Friday, January 29, 2010

Full-Body Scanners Offer a Sneak Peek at TSA Bumbling: By Kate Hanni





Full-Body Scanners Offer a Sneak Peek at TSA Bumbling
By Kate Hanni
Posted January 19, 2010
Kate Hanni is executive director of FlyersRights.org, a nonprofit advocacy group that represents airline travelers.

On December 25, when the media reported on Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab's alleged attempt to detonate an explosive device aboard an airliner bound for Detroit, images of 9/11 were once again conjured up in the minds of Americans across the country. More significant was the national groan from millions of air travelers who anxiously anticipated the next wave of invasive and ineffective security procedures from the Transportation Security Administration.


Since 9/11, the flying public has been subjected to myriad new rules as lines at security checkpoints reached unbearable levels at many of the busiest airports. Air travelers have faced supplemental gate pat downs, the removal of shoes, and restrictions on liquids and gels. Additionally, the TSA and security personnel abroad tout the use of state-of-the-art X-ray machines and contraband detection methods. Despite these so-called advances in security training and technology, no person or machine detected the explosives reported to be on Abdulmutallab's person Christmas Day, more than eight years after the most brazen and fatal airline hijackings in history.

Once again, federal officials are back to square one on airport security, despite nearly a decade of effort and billions of dollars in investment. Now the TSA, backed by the federal government, believes that full-body scanners manufactured by Rapiscan hold the absolute answer to the world's airport security woes. And let's not forget the praises of these scanners sung by former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. It all sounds perfect.

Does that mean that passengers nationwide can now breathe a collective sigh of relief? Well, not quite. It turns out that Chertoff failed to mention that he is a paid consultant for Rapiscan.

Despite the government's ironclad guarantee that full-body scanners are the answer, despite the fact that the TSA has bought 150 Rapiscan units and is poised to buy 300 more at a cost of $76 million to taxpayers, and despite Chertoff's assertion that the scanners are the pinnacle of airport security evolution, there is no consensus that they are even capable of detecting explosives like those carried aboard the airliner on Christmas.

When President Obama's top counterterrorism aide, John Brennan, was asked on Meet the Press whether full-body scanners would have detected the explosives, he responded, "I think it's an unknown," hardly a ringing endorsement.

Fortunately, some experts believe there are simpler, less invasive, more cost-effective solutions. Kenneth G. Furton, professor of chemistry at the International Forensic Research Institute at Florida International University, has done extensive research on the reliability of canines in the detection of forensic specimens and is convinced that the use of dogs is a far more effective, and certainly less expensive, tactic for sniffing out (pardon the pun) explosive materials than the use of full-body scanners.

In a 2005 research article published in the Canadian Journal of Police & Security Services, Furton made this assertion: "Overall, detector dogs still represent the state of the art in real-time detection of items of forensic interest. There will likely be no replacement for the use of detector dogs in the foreseeable future unless numerous compromises are made in terms of speed, accuracy, sensitivity, selectivity, reliability, and mobility."

Still, even Furton believes that there is not one end-all, be-all way to prevent terrorists from smuggling explosives on board airliners. What's best, he concludes, is a multilayered approach to security that is efficient, accurate, cost-effective, and minimally invasive.

The Rapiscan full-body scanner displays none of those traits. In fact, though it can depict a person's unclothed body with shocking detail (a virtual strip search), it is capable of detecting only objects within one tenth of an inch of the outer skin on a human body. Translation: A terrorist who conceals explosives in a body cavity, crevice, adult diaper, feminine protection, etc., will walk through a full-body scanner completely undetected.

James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation, who takes an opposing view on the scanners, assured the Washington Post that the machines "cover up the dirty bits." Pardon our ignorance, but wouldn't a terrorist be likely to hide an explosive in those "dirty bits" if he or she had that information?

The bottom line is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to improving airport security, and it is irresponsible of the government to freely spend taxpayer money on new technology without research to support its effectiveness. Moreover, Americans aren't willing to be humiliated every time they fly, particularly if these scanners won't even improve security.

