My family is friends with a gentleman who was a green beret medic during Viet Nam, and later worked for the CIA. Once, when I was younger (and metal detectors were the norm), we had the opportunity to fly with him. He entered the metal detector before me, and was waved along. Once we were past the detectors, he turned to me and said, "Guess how many blades I have on me?" He then proceded to produce seven blades. They were a combination of ceramic blades (undetectable by the metal detector and sharper than most metal as well) and traditional blades held or placed on him so that they would not set off the detector. It was part of his CIA training to be able to do that.
I went to college at Stevens Institute of Technology. The Chemical Engineering department there has a lab known as the Highly Filled Materials Institute. When I was an undergraduate, I got a tour of the lab. They informed me that they had been working on an extruder that they were selling simultaneously to Picatinny Arsenal and Hersey. It turns out that C4 and Chocolate are both colloidal suspensions with nearly identical properties. A consequence of this is that in the X-ray machines used in airports, plastic explosives are indistinguishable from chocolate.
Shortly after 9/11 my father, a very frequent traveler, had forgotten his nail clippers in his carry-on luggage. Predictably, they were confiscated. When I greeted him at the airport, he remarked on how ridiculous that was, as he produced his fountain pen from his jacket pocket. "They let me on with this," he said. "I could have stabbed anyone in the eye with this and they'd be dead. What was I going to do with nail clippers?"
...I could go on, but why?
You want to know another way to hide illicit items in those body scanners? Surround the items in water.
There are also certain materials that give off false positives and most likely the software will scan the image response against a bank of known materials. I wrote pattern detection software that did just this. Oddly enough, cheese is one of them. So stick your knife in a nice big piece of cheddar and you might make it through just fine.
The most embarassing thisg possible for TSA would be an exact repeat of 9/11 - same weapons (wasn't it box cutters?) etc. So that's what they target first.
A new kind of attack is harder to predict and easier for the authorities to explain by saying "nothing like this has ever happened before, there was no way we could have prepared for it." And there's no way they could cover all possibilities anyway.
And to be fair, copycat attacks do happen (e.g. July 21, 2005 in London) so it is not a total waste.
The weapons used on 9/11 were surprise and that standard operating procedure in a hijacking situation was to do as hijackers said. Both weapons were ineffective by the time the 4th plane found out.
The authorities main priority has been to be seen to be doing something.
Just as an aside, Ben Gurion airport relies much less on pseudo high tech, and has had incredibly good result.
No, they use 'pseudo people reading skills'. I'm good at offsetting those unintentionally. Can lead to hours of fun.
And they use other pseudo tests as well, that tell me that so far none of the people there checking my laptop had any clues about - computers.
I've never been to the states (and - don't plan to), but I cannot imagine that the average TSA guy is more grumpy than the average  Ben Gurion security guy.
Don't make 'different' the right thing to do. There is obviously a high demand for security here, both ~real~ and in the public mindset. Replicating that world-wide would be just as bad as placing these back-scatter machines everywhere, in my world..
1: Insert disclaimer about the exceptions to the rule here
Now assuming that you are 100% right, and that Israeli's security protocol is as much as a mascarade as the TSA's. Then I still believe that they put up a much much cheaper mascarade than the TSA, and that useless for useless, you might want to consider the cheapest.
That was just an aside though, I'm still convinced that their security thing is not just a mascarade.
Not even close. Israel spends close to 10 times as much on security pr. passenger compared to the US. Sure the absolute number is smaller, but that's because Israeli airports handle ~1 million passengers a year compared to US' ~700 million a year
That sounds too few. Even if you only consider individuals rather than flights that means that less than one in five Israelis flies any given year. Norway, with about the same population size handles 40 million passengers a year. Now there is virtually no domestic traffic in Israel because its small size, but it also has a lot more tourists than Norway.
So most of these stupid rules flow into other nations too. To other western government I would say stop listen and looking to amerika. If you want to look somewhere look at the countries that work well.
For Drugs look to Portugal, For democracy look to Switzerland, For Prisons look to Norway, ..., and trie to improve upon it. There is almost nothing I would copy from amerika if I would "create" a new country.
One thing that the US does pretty well is opening up data and code after a gov project is finished.
Not true at all. For one, the Constitution and various Federal and State laws allow elected persons to take an affirmation instead of an oath, and Article Six of the Constitution specifically prohibits a religious test on any public office.
Second, you may find http://www.americanhumanist.org/HNN/details/2009-12-can-an-a... to be an interesting read on the topic.
Third, just because atheists are not elected doesn't mean that they aren't allowed to be elected—just that most people in the US want a religious leader (or that not many atheists choose to run for office, or that religious politicians have more popular plans, etc.)
