Entries in Full Body Scanners (6)


Germany: US Airport Full-Body Scanners Too Unreliable

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The German government halted the full rollout of American body imaging scanners in the nation's airports Thursday after the interior minister said the devices sound too many false alarms -- including at times mistaking underarm sweat for dangerous chemicals.

The determination came after a months-long test of a pair of L-3 Communications ProVision ATD human imaging scanners -- the same type of scanners already in use in dozens of airports across the U.S.

Over 800,000 Germans voluntarily tested the scanners at an airport in Hamburg from September 2010 to July 2011, during which time airport security reported so many "unnecessary alarms" that Friedrich said the technology, "despite the high detection performance," has not yet matured and is "not yet suitable" for general practical use. Local press reports put the false alarm rate as high as 49 percent and said sweaty armpits had been the culprit multiple times.

The German decision comes just a day after a 9/11 anniversary report by the Bipartisan Policy Center said U.S. was still "highly vulnerable to aviation security threats," partially because it said full-body imaging for explosive detection is unreliable.

"With significant federal funding, TSA has deployed large numbers of enhanced screening equipment used at passenger checkpoints and baggage check screening. Unfortunately, explosives detection technology lacks reliability and lags in its capability to automatically identify concealed weapons and explosives," the report says.

A TSA official told ABC News the administration could not comment on another country's technology and testing methods, but said the ProVision system is customizable and it is not known if the Germans were using the exact same models, standards and calibrations that U.S. airports use with their scanners.

"As with any technology, false alarms remain a possibility," the official said. "But this is the best available technology as one of our many layers of security to provide the best opportunity to detect dangerous items, such as explosives."

Approximately 250 ProVision scanners are in use in the U.S. currently, according to the TSA, from Atlanta to San Francisco to Honolulu. The TSA is in the process of upgrading all of those systems to the newer ProVision ATD model.

The ProVision scanner, which uses "safe active millimeter wave radio frequency," is one of two options from which American airports can choose for full-body imaging. The other system, known as "backscatter," uses X-ray technology to scan passengers and is used in machines built by L-3 Communications competitor Rapiscan.

The TSA credits both technologies with catching 300 "dangerous or illegal weapons" since January 2010 alone.

"Our top priority is the safety of the traveling public, and TSA constantly strives to explore and implement new technologies that enhance security and strengthen privacy protections for the traveling public," TSA Administrator John Pistole said in July when announcing the upgrade to the ProVision systems.

In addition to concerns over reliability, full-body scanners have come under significant scrutiny for potential privacy violations. The ProVision "image-free" upgrade, for instance, replaces the 3-D black-and-white silhouette of the passenger with a "generic, computer-generated outline of a person," according to the TSA.

After the failed December 2009 shoe bombing plot, the TSA worked closely with foreign governments to promote the use of advanced imaging technology (AIT), according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

L-3 Communications declined to comment for this report. Rapiscan Executive Vice President Peter Kant said the company "clearly disagrees" with the 9/11 Commissions' findings on full-body scans and said multiple independent and government tests have found the Rapiscan technology more reliable than any other passenger inspection method.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


TSA Full-Body Scanners: No More Naked Images

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The days of full-body scanners producing revealing images of travelers are numbered, the Transportation Security Administration announced in a statement on Wednesday.

Through a software update, the TSA is phasing out "passenger-specific images" in favor of a generic body outline.

Potential threats will be identified on the generic body outline. If a possible threat is found, passengers will go through an additional screening. Currently, the agency uses about 500 full-body scanners in 78 airports. They operate using two types of technology -- millimeter wave and backscatter.

The TSA says it will install the new software on 241 millimeter scanners at 40 airports in the coming months, and it anticipates testing software updates for backscatter machines in the fall. Currently, 38 airports use a total of 247 backscatter machines.

"[The] TSA constantly strives to explore and implement new technologies that enhance security and strengthen privacy protections for the traveling public," TSA Administrator John Pistole said in a statement. "This software upgrade enables us to continue providing a high level of security through advanced imaging technology screening, while improving the passenger experience at checkpoints."

Civil liberties groups and passenger rights organizations have long criticized the body scanners, saying that the machines invade the privacy of innocent travelers. They have also questioned the necessity, safety and reliability of the technology.

"It's a step in the right direction. However, our stance remains the same in that we feel that the TSA should immediately discontinue the use of these scanners," said Brandon Macsata, executive director of the Association for Airline Passenger Rights. "We feel that there are more beneficial ways, more cost-effective ways to improve and maintain security at airports."

The Key Changes:

  • Images will no longer need to be viewed by TSA agents in a remote location.
  • Passengers will see the same images that the TSA sees.
  • If no suspicious items are detected, "OK" appears on the monitor and no body outline is shown. If a suspicious item is detected the passenger undergoes a patdown, the same type of patdown that would be given if the passenger opted not to go through the scanner.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hillary Clinton: Understand Fury over Enhanced Pat-Downs

File photo. Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Hillary Clinton is the latest of Obama administration officials to weigh in on the enhanced security pat-downs and screenings taking place at airports across the country.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation, the secretary of state was asked whether she would submit to an enhanced pat down.

"Not if I could avoid it, no," Clinton said. "I mean, who would?"

"I understand how difficult it is, and how offensive it must be for the people who are going through it," she said.

Clinton suggested that the administration and its experts were open to changes in the controversial procedure, echoing a message sent by President Obama on Saturday.

"I understand people's frustrations," the president said, "And what I've said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we are doing is the only way to assure the American people's safety. And you also have to think through are there ways to do it that are less intrusive."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Obama: TSA Security Scans, Pat-Downs Necessary for Now

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(LISBON, Portugal) --  President Obama said Saturday he understands Americans’ frustrations with what some have called invasive screening procedures conducted by the TSA throughout the nation's airports. The president, however, noted that the process is the best way right now to ensure their safety.

“What I’ve said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we’re doing is the only way to ensure the American peoples’ safety and you have to think through are there ways of doing it that are less intrusive?” he said.
President Obama said his counterterrorism advisors have told him that these procedures “are the only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat we saw in the Christmas Day bombing.”

“Every week I meet with my counterterrorism team and I’m constantly asking them whether is what we’re doing absolutely necessary, have we thought it through, are there other ways of accomplishing it that meet the same objectives?” he said.

U.S. airline pilots learned Friday that they will be exempt from the invasive x-ray screening and pat-downs that have sparked a revolt across the country.

As of yet, there is no change in policy for regular travelers.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


TSA Chief: No Second Thoughts About Security Measures

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Cries of outrage from the public, threats to opt-out of full body scanning, and lawsuits over overly aggressive frisking aren't giving the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) any second thoughts about airport security.

"Obviously we know the threats are real so that's what we are trying to deal with here, to keep it in context," John Pistole told ABC News. "The reason we are doing these types of pat-downs and using the advanced imagery technology is trying to take the latest intelligence and how we know al Qaeda and affiliates want to hurt us, they want to bring down whether it is passenger air craft or cargo aircraft."

Next Wednesday -- one of the busiest travel days of the year -- some airline passengers are threatening to opt-out of the full body scanners en masse to snarl airport traffic in an effort to protest the machines and full body pat-downs they say are too invasive.

Pistole defended the measures saying the TSA is trying to balance the public's concerns with the intelligence information about potential threats. He said the scanners do not store images and TSA employees offer private screenings for passengers who request them.

"In the final analysis it comes down to the men and women of the TSA who are there, again, to protect everybody from having somebody get on that flight with explosives," he said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Naked Body Scanner Images Improperly Saved

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The government has reassured the flying public time and again that any naked images of them at airport checkpoints would be destroyed immediately. But new attention is being focused on another agency of the federal government -- the U.S. Marshals Service -- that in at least one case has been keeping thousands of similar naked images recorded by its body scanners.

Back on Aug. 4, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) was given more than 100 of 35,000 images that an Orlando courthouse kept on its scanner. The privacy watchdog group had filed a Freedom of Information Act request and went to court to obtain the images. As the debate over the scanners and the Transportation Security Administration's new patdown procedure heats up, technology blog Gizmodo on Tuesday released some of those images.

"The public should absolutely be concerned," EPIC's Ginger McCall told ABC News. "Very detailed and graphic pictures of people's naked bodies could end up out there on the internet."

While the courthouse scanners aren't as powerful and revealing as the TSA airport scanners, McCall said her group's FOIA request proves that the government is capable of storing and transferring images. While the TSA says it does not store such images -- and McCall isn't suggesting that the agency necessarily is -- EPIC's request shows that the images have been improperly stored in at least one case.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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