If the flood of messages from ­FlyersRights.org's members is any indication as to the general state of mind of the nation's air travelers regarding full-body scanners, then the airlines may need to brace themselves for a very lean 2010.

Ready why fliers should fear bombers, not body scans, by James Jay Carafano of the Heritage Institute.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Whole Body Scan vs. Your Privacy: How Far Is Too Far?

ABC's Aaron Katersky Reports:

On June 4, 2009 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, H.R. 2200, that would limit the use of whole-body imaging (WBI) systems in airports. The amendment prohibits the use of full-body scanners as a primary screening method. They can be used as secondary screening and in such a case “would require the TSA to give passengers the option of a pat-down search in lieu of going through a WBI machine.”

The sponsor, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said at the time “to suggest that every single American--that my wife, my 8-year-old daughter--needs to be subjected to this, I think, is just absolutely wrong.”

Reached today by phone, Chaffetz told ABC News he still supports only limited use of WBI technology.

“We have to find the right balance between personal privacy and the need to secure an aircraft,” Chaffetz said. “The technology exists to be more effective and yet less invasive.”

The Senate has not taken up the matter and Chaffetz conceded there’s little chance it would pass now.

The Justice department is currently being sued by the Electronic Privacy Information Center over WBI, but as of October 1, 2009, the TSA ordered an additional 150 WBI machines for use in airports.

Privacy is not the only reason the TSA has not deployed them en masse. WBI technology costs ten times as much as what’s in place at airports now, and there are questions about whether it’s worth it. Experts say the technology would almost certainly find a gun or knife but not necessarily something carried the way the Nigerian carried his explosives.

“The full-body scan is not the answer,” said Charles Slepian of the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center in New York. “Even with a full-body scan if you went through there with nothing on but you had something in the crevices of your body you won’t see it in the full-body scan.”

Monday, January 11, 2010

Full Body Scanners used on air passengers may damage human DNA

Full-body scanners used on air passengers may damage human DNA
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

(NaturalNews) In researching the biological effects of the millimeter wave scanners used for whole body imaging at airports, NaturalNews has learned that the energy emitted by the machines may damage human DNA.

Millimeter wave machines represent one of two primary technologies currently being used for the "digital strip searches" being conducted at airports around the world. "The Transportation Security Administration utilizes two technologies to capture naked images of air travelers - backscatter x-ray technology and millimeter wave technology," reports the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a non-profit currently suing the U.S. government to stop these electronic strip searches. (http://epic.org/privacy/airtravel/b...)

In order to generate the nude image of the human body, these machines emit terahertz photons -- high-frequency energy "particles" that can pass through clothing and body tissue.

The manufacturers of such machines claim they are perfectly safe and present no health risks, but a study conducted by Boian S. Alexandrov (and colleagues) at the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico showed that these terahertz waves could "...unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication."

In layman's terms, any time you're talking about interfering with "gene expression" and "DNA replication," you're essentially talking about something that could be a risk to human health.


Never approved as safe for humans
"At first glance, it's easy to dismiss any notion that they can be damaging," reports TechnologyReview.com (http://www.technologyreview.com/blo...). "But a new generation of cameras are set to appear that not only record terahertz waves but also bombard us with them. And if our exposure is set to increase, the question that urgently needs answering is what level of terahertz exposure is safe."

And yet no such long-term safety testing has ever been conducted by a third party. There have been no clinical trials indicating that multiple exposures to such terahertz waves, accumulated over a long period of time, are safe for humans. The FDA, in particular, has never granted its approval for any such devices even though these devices clearly qualify as "medical devices."

(If you try to sell an X-ray imaging device yourself, without FDA approval, you'll be arrested. So why do these TSA suppliers get away with selling human body imaging equipment that has never been adequately safety tested or approved by the FDA?)

The study cited in the TechnologyReview article mentioned above is visible at: http://arxiv.org/abs/0910.5294

There, study authors conclude: "Based on our results we argue that a specific terahertz radiation exposure may significantly affect the natural dynamics of DNA, and thereby influence intricate molecular processes involved in gene expression and DNA replication."

In other words, millimeter wave scanning devices may damage your DNA.


(These images depict what the TSA sees when air passengers are subjected to full-body scans using millimeter wave technology and / or backscatter X-rays.)


Could these scans cause cancer and birth defects?
Could these scans cause infertility? Cancer? Shortened lifespan? We don't yet know the answers to these questions, but then again neither does the TSA. This technology is being recklessly rolled out without adequate safety testing that would prove it safe for long-term use.

How many times in the past have the "experts" told us technologies were perfectly safe and then later we found out they were dangerous? X-Rays were once used in shoe stores to see if new shoes would fit the bone structure of your feet. High-voltage power lines are perfectly safe, we're told -- but then why do children who live closer to those lines have higher rates of cancer?

Dentists still claim that mercury fillings are perfectly safe for your health -- a preposterous notion -- and cell phone companies continue to insist that cell phone radiation isn't hazardous to your health at all. Time and time again, the public has been lied to by the authorities during the roll-out of some new technology. Why should we believe that full-body scanners are safe when they've never been proven safe? Furthermore, there is now reason to believe they may damage human DNA.

What if the experts are wrong about their safety and ten years later we find out that there is cumulative DNA damage that causes infertility and cancer? What if air travelers who subject themselves to this radiation wind up suffering some currently-unknown health condition as a result? At no time in the history of human civilization have large numbers of humans ever been subjected to terahertz bombardment of this type and frequency.

Sure, you can argue that you get more radiation sitting in an airplane at high altitude than you get from a full-body scanner, or you can explain that cell phones emit far more radiation on the whole (which they do, when you're talking on them anyway). But if there's one thing we all should have learned about radiation by now it's that frequencies matter. The terahertz frequencies have never been rolled out en masse in a scanning technology. Who's to say they're going to be safe?

What about pregnant women? Can the TSA absolutely guarantee that these full-body scanners won't damage the DNA of the unborn babies? What if this technology becomes the next Thalidomide and ten months from now women start giving birth to mutant babies who were damaged by terahertz radiation?

I'm not saying this is going to happen, but wouldn't it be wise to determine the safety of this technology in advance of its global rollout?

As the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements admitted in a 2002 report that studied these security devices: (http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/AC...)

"[We] cannot exclude the possibility of a fatal cancer attributable to radiation in a very large population of people exposed to very low doses of radiation."

Barring solid evidence of the safety of this terahertz-emitting technology, the TSA would be wise to follow the Precautionary Principle which states that we should err on the side of caution when it comes to the roll out of new technologies. Unfortunately, the TSA appears to be erring on the side of stupidity by subjecting the public to an unproven, "experimental" technology with unknown long-term effects on human DNA.

And here's the real kicker: These full-body scanners do nothing to stop terrorists because they can't detect powder explosives in the first place. A determined terrorist can hide all sorts of powder in a shoe, or a sleeping pillow, or a plastic bag sewn into the side of his carry-on luggage. There are a thousand places for terrorists to hide explosives that won't be caught on full-body scanners, no matter how detailed the images are.

Besides, in order to avoid engaging in child pornography (because these machines offer very detailed depictions of body parts), the rules will allow people under 18 years of age to bypass them. So all you need then, if you're a terrorist, is a 17-year-old terrorist assistant who can pack explosives in his own underwear.


Radiology experts claim full-body scanners are safe
Radiology experts are claiming that the radiation emitted from these full-body scanners is perfectly safe for you. Then again, they also claim mammograms are safe, and recent science has now proven that mammograms cause cancer.

When it comes to radiation safety, you can't trust radiologists. They say all that radiation is safe for YOU, but then they flee the room when the X-rays are turned on, ever notice that? They really have zero credibility when talking about the long-term safety of medical imaging devices. Most doctors, similarly, don't have any real clue how much radiation is emitted by a CT scan!

As BusinessWeek reports: (http://www.businessweek.com/lifesty...)