Anyway would anybody clame that the US is the show of stat for seperation from churge and state?
A man tries to set fire to plastic explosive in his shoes, so long queues form (in airports) for people to remove their shoes.
Intelligence comes in about liquid / gel / paste explosives, so now those long queues have to abandon any liquids / gels / pastes in bins, near those long queues, inside an airport. Those "potential explosives" are not allowed on a plane, but are allowed to be left for hours (days?) near lots of people in an airport.
And what crimes happen in the vicinity of their screening area that could be prevented?
No, he wants real cops.
In France, in public places like railway stations, the "plan Vigipirate" makes use of the military (including gendarmerie)
Whether or not you think that the TSA should be involved in anything past securing the ability for persons to travel is the question.
The sad thing is these are the exact items they are supposed to be looking for and the things they are best equipped to detect and still a 20%+ failure rate.
I would think that would be a good way to reduce the failure rate. Or does the failure rate have more to do with limitations in equipment, rather than screening being a mundane job?
The real interest is for well-connected companies to sell equipment; for the approving bureaucrat to get his kickback while not being seen as abusing his position; and for the low-level unskilled TSA employee to keep quiet and keep cashing his salary.
The suggestion you give would mean the above-mentioned bureaucrat should spend additional money (which would require a lengthy fight with his superiors in order to get additional budget, possibly even triggering a review of previous expenditure) in order to push his underlings to point out flaws in the equipment he bought, so that... he can be made a fool of ?
So you see why it isn't going to happen any time soon.
In about 5 seconds after such a bonus program was initiated, screeners would be offering kickbacks to the testers in return for being given advance notice of the test.
Despite what the fear-merchants would have us believe, all indications are that there simply aren't that many intelligent, capable people who are willing to give their own lives to lash out at Western civilians.
The perfect crime!
Experimenting with URLs
In the '90s, long before 9/11, I was traveling with a girlfriend. She didn't want to remove her belt with a big metal buckle so she just went through the metal detector with it on. The machine buzzed and the agent sent her through again. A female agent looked sympathetic and told her to twist her belt buckle horizontally so it wouldn't set off the machine. That was my intro to security theater.
Moral of the story is that if you're a pretty white girl, you don't need CIA training to learn security secrets from lazy guards.
I served in Special Forces before and after 9/11. The 'security theater' points that many of you make are valid. I don't, however, believe the reactionary measures were to calm the fears of the American people. The severe restriction placed on travelers is similar to a trend of restrictions placed upon soldiers following 9/11. The reaction is CYA for senior leadership/command.
Accountability became a tremendous focus following the early campaigns following 9/11. A single casualty was regarded as a devastating loss. Clearing buildings early in the bloodshed of Iraq taught many commanders that the peacetime tactics largely learned from SWAT were not as effective in combat. The procedure was too slow for such a dynamic and hostile environment. Too many soldiers died because the common procedure for clearing a building broke down in structures of irregular layout and in cities crawling with hostiles. Before commanders and NCOs were prepared to blame the procedures, however, they were taking accountability for the loss.
An after action review (AAR) follows every mission and leaders are encouraged to highlight their mistakes before someone else must do it for them. An atmosphere of blame settled in while civilians back CONUS were tiring of the involvement. Casualties were frequent enough that many ODAs had suffered through a few. For most, it was their first time facing a grieving widow with a young child hugging her leg. Those stories, coupled with the blame, changed the landscape of command. CONOPS that were once routinely approved were rejected for increasingly vague reasons. Ultimately, the tone was that the risk was too great compared with the operational gain- almost like the soldier was too valuable to put in harm's way. But we signed up for that. The truth, I suspect, was that the appetite for risk taking at the senior levels was shrinking. If an ODA lost a man, the mission's CONOP would be scrutinized for evidence that all of the risks were accounted for, that the courses of action reflected sound decision making when assuming risk, that the operational gain justified the risk, and that good faith efforts were made to mitigate perceived risks. The AAR became a trial. While I was working through these challenges during deployments, I believe something similar was happening with security measures and leadership back home.
Creating an illusion of safety seems less likely the hope than creating an exemption from accountability. Negligence would be too likely the charge if tight restrictions were not put in place.
Edit: Also, regarding the pen... The full conversation was longer. My father was complaining that the "weapons" they were catching were likely all from upstanding citizens, and that the terrorists would have figured out how to get weapons on board regardless. Instead of making the plane safer, they were in fact making it easier for potential terrorists to take control. He remarked, though, that he wasn't worried because he had his pen (and mind you, this was an old-school solid metal fountain pen...possibly not lethal, but I wouldn't want to find out).
So many people forget that one very, very important factor in the 9/11 attacks was that almost everyone on the planet had been conditioned by decades of politically motivated plane hijackings that the proper course of action was to aquiesce to the hijackers every demand. In fact a friend whose mother was a flight attendent at the time told us that they received explicit training informing them to do just that! I doubt you could repeat 9/11 today, security theater or no...
1) Were we some form of hijack risk?
2) If 100 marines are some sort of hijack risk, is taking their folding pair of pliers away from them going to anything at all to mitigate that risk?
CYA and security theatre are the worst combination.
So... it varies.
It is a military element of the United States Army Special Forces .
 Section on ODA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Forces_%28United_State...
CONUS is the contiguous/continental US. Generally used to mean "back home". Outside of CONUS is OCONUS. You wouldn't say OCONUS to mean a combat theater. The two terms are designations for military assignments rather than geographic shorthand. During a deployment to a combat zone (documented more frequently as a hazardous duty zone), you wouldn't say you were OCONUS. Stationed in Germany, however, you would.
An ODA is Operational Detachment-Alpha. It is an element of Special Forces, which is Army branch. You might be familiar with A-Team. There's also an Operational Detachment-Bravo. Their mission is to support the ODA. While it is true they are the 'B-team', it is more often that they are awaiting an opening on an A-Team (perhaps lacking experience), rather than being less stellar. Additionally, there is an Operational Detachment-Delta. Think Delta Force or The Unit. The three detachments differ in mission set and operational demands (intensity, perhaps).
A CONOP is a concept of operation(s). It is a proposal. One of the unique aspects of Special Operations Forces is the way they are engaged in the fight. Traditional units are given orders from higher command. They are told the objective and given clear guidance on how to best achieve the command's intent. Unconventional units, like an ODA, are very different. They are given the commander's intent, often in general language, and then propose operations to accomplish the intent. The practice was popularized with blitzkrieg. The depth of training given to an ODA is meant to ensure that they can conduct operations in the absence of centralized command (faster execution). When possible, CONOPS compete so that the best ideas for achieving intent are the ones that are chosen. This includes a CONOP that proposes to circumvent an engagement through careful execution of several small operations (a point I make because some might not know that raids are not common).
The intent is rarely to obliterate an area. More often, it is to disrupt or defeat the effectiveness of an oppositional force. Countless CONOPS have been approved, and later studied, for finding a way to win the favor of locals who might then refuse to support the operations of the oppositional force. Rather than scouring a country looking for fire fights, we more often try to bring medicine to remote areas. On occasion, we discover a desperate area. A CONOP is prepared to conduct extended operations in the area to establish a clear interest in the betterment of the locals and country. The hope is that word spreads that most of our work is productive, rather than destructive. An ODA traveling far from the main element, and with numbers only at a dozen or so, appears to be an easy target. The risk to the ODA is high and the gain is much higher for locals than the ODA. We once had an easy time communicating the importance of taking that risk to show locals that an ODA was very different from a conventional 'warrior'. Following 9/11 (that landscape shift of blame and CYA), it grew incredibly difficult to get such a CONOP approved.
Special Operational Forces have been quietly working to convince command from the bottom up that it is much more important to "win hearts and minds" than to crush everything that moves. This is the longest running tradition of Special Forces, which is why every SF soldier is required to demonstrate a functional proficiency in a target foreign language in order to graduate the training. It has always been our greatest source of pride that we deploy to liberate oppressed peoples, not triumph over poorly equipped opposition.
A bit off the mark from explaining acronyms but defining ODA would never have covered what it really means.
BTW, has it occurred to anyone that someone intending a terrorist act could just blow up a carry-on before ever getting to the ridiculous scanner...
It'll shut down the airport for sure... and do it at a couple of airports simultaneously and you'll shut down the whole network for a day or two...
Stop letting government treat us like childish idiots... yes... things could happen... reasonable precautions should be taken. But this isn't a smart approach.
In practice, security theatre turns out to be pretty expensive.
it took me two flights of trial and error to work out the right method to smuggle it through. security theatre indeed.
The reality is that they can't keep weapons and drugs out of prisons where there are no freedoms, and there is plenty of time to be as invasive as you want to visitors and residents.
Additionally the security system has failed if the point you pick up the bad guys is by some low paid grunt at the airport staring at a screen. The point of airport security should be to catch occasional idiots and that is about it - something any metal detector can do.
The reality is that anyone determined can get through any security system and wreak terror. The response is to not be terrorised. It is to live well and not in fear. It is to have made their actions completely pointless.
—George Carlin, “Airport Security"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQdC-e82gmk (language NSFW, obviously)
George Carlin was the embodiment of NSFW, he was the one who went to the Supreme Court for the right to swear on the airwaves... And lost. The “Seven Words You Can’t Say on TV” was one of his legendary routines.
I figured everyone should know George Carlin, but I added the NSFW, just in case people had their speakers up in the office (like I almost did - even though I'm a huge fan, it just slipped my mind). The "obviously" was a reference to him being the epitome of NSFW.
I'd pay extra for less-safe and more-convenient air travel personally. Then again, I ride a motorcycle, so my risk profile may well be abnormal.
That is why it is known as "security theatre". The wikipedia page is comprehensive:
Somewhat similar to crosswalk buttons which don't actually provide jumping the change of traffic light phase queue.
The term Security Theater sounds dismissive and implies there is no actual benefit. It seems in the least debatable to me.
it, in fact, does not provide any benefit. Making people "feel" safer, will only worsen the problem when they finally find out that they aren't actually safe (due to an attack happening).
Once the bubble is burst, that'd be another issue. Still, I think people will rationalize it as "well, we got X years use out of the system."
Out of curiosity, what _do_ you think has accounted for the safety record? Obviously you don't believe the theater has helped. At the same time I don't believe that people (AQ) have not been plotting against transportation assets. I would ask, why would they abandon that path, if they thought the theater was just theater? Are there other mechanisms keeping them at bay?
Additionally, even if the theater contributed nothing to security and all the heavy lifting was accomplished by other means -intel, profiling, whathaveyou, the theater would act as a signal to travelers that something was being done. It would be the customer-facing expression of the work being done behind the scenes --a kind of proxy so that what's actually being done --methods and so forth could remain opaque.
But if airport security actually hindered many real attempts, why don't we hear about them?
Right up until 9/11 you could ask the same question, what accounts for the safety record? After all, many years had passed without any hijackings or bombings.
Then the bubble burst, and the only possible response was to increase security measures. Any politician not supporting such measures would have been torn apart by the media if a new attack had occured.
I think that airport security _does_ provide a deterrence to unskilled terrorists, and it provides real security against some random mentally unstable guy trying to wreak havoc.
I think everyone agrees that security theatre helps people feeling safe. It's the amount of money being spent on it that is at issue. We'd all be safer if the money spent on ineffective body scanners were being spent on making roads safer, or perhaps by building more schools and hospitals in areas of political conflict.
Crosswalk buttons that I've seen do extend the green light time to ensure enough time to cross.
Here is some info: http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/02/10/placebo-buttons/
By kludging in a filter for every known attack that's been tried you force the people doing the screening to concentrate on improbable situations. How many people have tried to use exploding shoes?
Better would be to give screeners a lot of training (and pay them appropriately) to look for "other stuff", other signs that a person might be a terrorist. Preferably that other stuff would have good research to support it.
And lockheed (who has the backscatter contract) donates money all over the place:
Follow the money, as always.
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Bravo, USA, bravo. Osama is still #winning because we're still dealing with his terror of >10 years ago. Let that sink in for a bit....this is exactly what he wanted.
The funny thing is, liberty shows strength. Take one country that makes a law against criticizing the government, compared to one that professes free speech on all topics. The country with free speech is saying, in effect, "Say what you want! We're stronger than your words."
So, as the US continues to give up its liberties, the rest of the world is watching, and they see this for what it is: the US is showing its weakness.
Not really. The "not showing weakness to the enemy" stuff was what nearly destroyed the world in the Cuban Missile Crisis. It wasn't until the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, sent a long and emotional telegram directly to President Kennedy imploring the President to join with him in taking a step back (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_Missile_Crisis#Secret_neg...) that a way out of the crisis began to present itself.
From Khrushchev's telegram (full text here: http://microsites.jfklibrary.org/cmc/oct26/doc4.html):
Armaments bring only disasters. When one accumulates them, this damages the economy, and if one puts them to use, then they destroy people on both sides. Consequently, only a madman can believe that armaments are the principal means in the life of society. No, they are an enforced loss of human energy, and what is more are for the destruction of man himself. If people do not show wisdom, then in the final analysis they will come to a clash, like blind moles, and then reciprocal extermination will begin...
Mr. President, we and you ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knot of war, because the more the two of us pull, the tighter that knot will be tied. And a moment may come when that knot will be tied so tight that even he who tied it will not have the strength to untie it, and then it will be necessary to cut that knot, and what that would mean is not for me to explain to you...
Consequently, if there is no intention to tighten that knot and thereby to doom the world to the catastrophe of thermonuclear war, then let us not only relax the forces pulling on the ends of the rope, let us take measures to untie that knot. We are ready for this.
Kennedy took Khrushchev up on this initiative; what defused the crisis was a secret agreement where the US agreed to remove all its nuclear missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Soviets pulling theirs out of Cuba.
If anything, the lesson of the crisis is how important it can be to keep from looking weak in front of your friends. Kennedy kept the missile deal secret from the American people for a good reason: he may very well have been impeached had he made it public, and it would have shaken the confidence of our other NATO allies in our overseas commitments if they learned that Kennedy had removed the protection of (obsolete, but still) nuclear weapons from NATO-member Turkey in response to Soviet pressure. And winning even a small concession from Kennedy is probably the only thing that saved Khrushchev from being toppled in a coup by Soviet hard-liners after the Cuba debacle.
Sometimes your friends can be the worst enemies of all!
What's most interesting is that (based on anecdotal evidence), lost liberty and ridiculous security theater has done much more to harm America's image among it's "friends" than among it's enemies. I doubt Afghanistan or Pakistan care much about American airport security, but when I'm at Istanbul International, and the flight to JFK is the only one in the entire airport that requires extra screening, I see what that must look like to every European there (hint: they aren't thinking about what a great place this U S of A must be...).
Thats why you keep your enemy close, but your friends closer!
The troops were in Saudi Arabia to contain Iraq. The way to get them out was to overthrow Saddam. Invading Iraq was therefore a sort of appeasement campaign.
"I tell you, freedom and human rights
in America are doomed. The U.S. government
will lead the American people in — and the
West in general — into an unbearable hell
and a choking life." 
Similarly, we have no good cause to question Osama's stated motives. When an organization repeatedly makes clear their motives through public statements; when that organization undertakes combat operations at such great risk and cost that they employ suicide squads to carry them out and when those operations comport with their stated motives; and when their other activities also closely align with those statements why question those motives? The only reason is because someone has a political cause they wish to shore up by portraying a major political force like Al Qaeda as something it's not.
For what it's worth, Osama was right. The west has been a corrupting influence on the Arab and Muslim world, eroding traditional values such as misogyny, oppressive political and social institutions, stultifying economic systems, etc. For the most part I think this has been a good development, as I value individual liberty, education based on rationality and science, the spread of industrialization and broadbased wealth, etc. But such things are roadblocks to the creation of a new caliphate, or something much like it, in the Islamic world, which is the ultimate secondary goal of groups like Al Qaeda after they have managed to isolate the Islamic world from external influences.
Let me ask everyone who believes OBL's stated motives: when GWB tells us repeatedly in public that we must invade Iraq because of the threat of WMD, and that the objectives have nothing to do with protecting oil supplies, should we take that statement at face value? I mean, the US through GWB has invested tons of resources, including the lives of its troops, into fighting that war, so surely the President's statements regarding the motivations can be accepted without question, right?
I'm not taking sides here. I'm trying to say that nobody ever truly knows the motivations of another person; in fact, frequently we don't truly understand the roots of our own motivations. See, for example, discussion in Mises' Human Action.
If Osama had came out with a multitude of mutually-contradictory statements we'd have reason to doubt him, but he was amazingly consistent from when the CIA started funding him until the US military gunned him down.
We could try checking the internet
An interesting comparison is a popular Israeli song from a few years back: Yalla Ya Nasrallah (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8pVvJIzllA). They respond to (not merely a single act, but frequent!) terrorism with taunts, humor, and an attitude of defiance.
I can imagine what a parallel song would sound like (Bring it on Osama / Blow up all the buildings you want . . . ). It would never have been written here. It would never have become popular. I see in that an indictment of the culture.
I'm not sure how shape could imply safety, either, since anything could have been concealed inside of it.
At a minimum his name will now show up on the no-fly list for the rest of his life. If he realized this, I am in awe.
In the future please limit your comments to topics relevant to the ongoing tech bubble and attendant charlatanism.
ps My favorite part of not flying has been discovering Kansas City BBQ joints. I stop each way between IL and CA. Yum. Silver lining, right?
But really, it's kind of hard to go wrong in KC.
Keep on fighting the good fight man.
I always joked that it could mean the "one who turns things around" or "the paragon of shifty people."
I assume the tie to autism comes from the idea that it's turning within oneself?
And there are other things to enjoy, such as outdoors thermal pools. You could strike up a conversation about the language with local people in a "hot pot" (heitur pottur), as we call the outdoors jacuzzies. :)
Can you elaborate on what you mean?
If I read this right, there is a suggestion that the US authorities deliberately put a terrorist on a plane with a bomb for propaganda purposes?
But I think you'll be more effective against the body scanners if you drop the right-wing crankery at the end. The fear-mongering about terrorists isn't helpful. If they want to pull something off, they will, whatever kind of detector we're using. "Placing us all in danger" is Fox News rhetoric.
The fact that these scanners were a mistake doesn't imply that we should necessarily privatize the TSA. It needs a huge amount of reform. But there's no evidence that privatization wouldn't lead to the same kind of risk-taking and incentive problems that we've seen come to such spectacular fruition in the financial sector.
As things stand now, we have a clumsy system and there hasn't been a major attack since 9/11. Focus on the ineffectiveness, and the invasion of privacy, not on making people scared or promoting bankrupt ideas about replacing the government with free enterprise.
Around the same time as the TSA was created, the government became the insurer of last resort for terrorism related claims over $1B. This was to avoid the inevitable consequence -- in order to be able to buy insurance against terrorism, airlines would have had to prove to the insurance company that they had reasonable security measures. This would mean a 15-20 minute screening for each passenger, etc. In other words, air travel as we know it would have ended.
The simple alternative? Let the government hire the workers and "outsource" the security duty from the private airports and airlines. Nobody is going to successfully sue the government for allowing an attack to occur, and now that it's outside the scope of responsibility of the airlines, the insurance companies are willing to insure against the remaining risk. The $1B ceiling was basically a handout to the insurance industry offered in exchange for bearing a lot of extra risk for free while the government got its act together post 9/11.
If airport screeners were private firms, then even if the insurance industry didn't force quality screening to occur, there would be public demand for it once reports of weapons being successfully brought through. In today's world, it's a crime to even try to bring a fake/harmless weapon through, so the public is essentially forbidden from independently auditing the screeners.
The blogger is playing it safe by using a metal case, but that only tests the metal/object detection capabilities and doesn't test for successful detection of any of the other potentially dangerous items (which are also likely to be easy to smuggle through).
The privacy issue is interesting, but I don't think it has much to do with the initial creation of the TSA. The main goal at the time the TSA was created was to create the appearance that leaders had things under control and to prevent disruptions caused by knee-jerk reactions (spiking market prices, etc.). In reality these would not likely have lasted long w/o government intervention, but they are the kinds of things that planners fear most.
Remember, this guy has been fighting long before this vulnerability was publicly known.
Thank you for your hard work.
Stay tuned during the RNC and DNC conventions this year to watch why it's too late as congress has voted hundreds of millions of dollars for their own security budgets during the conventions so that protesters can be surpressed as quickly and quietly as possible.
We'll never have more rights than we have right now, it's all downhill.
I really dislike this rhetoric. There has always been a certain levels of "bad" in the world that swing like the pendulum. It's not constantly descending into oblivion. Try to see the good in the world.
I don't see it as a case where there is no hope however. Read all three opinions in United States v. Antoin Jones (the GPS surveillance case). Not only did the Supreme Court unanimously buck previous cases to say that this was a 4th Am search, but a clear majority (the Alito and Sotomayor opinions, remember Alito was joined by Breyer, Kagan, and Ginsberg) expressed concern about the rise of a surveillance state. We may be getting to the point where the court is starting to push back big time.
We do fix some stuff eventually.
That's how it works.
Kidding; I've gotten the SSSS before. No fun at all.
The real way to fix is to make sure you, the voting public, is more informed, and stop voting in parties that have vested interest. Use the democracy your forefathers died to get you properly. I hear 1/4 of the people in the US don't even vote!
Opted out at SFO and DTW and each time it was no big deal.
Not sure if they thought I was a terrorist or if they were as disgusted by the whole situation as I was.
Making the person stand sideways would sort of work, but it wouldn't be hard to shift the flaps of an open jacket while turning.
Have you thought this one through?
Billion is the new million.
I was connecting from Shanghai and had stupidly left a souvenir manicure kit in my bag... they found it, but after some pleading allowed me to keep it.
As per usual, I picked up a bottle of liquor at the duty free in Shanghai before I left...
Not sure if I was meant to inform them I was connecting, or they simply forgot to do their jobs... but apparently I was meant to have my liquor in a sealed "official duty free" bag when I landed at heathrow.
Long story short, I got the full attention of about 10 security officers when checking through security in Heathrow. They were entirely concerned with the liquor I had purchased in shanghai, and were so vocal about the whole thing that I personally witnessed the xray machine man turn around and see what the problem was.
Everybody was trying to be the next big hero, when the only problem was I didn't have the right security bag, and who knows what else I might have had in my carry on? (Hint: I had "weapons", I mean nailclippers).
Place the object slightly distant from the person so it's also in the background (i.e. not silhouetted by the person), and the object and the background will look the same to the scanner.
BTW, the first time I went through the backscatter scanner, I had a killer sinus headache within about 30 seconds. I went from feeling great to shitty almost instantly. Anyone else experience this? I have refused (opted out of) the scanner ever since. My many opt-out experiences have all been OK: a quick personal search and I am on my way. That is what I recommend to my friends and family to do.
BTW, part 2: the TSA corporation employees at the security checkpoints are not the problem, so be polite to them. The problem is the bribery and corruption that lead to the privatization of airport security.
Yes, they are. "Just following orders" does not hold any water:
"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
"so be polite to them"
No, THEY should be polite to ME. They are public servants.
Also, TSA employees are human beings, not robots designed to ignore impolite behaviour and programmed to always deliver polite behaviour. As a fellow intelligent human beings we must understand our own limitations and the limitations of the world in which we live, and strive for mutual understanding rather than wear an attitude of self entitlement.
Touching another person's genitals without permission is sexual assault, and many people will not put themselves in that predicament.
As an added bonus they can use fMRI mode and ask following questions:
1. Are you a member of a terrorist organization?
2. Where is the Weapons of Mass Destruction?
And if some metal object were to get stuck on the machine, they'd need a team of people to remove it. Every airport would also need to keep a good stock of liquid helium for the cases where machines need to be shut down.
But since the background and the object are both metal they both reflect equally, and are indistinguishable.
It is more intuitive to say that these machines are not threat detectors (like metal detectors), they are people detectors. The lack of a person is considered to be a threat within the bounds of their silhouette. Place a threat outside the silhouette and it is undetectable.
Or add a slightly absorbing background , additional maybe. ...
The entire video is produced in such a way as to say this is a major discovery and that it will single-handedly trigger Congress and the TSA to backpedal on what they've been for the last 10+ years.
To state, I do not like the TSA. I do not like Congress very much. I have very little respect for the people that are commonly elected to government
because of the long history of ineffectiveness, ignorance, and stupidity that continually seeps out when they talk and make "decisions". The best I can say about our government is that it mostly keeps the really bad people out of power. The kind that become Caesars and Napoleons and Hitlers and Pol Pots.
My issues with this video are that its too filled with a political tilt. There is a clear play on emotions and rhetoric with less emphasis on the purported vulnerability being shown.
Further, the actual nut of the video, i.e. the demonstration of the vulnerability, is so underwhelming that its impossible to take the video in its entirety seriously. First, the most important part where the speaker is actually going through security is sped up past the point of being intelligible. That's the part that might actually get some interest.
If the speaker just showed that clip in its entirety, demonstrating how to attach the pocket and further how easy it is for him to get through the scanners, and providing pure technical notes as to the background color and such, it would be easier to take seriously.
As it stands, any reasonably competent person's first thought should be "So we just put a magnetic scanner before or after the x-ray scanner. Ok, problem solved." Other thoughts might be, ok so make people stand sideways, change the background color, etc. Obvious tweaks to the system to patch over this problem.
The video doesn't address this simple point and goes on to argue that no metal detectors invalidates the entire concept of xray scanners. Its a very bad premise to base such an argument on.
The argument against xray scanners needs to be based around the already-proven points:
*Violates people's privacy
*Security theater (which the Pocket Problem falls into)
*Possible negative health consequences for passengers and workers
*Over-reaching government bureaucracy
Europe is getting out of this theater because they have no interest in these machine and they don't work. They also pose a health safety risk (hint, the Rapiscan backscatter X-Ray were NOT in service in Europe, or not for long).
Even linking US Govt officials to the manufacturers haven't raised eyebrows.
This post titled "TSA Fail" explain how bad this has become:
Not that I tend to believe what I just read on the internet, but most of the arguments have been repeated and confirmed.
Again, deaf ears.
I am not entirely anti-AIT. I think the machines can have a place, for those for whom there is some reasonable suspicion of wrong-doing, and following a metal detector. But the way they are implemented poses severe privacy and security problems, as if someone decided you could solve security problems by buying fancy machines (an unfortunately common problem).
The problem is that as long as the federal government sets standards for airport security, this will be a problem. It doesn't matter if it is the TSA or the NTSB making these decisions--- big corporations will pay lobbyists to get the message to them that their machines are better than the old stuff and therefore should be used in this way. It matters even less if the TSA agents are doing the screening or not, except that with them monopolizing that market there are fewer voices against.
An honest question: How does one de-politicize an obvious political topic?
Those who support security measures like this ought to be angry at that, because it means money has been wasted that could've been used on measures that might actually work. Those who don't support measures like this ought to be angry because it means the privacy invasions are for nothing.
Either way, not much commentary is needed.
I think now is the time to begin a conversation and be open about where it leads. When we say exactly what must be done on an organizational level regarding the government before we really collectively think through the issues, we risk making changes that don't really change anything.
I've always opted out (except once at EWR when I was with a large group and the screener took longer than the 5 minutes I was willing to wait) and about half the time I've gone through the metal detectors. In fact, last week at PIT, I tried going through the metal detector on my way to the pat down area and was told to go around it.
Nearly everything of this type is a giveaway to some private vendor with lobbyists in Washington. Whether it works or not is secondary to the primary purpose: handing money over.
How hard would it be to construct a prosthetic fat suit that's invisible to scanners? I bet not very.
Although he seems to be right that the detectors are useless since the guy who was pretty incompetent (set his underwear on fire) and still managed to get it on board a plane.
The object and the background both look the same in reflected x-rays. It's not just the background color.
Perhaps that would interfere with their ability to scan you from both sides, but if they have a reflective material behind you it seems like they must already have a way to scan through/around that.
At that point the terrorists will give up on the airports and pick something different. Remember that the first attack on the WTC, and the (domestic!) attack on OK City were TRUCK bombs. What's to stop someone from hijacking a tanker truck and detonating it? Trucker school must be easier than pilot school, right?
And if the terrorists are still hot and heavy for airplanes, they could bring down an airplane without actually going through airport security. At most airports I know of, the planes are vulnerable to ground-based attack on takeoff and landing. Not the same as crashing one into a building, but it seems unlikely that that attack is repeatable.
In all seriousness though, I do wonder given the above, how much passenger numbers would drop. Flying is known to be very safe, and there was a statistic that showed more people died after 9/11 than in 9/11 due to people taking to the roads through fear of flying. Plus, there are not that many planes blown out of the sky by terrorists. If they did nothing, planes would still be statistically safe. Its kinda like those stats that show people drive in a more reckless manner because they now have to wear seat belts and have air bags etc. Take that lot away and people tend to drive safer.
No, Im not suggesting and of this, just food for thought.
Edit: I am not trolling. It was just an observation that I found interesting even though it may not directly add much to the conversation.
May you be inspired by the quality of debate and not may you not add any of the good HN folks to any lists.
Hence I suggest to vote this up on YouTube, rather than / in addition to HN.
FBI Special Agent and Counterterrorism Expert Criticizes the TSA
However, I would like to have seen a controlled experiment – i.e., with the same metallic case placed in a breast pocket. Trials with only that variable changed, and yielding a different result (presumably being pulled for patdown?) would more conclusively demonstrate the hypothesis that with the side-pocket technique "anyone can beat them with virtually no effort."
Please don't interpret this comment as approval of the body scanners or the pat downs. I'm just trying to express that the body scanners have not been "made worthless".
edit Also, if combining fluids really is a threat, they're allowing liquid medicine bottles, now. It really /is/ theater.
If they now make this sequential, then it's twice the time, twice the staff to manage, and twice the inconvenience -- you now have people queueing up between the two screens, passing one and failing the other, etc.
Live on Germany TV man walks through body scanner and builds explosive with everything that passed on the scanner.
no big deal?
they will get away with it, until smacked really hard - which is almost impossible to do
An example: http://imgur.com/Q1DTp (The rolled paper represents some sort of tube)
The point is that many angles are required (or another kind of "solution")
Obviously airline security in the US is deeply flawed because look at how many planes are being hijacked or blown out of the sky by terrorists! I mean there have been -- wait, let me count -- ZERO on American soil since September 11, 2001. With about 28,000 commercial flights per day in the US alone, approximately 3,800 days after 9/11, that multiplies out to 106 million fights without a successful terrorist attack. Not a bad batting average if you ask me.
With apologies to Churchill, I guess this airline security regime is the worst system there is -- except for all the other systems.
2. The TSA is not the only system keeping terrorists off planes. We don't have a "double-blind survey" where half the airports were protected by the TSA and the other half weren't, so we can't make any kind of sensible comparison. (A better metric would be, "How many attempted terrorist attacks were directly stopped by the TSA during the airport security checks," and it's widely accepted that the answer is, "None.")
3. These new backscatter machines were not put in place immediately in 2001. A great deal of the time you've mentioned involved elevated security on the part of the TSA, but not specifically through the measures being discussed here, which decrease the actual security of the planes by allowing people to bring items through that would have been caught by earlier measures (c.f. the article being discussed.) A case can be made that the TSA's post-9/11 response has been useless and possibly harmful, but this article is specifically making the point that the backscatter machines are problematic.
4. There have also been zero hijackings in other countries, as well, and those countries have different (and usually much less invasive and less expensive) security measures. If we provisionally accept that it is the TSA, and not the other agencies involved, that is preventing attacks, why does it necessarily follow that the only way to keep planes safe is the drastic measures taken by the TSA? (I can quite easily rid my house of mosquitos by burning it down, but that doesn't mean the only or best way to keep my house free of mosquitos is arson.)
All I see when I look at those numbers, is that we're due for another one any time now.
Here in Japan, I arrive at the airport 20 minutes before a domestic flight, show no ID, take my lighter and PET bottle with me, and we haven't had any terrorist attachs either.