Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Here Come the TSA Virtual Strip-Searches, Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk
[Update, Jan. 7 -- There's a priceless anecdote in a security roundup story in today's New York Times, a woman flying from Dusseldorf to Newark with her musical instrument, a "type of bagpipe." The woman was made to remove the bagpipe and play it "to prove its purpose."]
The absurdity never ends.
Last year, I wrote a lot about the so-called whole body imaging machines the TSA was prepared to roll out to all airport checkpoints starting last fall. The machines see through clothing to detect any material on the body or in, say, a pocket. This means, incidentally, that you won't be able to carry your wallet through the checkpoint. Onto the belt it goes.
(And ignore any reporting that says the machines can't "store" images. Of course they can. The TSA just says they won't store images.)
Successful terrorists adapt to circumstances. Whole body imagers, even if they do work as advertised, do not detect anything hidden within folds of fat, or in a body cavity. We can only wince to guess what the next step might be.
Faced with resistance, the TSA backed off the plan to replace metal detectors with whole body imagers at all checkpoints by early this year (the machines are now in use selectively at some airports). But thanks to the Christmas Day Underpants Bomber, now the plan is back on track.
More on that later, and more on the bad information bouncing around about the "terrorist watch list," which consists of two lists, one a "no fly" list that has fewer than 2,000 names on it (most of them known-to-be-dangerous terrorist suspects, mostly foreign nationals) -- and the other a "selectee" list that does not have 500,000 names on it, but rather 500,000 various identities and references to identities. Being a selectee means you get an extra inspection at the airport and have to prove you're not the person who is on the list. Among those identities and potential identities on the selectee list, as we know, are various David Nelsons and Jack Andersons, one of whom was 8 years old the last time he got flagged at a checkpoint as a suspected terrorist.
Anyway, here's a very interesting article on whole body imaging technology security from Mother Jones that has been making the online rounds.
Meanwhile, the TSA has been operating without a permanent director now for 11 months and three weeks.