"The health effects of the more common millimeter-wave scanners are largely unknown, and at least one expert believes a safety study is warranted.

'I am very interested in performing a National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements study on the use of millimeter-wave security screening systems,' said Thomas S. Tenforde, council president."

The New York Times adds: (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/09/h...)

"Collectively, the radiation doses from the scanners incrementally increase the risk of fatal cancers among the thousands or millions of travelers who will be exposed, some radiation experts believe."

NYT goes on to state that the TSA has entered into a contract under which it could purchase 900 full-body scanners to be deployed in airport all across the country.


Resources:
Physics Letters, January 8, 2010
http://arxiv.org/abs/0910.5294

Technology Review:
http://www.technologyreview.com/blo...

Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millim...

New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/09/h...

Editorial: Obama's Gift to Airline Passengers

Seattle Times
December 25th, 2009

Obama's gift of humane treatment to airline passengers held prisoner on tarmac
The Obama administration jumps into the fray over long waits for airline passengers on the tarmac. Huge fines will begin in the spring, and it's the right thing to do.

AIRPLANE passengers are not cattle. And they should not be stuck on the tarmac for six, seven or even 10 hours without food, water and clean facilities. There ought to be a rule against such treatment of customers. Reasonably, there will be.

The Obama administration announced a Christmas gift of sorts for U.S. airline passengers traveling on domestic flights: stiff penalties on airlines that unduly keep passengers stranded on the tarmac without food or water or allowing them to disembark.

According to a new federal rule taking effect in the spring, passengers cannot be kept longer than two hours without food and water. By similar logic, a plane sitting on the tarmac for three hours has to offer passengers a chance to leave the aircraft. Fines proposed by Ray LaHood, Obama's transportation secretary, are steep — $27,500 per passenger — and they should be.

LaHood referred to the new rules as the president's passenger bill of rights, though administration fines are separate from efforts in Congress to protect the flying public and do not require congressional approval.

Obviously, new rules on one end of flying create trouble at another end. Airlines worry they will have to abandon a place in line for takeoff, return to the gate and have baggage removed. They may have to de-ice an extra time. Crews may not be able to remain with a flight if a delay is prolonged.

All of these present huge headaches for the airlines, a hassle that should not be understated. But the equation of flying involves give and take. As airlines press passengers to pay for more things a la carte — checked luggage, meals, blankets and, (who knows?) restrooms — customers also have needs.

Sitting on a plane for an elongated period of time can aggravate numerous medical conditions. Health organizations have said that the risk of such things as pulmonary embolism doubles after four hours of immobility.

Food, water and clean restrooms are essential, along with the right to move around. The rules require some adjustments, but flying will improve over time because passengers will be treated humanely.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

January 9, 2010: Cancer Risks Debated on Full Body Scanners

Matt Wald, New York Times

WASHINGTON — The plan for broad use of X-ray body scanners to detect bombs or weapons under airline passengers’ clothes has rekindled a debate about the safety of delivering small doses of radiation to millions of people — a process some experts say is certain to result in a few additional cancer deaths.

The scanning machines, called “backscatter scanners,” deliver a dose of ionizing radiation equivalent to 1 percent or less of the radiation in a dental X-ray. The amount is so small that the risk to an individual is negligible, according to radiation experts. But collectively, the radiation doses from the scanners incrementally increase the risk of fatal cancers among the thousands or millions of travelers who will be exposed, some radiation experts believe.

Full-body scanners that are already in place in some airports around the country and abroad use a different type of imaging technology, called millimeter wave, that uses less powerful, non-ionizing radiation that does not pose the same risk.

But those machines also produce images that are less clear. And in the wake of the attempted bombing of an airplane traveling to Detroit from Amsterdam on Dec. 25, the United States is turning to backscatter scanners for routine security checks. Congress has appropriated funds for 450 scanners to be placed in American airports. On Thursday, President Obama called for greater use of “imaging technology” to spot weapons and explosives.

Some other countries may follow suit. Britain plans to use whole-body scanners and may test the backscatter system. On Friday, the French government said it would begin testing a few scanners of the millimeter wave type at Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, for flights bound for the United States. Italy and the Netherlands also plan to use the millimeter-wave scanners.

Most discussion about full-body scanners has focused on privacy issues surrounding the nude images that would result. The American Civil Liberties Union has denounced the practice as a “virtual strip search.”

Some experts argue that the broad use of the scanners raises the same question that pertains to any other routine exposure to small doses of
radiation: Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

“The guiding principle is not whether Mother Nature is going to kill you one day,” said Arjun Makhijani, a nuclear physicist. “It’s whether we can justify doing something to each other based on the benefit you’re going to get.”

Officials at the Transportation Security Administration say they have already tried out a handful of backscatter scanners. They could acquire 450 from the manufacturer, Rapiscan Systems, by the end of September.
The agency has a contract under which it could buy 900 of the scanners.
The machines have been used for years at prisons and other places where the authorities look for weapons, including at nuclear power plants.

In a 2002 report on the safety of backscatter scanners, the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, which is highly influential in setting regulatory standards, said it “cannot exclude the possibility of a fatal cancer attributable to radiation in a very large population of people exposed to very low doses of radiation.”

One author of that report, David J. Brenner, a professor of radiation biophysics at Columbia and director of the university’s Center for Radiological Research, said that risk might be increased as the transportation agency moves from using the scanning machines as a second-round check after metal detectors and hand searches to using them as a first-line screening system.

“When we were looking at these a few years back, it was always going to be as a secondary screening tool,” he said. “In that scenario, I don’t think there’s too much concern.” But, he said, if millions or tens of millions of passengers a year were scanned with the backscatter X-ray, he said, the risk would be higher.

The health effect of small doses of radiation is not observed, but inferred from the visible effects of higher doses. Dr. Makhijani said that if a billion passengers were screened with the dose assumed by the radiation protection council, that would mean 10 more cancer deaths a year.

Those deaths would represent only a tiny increment over the existing cancer rate, he said, just as the extra dose was a tiny fraction of the natural background dose of radiation people get from everyday exposures, but he added that they should still be considered.

Edward Lyman, a nuclear expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that the additional deaths would be indistinguishable from cancers resulting from other causes. But he said, “Just because they can’t be attributed in an epidemiology study to the additional radiation, it doesn’t mean they’re not there.”

Other experts, however, including David A. Schauer, the radiation council’s executive director, disputed the idea that collective doses of radiation increased risks significantly.

Doses divided into tiny portions among millions of people are not the same as those concentrated on a few people, Dr. Schauer said.

“I personally don’t buy it,” he said. “From a public health point of view, it’s a bit of a stretch.”

The radiation council sets standards for doses to radiation workers and to the general public, but does not set a standard for a collective dose.

Robert Barish, a radiation consultant in New York and the author of a
1996 book, “The Invisible Passenger,” said the doses delivered by the scanners were tiny by any standard, and passengers would get the same dose in a few minutes in a high-altitude jet, where most of the earth’s atmosphere is not available to shield people from cosmic rays.

A spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, Kristin Lee, said that even for pregnant women, children and people whose genetic makeup made them more susceptible to X-ray damage, “It would take more than 1,000 screenings per individual per year” to exceed radiation standards.

According to a blog published by the Transportation Security Administration, the radiation dose from the scanner is about the same amount as an average American receives from natural background sources in four minutes on the ground.

But Dr. Lyman, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, noted that at one point the blog had listed a much higher dose for the scanners. When the discrepancy was pointed out, the agency corrected the blog to the lower figure.

Backscatter scanners work by shooting a beam of X-rays at a subject. But rather than making an image from what passes through the body, as a doctor’s diagnostic X-ray machine does, backscatter machines measure what bounces back, producing an image of the passenger without clothing.
The X-rays are a form of ionizing radiation, that is, radiation powerful enough to strip molecules in the body of their electrons, creating charged particles that cause cell damage and are thought to be the mechanism through which radiation causes cancer.

Nicola Clark contributed reporting from Paris.

