accusations of exposing passengers to radiation for a less than perfect technology.

    I saw a sign in the airport las weekend. "The backscatter scanner exposes you the same amount of radiation as you receive in two minutes in the airplane". Yeah but think of it this way; standing on a beach on a sunny day would you accept someone telling you that you were going to get a sun blast equal to two minutes in the sun in two seconds? Radiation doesn't always hurt bit it is always harmful to your DNA. There is a reason heath care providers put a limit on the number of X-rays you get in year.
  • by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @08:56PM (#39296101)

    Man, I once got through with a few unused razor blades in my carry-on I had left there by mistake. I don't know if it was the cardboard covering or what, but they weren't even inside my bag, it was one of those backpacks with the mesh pockets and you could see them right through it. Got right through.

    Meanwhile, my sister-in-law, who is permanently disabled due to being wounded in Iraq, has 10 pounds of metal in her leg, and has to walk with a cane, she gets a ration of shit every single fucking time we go through the airport. They try to take not only her cane, but her damn knee brace every single time, saying it could be used as a weapon, but the best part is, when she complains and makes a scene, they always wave her through, which really makes me want to ask (if I wanted to end up in a windowless room when my plane takes off, that is): If it truly could be used as a weapon and is dangerous, why the fuck is complaining enough to get waved through? And if it's not, why the fuck do they stop her and try to take it from her every time she goes through security?

    The TSA is a fucking joke...

  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:00PM (#39296139)
    The more citizens who fight the system, the harder it is for them to do any of that. What happens if/when there are 10,000,000 names on the Do Not Fly list?

    Whatever happened to the principles the US was founded on? "Live Free or Die," "Don't Tread On Me," "Liberty or Death?" We've become a country of Bread and Circuses consuming, Entitlement gratified proles.
  • Re:Easy fix? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mitreya ( 579078 ) <mitreya&gmail,com> on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:21PM (#39296313)

    The radiation dosage received from the scanner is still less than what you get from the flight itself. If you are that worried about radiation, you probably don't want to be on the plane in the first place.

    Ok, two things:
    1. I need to get from A to B when I get on the plane. There is a perceived benefit and there is some incurred cost. Seeing how not a single one of these machines is know to have stopped a single terrorist, there is no perceived benefit to match going through the machine
    2. You say that radiation dose is miniscule. TSA says that radiation dose is miniscule. Others say that due to improper calibration (how many of TSA employees are qualified to calibrate a medlical-like device?) or due to other factors the radiation received may be 10X or 100X higher than the "optimal". TSA had refused to do a health study, so even assuming I trust everyone equally, that's a 50-50 risk that TSA assertion is wrong.

  • Re:Easy fix? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slippyblade ( 962288 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:41PM (#39296473) Homepage

    And you say this on what grounds? The dosages that the machines give out is "Classified for National Security Purposes". They won't tell you how much you are getting dosed. It's illegal for them to tell you. Hell, if you listen to the TSA tell it, it's "the same as getting an ultrasound"

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:45PM (#39296499) Homepage

    Could he have ever imagined the repercussions of his attack?

    He did. Read "bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America" []. This was written before 9/11, and includes many of bin Laden's own comments. He recognized that America was too strong to take down, and had to be weakened internally first. His plan was to destroy America's moral authority in the world. He wanted a more oppressive and heavy-handed America, to help build hate and opposition in the rest of the world. That was the objective of his terrorism.

    He succeeded.

    It's hard to remember now, but just before 9/11, the US didn't have any serious enemies. The big players, Russia, China, Japan, and the European Union, were on good terms with the US. The Middle East was intimidated, but reassured by the fact that, once the US was finished liberating Kuwait, all the US troops packed up and went home.

    If the US had simply focused on cleaning up the mess and finding bin Laden, we would have been far better off.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:48PM (#39296525)

    Want to stop the TSA from ever groping another child (or, for that matter, you)? Easy. Let me tell you a little secret: The TSA agents do not have police powers . That's right, they cannot arrest you. They may threaten to do so, but if they actually want you arrested they have to call a real cop. A cop from the jurisdiction in which the airport is located.

    So here's how the revolution will work: If even a half dozen people a day refuse to be searched or groped at a major airport, the TSA will have to call the local police, and ask them to arrest the "violators". The first interesting question is, will the real cops co-operate and arrest you? The second question is, if they arrest you, what will be the charges? If the local police do arrest you and think of some charges that might stick, will the local D.A., who is, after all, a politician, want to prosecute you? I doubt it; a string of convictions against hapless travelers who bravely stood up the the Federal tyranny will get him very few votes in the next election.

    People don't seem to realize just how shaky this whole airport TSA tyranny is: it ultimately rests on the threat that local authorities will be willing to deal with people who give the TSA the finger, yet it is not in the interest of those local authorities to help the TSA. Quite the opposite. You might want to pick the target jurisdiction carefully. I would avoid Cook county (Chicago), for example. Because the first few people to do this will probably get arrested and spend a night in jail, you will want to research local attitudes and jail conditions. After the first dozen or so, the local D.A. will almost certainly decide to put a halt to the spectacle, and declare that he will no longer do the TSA's dirty work for them.

    Let me be very clear on this: I am not suggesting that anyone do anything illegal. It's not illegal to insist that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution be observed. Be polite to the cops, do not give them any reason to arrest you on their own, or to pile on charges (like resisting arrest). It would be good if someone nearby happened to have a video of the arrest.

  • Re:Easy fix? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:55PM (#39296575)

    I also do a fair amount of work travel, and detest the scanners, but I still find the baggage screening process to dominate the time required in line. Remember, this occurs in parallel with the baggage getting screened. Chances are that, while you're getting screened, the guy behind you is fumbling with his belt and the genius scanning the bags is reversing the conveyor belt to find the shampoo that someone had left in their bag.

    I've never found a backup of people trying to get through the people scanner, it's always waiting to shove your crap on the conveyor. I don't think they should be doing mm-wave pr0n at all, but I don't think a quick second scan slows the overall process down at all.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:57PM (#39296597) Homepage Journal

    While I applaud your sentiment, I wouldn't necessarily endorse the use of all the incidents you cite to support those sentiments. For example:

    Just before he was to be scanned, Tobey protested his treatment by removing his pants and shirt (thankfully, leaving his boxers on), and revealing a writing on his chest, “Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.”

    For thus displaying a sentence appearing in our country’s Constitution, Tobey was deemed to be a “security risk.

    Personally I suspect it wasn't his attempt to "educate the TSA" (as the columnist put it) that branded him as a security risk. I think it more likely that his behavior was simply regarded as bizarre. Personally, I'd suspect PCP use if I saw somebody do this, although I wouldn't dispute that in light of further developments it was probably a sober, if unconventional act of political protest.

  • Re:Easy fix? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Drgnkght ( 449916 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:05PM (#39296985)

    Anyone know if anyone has ever tried to go through one with a film badge dosimeter or something similar? That might prove very interesting.

  • Re:Easy fix? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chilbert ( 943354 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:27PM (#39297151) Journal

    2. You say that radiation dose is miniscule. TSA says that radiation dose is miniscule. Others say that due to improper calibration (how many of TSA employees are qualified to calibrate a medlical-like device?) or due to other factors the radiation received may be 10X or 100X higher than the "optimal". TSA had refused to do a health study, so even assuming I trust everyone equally, that's a 50-50 risk that TSA assertion is wrong.

    In addition there's a concern that the radiation dose bounces back out from somewhere shallow below the surface of the skin, with unknown implications for damage to the skin.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito