About Me!

This blog is about my musings and thoughts. I hope you find it useful, at most, and entertaining, at least.

Résumé [PDF]

Other Pages



Presence Elsewhere




Thoughts on Airport Security, a.k.a. Security Theatre

Date: 2013-01-18
Tags: security airport politics

An article in Bloomberg, Naked-Image Scanners to Be Removed From U.S. Airports, got me excited, until I read the article. In sum, certain of the X-Ray Backscatter machines are being removed from airports because their manufacture was unable to add privacy protection features that would make images less revealing, as mandated by Congress. However these machines will be put to use in “other government agencies.”

‘It became clear to TSA they would be unable to meet our timeline,’ [Karen Shelton Waters, the TSA’s assistant administrator for acquisitions] said. ‘As a result of that, we terminated the contract for the convenience of the government.’

The term “for the convenience of the government” does nothing to change my perception that the TSA believes that they are above the law and above Congress. They’ve gone so far as to snub a Federal Judge’s deadline to hold public hearings and publicly adopt rules and regulations about the scanners’ use in the past, so I am kind of shocked that they’re complying with Congressional deadlines and mandates.

This still leaves millimeter wave scanners and X-Ray Backscatter scanners from other companies still on the floor, however. Pat-downs are still an option, as well. Oh, and going through a medal detector is still pretty common, in fact. Let us not forget that only some people get to use the AIT machines.

Additionally, because our safety is their number one priority, and they randomly let some through metal detectors while shunting others through scanners, they are moving scanners from less busy airports to busier airports. While that makes sense operationally in some circumstances, if their reasoning for not talking about changes in the screening process publicly and ahead of the change is the “ever-evolving threats,” why is making it public which airports will not continue to have AIT machines make anything secure at all?

Since I’m on the topic, I have yet to hear of an independent study confirming the safety of these machines, again because of the “ever-evolving threats.”

A solution to my absolute hatred of airport security, I mean security theatre, that the Bloomberg article makes and my father-in-law suggested is the PreCheck (Yes, that is suppose to be a checkmark and TM symbol in the url ::facepalm::). This is only a solution to what I, and others, feel is an invasion of privacy, if an even more severe invasion of privacy is a solution to an invasion of privacy.

Also, a publicly known loophole in how Boarding Passes are checked has been known since 2005, and only in 2008 was their any talk of fixing it and wasn’t going to be required until 2010. However, some bloggers still claim that there is no signature or encryption in the barcode data.

Going back a littler further in time, let us not forget the entire scandal that went their purchase in the first place. Former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff and his consulting agency, Chertoff Group were often seen touting the scanners and their need in airports. He, however, did not let on that the machine manufactuers are some of his clients. The intertwining of private interests isn’t new but this almost feels as if the government was scammed. Especially when multiple other countries, including the UK and Israel have not been persuaded to use the technology, and in fact are banned in Europe.

Even with this technology, there are still huge beaches in security. Adam Savage was able to, accidentally, took a foot long razor blade on a plane. By some accounts there have been over 25,000 breaches in security over the past 10 years, almost 9 a day. There have been people boarding planes with loaded guns, as well.

It’s all these reasons, and more, that the TSA makes my blood boila. Yet I’m still always asked why I dislike them. We, as the population, need to start deciding that personal liberty outweighs apparent, and especially non-existent, increases in security.