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

Thursday, January 7, 2010

If you think the Rapiscan Scanners will work: Read On "The Butt Bomb"

The Butt Bomb
Al Qaeda's hidden weapon.
Michael Crowley

Michael Crowley
Senior Editor
view bio contact me
The Butt Bomb
Obama and Nuclear Deterrence
John Brennan: No to Waterboarding, but Maybe Yes to Some Rough Stuff
January 7, 2010 | 12:00 am
2 comments


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More From this Author
Obama and Nuclear Deterrence
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Whack A Mole, al Qaeda Edition

In the wake of the failed bombing attempt by Nigerian Al Qaeda operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, airport security experts are wringing their hands over how to stop the next underwear bomber. X-ray machines don’t detect the type of explosive, known as PETN, that Abdulmutallab carried. Only a careful pat-down around Abdulmutallab’s crotch, where the explosive had been sewn into his undies, would have detected his deadly cargo. But Abdulmutallab’s al Qaeda handlers knew that pat-downs are rare and that social mores make highly intrusive, crotch-fondling searches almost unheard of. In the wake of the Abdulmutallab episode, however, standards will change. Pat downs will become more common—and more intrusive. We may not see the famous vision of the crazed dictator from Woody Allen’s Bananas—“Underwear shall be worn on the outside!”—but those searches by hand are likely to get a little more, shall we say, intimate.

Even a pat-down thorough enough to simulate foreplay, however, won’t protect us completely—not from a threat that sounds even more absurd than an underwear bomb and that is also more alarming: the butt bomb.

The concept is simple. Rather than sew explosives into his underwear, a terrorist might actually plant a bomb, which can weigh as little as a pound, inside his anal cavity. Like drug mules, would-be butt bombers could store the explosives inside a condom.

Sound crazy? Perhaps. But security experts initially believed that a terrorist’s derriere nearly killed a top Saudi Arabian counterterrorism official last fall. Back in August, an Al Qaeda-connected militant named Abdullah Assiri offered to turn himself into Saudi authorities and enlist in a state-run terrorist rehabilitation program. Exhibiting a healthy skepticism, the Saudis reportedly subjected Assiri to two airport-style X-ray scans and other security checks. Finding no weapons or explosives on his body, security agents ushered Assiri into the palace of the counterterrorism chief, Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef, who is also the son of a likely heir to the Saudi throne.

Instead of surrendering, however, Assiri exploded. Nayef survived the blast, but the Saudis were bewildered by this incredible breach of their security. At first, they were convinced the explosive had been hidden in Assiri’s anal cavity—a scenario that other security experts didn’t discount. After further investigation, the Saudis concluded that Assiri didn’t have a butt bomb after all, but rather that he stashed the explosive in his underwear much like Abdulmutallab. (The device may have been detonated by a text message sent to Assiri’s cell phone; exactly how the phone triggered the bomb is unclear. Like Abdulmutallab, incidentally, Assiri appears to have gotten his assignment and materials in Yemen.)

Prince Nayaf himself flew to Washington to warn Obama administration officials about this new underwear bomb threat, according to Newsweek—which also recently disclosed a joint report produced by the National Counterterrorism Center, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security and the CIA, on the threat of both underwear and butt bombs. That report had both good and bad news about the alarming concept of explosive Al Qaeda asses. On the downside, the report found that even full-body-image scanners at airports might not detect anally stashed explosives. The upside is that much of the blast from such a rear-end bomb would be absorbed by the terrorist’s body—perhaps enough of the explosion that the airplane would not crash.

But don’t exhale just yet. It stands to reason that a terrorist who wants to down a plane needs only to smuggle his PETN onboard, much like a drug mule with a cocaine-stuffed rectum. After that, he can excuse himself to the lavatory and extract his cargo, then return to his seat to detonate the explosive outside his body.

Fortunately this scenario remains speculative; if it were easy and reliable, Abdulmutallab might have tried it. But if a terrorist does succeed in detonating a butt bomb, airport security might be in for a radical change. You think taking off your shoes is bad? Try bending over for a TSA worker wearing green surgical gloves.

