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Stop the presses: Mainstream media praises airport security?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Here's the headline and subhed:
Did U.S. airport security get it right this time?
It's heartening that our luggage-screening protocols are effective enough to detect what could have been dangerous

I know, I could hardly believe this myself. With all the criticism that aviation security has received since, well, 9/11 certainly, this article from doesn't exactly hold back its shock that airport security could actually, just maybe, might be, let's-not-get-too excited, but, it is possible that it could be effective. Take that critics.

The article goes on to say that two men headed from the United States to Yemen were detained after security staff discovered suspicious items in one of the men's checked luggage. However, security folks had a few indications that this guy might be up to no good. On his original flight, screeners found watches, cellphones and a bottle of Pepto-Bismol taped together in his luggage, but determined that none of the items were dangers. Maybe not dangerous, but certainly bizarre.

The man in question actually missed his connecting flight and was rerouted on a different airline. Because luggage can't travel on a plane without its owner (which I did not know, by the way), his luggage was removed and consequentially rescreened. During that rescreening, apparently authorities discovered something in his luggage because they arrested him (but the article neglects to say what was found). So get ready aviation security folks, because the following excerpt is nothing you'll likely read again any time soon:

And although we will never be completely protected -- a resourceful enough saboteur will always figure out a way to smuggle deadly components onto an aircraft -- it is heartening to see that our luggage screening protocols actually work, and are effective enough to detect what could have been something dangerous.

I find giving aviation security a little bit of due praise heartening myself.

Are privacy groups making Americans less safe?


WASHINGTON—In a new book, Skating on Stilts: Why We Aren’t Stopping Tomorrow’s Terrorism, author Stewart Baker argues that the U.S. missed opportunities to improve its defenses against terrorism after the attacks of 9/11.
And the reason why?

Body scanners can't transmit images. Or can they?

Monday, January 11, 2010

In the wake of all the aviation security discussion, the use of millimeter wave technology keeps coming up over and over. And while there is a strong possibility that this type of technology would've detected the vial of explosives hidden on the body of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, there has been conflicting reports about the public's acceptance of this technology.

USA Today and Gallup conducted a poll of 542 adults who have flown at least twice in the past year and found that 78 percent of respondents said they approved of using the scanners, 20 percent said they did not approve and 2 percent had no opinion. So, based on those results, it sounds like the majority of the traveling public would be okay with having their body image scanned.

However, my guess is that a significant number of people are okay with this because they've been told that the image can be neither stored nor transmitted. I blogged back in February 2009 that as soon as the naked image of Britney Spears leaks to TMZ, there will be public outcry to ban this technology, therefore the Transportation Security Administration better be very certain there is no possible way to send these images.

Well, now there is speculation that the TSA may not be telling the public everything about the capabilities of this technology. A CNN article today said that privacy groups are reporting that the TSA is misleading the public and that the scanners can indeed store and transit images.

The TSA specified in 2008 documents that the machines must have image storage and sending abilities, the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said.

In the 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."

That requirement leaves open the possibility the machines -- which can see beneath people's clothing -- can be abused by TSA insiders and hacked by outsiders, said EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg.

However, TSA officials are maintaining that there are strong privacy regulations on this technology. They better be darn sure because I know TMZ is willing to pay a lot of money to some poor TSA lackey for that Britney shot.

The TSA, via their blog, has refuted that body scanning equipment can store or transmit images:

All functionality to store, export or print images is disabled before these machines are delivered to airport checkpoints. There is no way for Transportation Security Officers in the airport environment to place the machines into test mode.

I buy it, don't you?