Michael Crowley is a senior editor of The New Republic.

Op-Ed from The Hill magazine

In the wake of the recent attempt by Al Qaeda-linked Nigerian terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to detonate an explosive aboard a transantlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, the debate over how to best protect Americans from these kinds of threats has dominated our discourse. Yet, sadly, as occurs all too often after incidents such as these, the first reaction by many who occupy elite perches in Washington and on cable television has been to propose curtailing the rights of passengers.

One example of this has been particularly galling. Over the past week and a half since the failed attack, former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff has been ubiquitous, showing up on television and in print, to promote body scanners made by a company that also happens to be a client of his, Rapiscan. The most telling aspect of his marketing campaign was that until called out by CNN Anchor Cambell Brown, he neglected to even disclose his financial relationship with the company that would benefit most from his on-air Billy Mays act.

Beyond Chertoff’s advocacy, the simple reality that is there are measures available that will be even more effective than invasive one he has been touting, ones which will not add one more indignity and delay to boarding flights for the rest of the public. According to Dr. Kenneth G. Furton, Professor of Chemistry at the International Forensic Research Institute at Florida International University, using canines would be a much more promising tactic to prevent explosives from being smuggled aboard commercial jets.

Recently, in reaction to the claims of those such as Chertoff that body scans are the one and only answer, he offered “I am surprised by the rush to implement yet another developing technology that is both expensive and not proven to be able to reliably detect the explosives used in this last terrorist event. There is extensive research reinforcing the proven ability of detector dogs to detect explosives without the intrusive privacy issues involved in full body scanning. It is not certain that even with a high resolution image of a traveler's groin region that a half cup of explosive powder would be detectable."

This is not to say that there is no role for a variety of methods in preventing terrorism, perhaps even body scans. But this feels like yet another move towards the mass purchase of some very expensive equipment that is unproven. A knee-jerk reaction to a serious problem that must be solved at the highest levels by experts, not by what makes some people feel better or spending a large amount of taxpayer money on unproven methods because someone with good connections in Washington and among television bookers says so.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. Or know what all Americans are thinking. But I can tell you that the 27,000 members of my organization, FlyersRights.org, who have weighed in on this subject with emails, calls, texts, etc. , are overwhelmingly against the loss of privacy that goes with using body scanners. These are hardened travelers, but many have reached the breaking point when it comes to giving up their rights to one more supposed panacea. In fact, when asked point blank whether body scanners would have stopped Abdulmutallab on Meet The Press recently, John Brennan, Obama’s top counterterrorism aide, answered “I think it’s an unknown.” Not exactly an endorsement.

Dr. Furton agrees with Brennan’s sentiment. He recently offered that “it’s like someone said since we are x-raying luggage and that’s working let’s also x-ray the passengers and then everything will be covered. Of course that implies an extremely na├»ve view of security screening. Nobody believes that the x-ray scanners used to scan luggage, detect everything in people’s carry ons, so why would a full-body x-ray scanner made by the same company be expected to detect everything on the person with the carryon?”

Benjamin Franklin famously said “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” We must listen to these great words and employ the methods most likely to protect us. And we must not give into fear and give up our rights without first examining the likelihood of success and what the costs will be to our freedom, no matter what certain famous talking heads are saying on television.

Kate Hanni is the President of FlyersRights.org.

Dr. Kenneth Furton, Professor, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Founder and Director Emeritus, International Forensic Research Institute
Florida International University, ECS453

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ex-Homeland Security chief head said to abuse public trust by touting body scanners

Ex-Homeland Security chief head said to abuse public trust by touting body scanners

By Kimberly Kindy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 1, 2010; A07

Since the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day, former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff has given dozens of media interviews touting the need for the federal government to buy more full-body scanners for airports.
What he has made little mention of is that the Chertoff Group, his security consulting agency, includes a client that manufactures the machines. The relationship drew attention after Chertoff disclosed it on a CNN program Wednesday, in response to a question.
An airport passengers' rights group on Thursday criticized Chertoff, who left office less than a year ago, for using his former government credentials to advocate for a product that benefits his clients.
"Mr. Chertoff should not be allowed to abuse the trust the public has placed in him as a former public servant to privately gain from the sale of full-body scanners under the pretense that the scanners would have detected this particular type of explosive," said Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org, which opposes the use of the scanners.
Chertoff's advocacy for the technology dates back to his time in the Bush administration. In 2005, Homeland Security ordered the government's first batch of the scanners -- five from California-based Rapiscan Systems.
Today, 40 body scanners are in use at 19 U.S. airports. The number is expected to skyrocket at least in part because of the Christmas Day incident. The Transportation Security Administration this week said it will order 300 more machines.
In the summer, TSA purchased 150 machines from Rapiscan with $25 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. Rapiscan was the only company that qualified for the contract because it had developed technology that performs the screening using a less-graphic body imaging system, which is also less controversial. (Since then, another company, L-3 Communications, has qualified for future contracts, but no new contracts have been awarded.)
Over the past week, Chertoff has repeatedly talked about the need for expanding the use of the technology in airports, saying it could detect bombs like the one federal authorities say Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, carried onto the Detroit-bound aircraft.
"We could deploy the scanning machines that we currently are beginning to deploy in the U.S. that will give us the ability to see what someone has concealed underneath their clothing," Chertoff said Wednesday in an interview on CNN. The incident on the Detroit-bound plane provided "a very vivid lesson in the value of that machinery," he said.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Michael Chertoff Pitchman for Full Body Scanners

For Immediate Release
Michael Chertoff Pitch Man for full body scanners!
Former Homeland Security Chief Admits Lucrative Business Relationship With Manufacturer During Talk Show Rounds

NAPA, CA (January 2) – FlyersRights.org: During a CNN interview on December 29th, 2009 former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff pushed the use of full body scanners as the first and best line of defense against the kind of terrorist airline attack that occurred on Christmas Day. Chertoff, who has been making the national media rounds for a week now, has not once voluntarily disclosed this inherent conflict of interest to the American people. Worse still, he is overstating the true capabilities of these devices in order to profit from their sale.

According to Dr. Kenneth G. Furton, Professor of Chemistry, International Forensic Research Institute, Florida International University, using canines would be a much more promising tactic to prevent explosives from being smuggled aboard commercial jets. Indeed, Dr. Furton offered “I am surprised by the rush to implement yet another developing technology that is both expensive and not proven to be able to reliably detect the explosives used in this last terrorist event. There is extensive research reinforcing the proven ability of detector dogs to detect explosives without the intrusive privacy issues involved in full body scanning. It is not certain that even with a high resolution image of a traveler's groin region that a half cup of explosive powder would be detectable."

He continued, "I have conducted research with canines for nearly two decades and these biological explosive detectors continue to be the most reliable method for locating concealed explosives. These orthogonal instrumental detectors under development should be considered as potential complements rather than replacements for canines’ proven ability to detect vapors emanating from concealed explosives.”

Kate Hanni, President of FlyersRights.org, added her voice to Furton's on this issue: “Michael Chertoff has marginalized himself in the worst way possible by 'selling' the flying public on claims that these Rapiscan full body scanners are a panacea. While these body scanners detect 'anomalies' that are between the skin and clothing, they will NOT detect anything in a body cavity that is deeper than 1/10th of an inch, which experts warn will likely be a part of future attacks. This just adds insult to injury, as Mr. Chertoff shamelessly peddles his wares using the nation's airwaves and a near-national tragedy."

As of October 1st, 2009, 150 of these units were ordered by the Transportation Security Administration costing the American taxpayer $25 million in stimulus funds, with another 300 on order at a cost of $51 million. As Hanni's sees it, "half measures get us nothing. It's time to hit the pause button and do a wholesale review of what we have today so we can implement policies that will offer the flying public the most secure and efficient travel process possible under the current circumstances."


Kate Hanni, Founder
(707)337-0328
kate@flyersrights.org