USA Flag

Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Transportation Security Administration

Advanced Imaging Technology Off To a Great Start

Archived Content

Please note that older content is archived for public record. This page may contain information that is outdated and may not reflect current policy or programs.

If you have questions about policies or procedures, please contact the TSA Contact Center.

Members of the news media may contact TSA Public Affairs.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010
imaging photo

Since 2009, officers operating advanced imaging technology (AKA “body scanners”) have found all sorts of things on passengers. Some of these items have been smaller items such as a three inch pocket knife hidden on someone’s back, little packets of powder, a syringe full of liquid hidden in someone’s underwear, and other small items either intentionally hidden or forgotten. These finds demonstrate that imaging technology is very effective at detecting anomalies and can help TSA detect evolving threats to keep our skies safe.

Some might wonder what kind of damage small items could do to a plane since we’re looking for threats such as explosives. At first thought, you would probably think “not much,” but in addition to explosives, we’re also looking for bomb components, among other threat items. There’s more to a bomb than the explosive (timers, initiators, switches, power sources, etc.).

Since our machines can detect such small items, I feel it’s important to remind passengers that when going through AIT screening, be sure to take everything out of your jacket, pants and shirt pockets. And unlike before with the walk through metal detector (magnetometer), wallets and other stuff you didn’t need to take out before will have to come out so we can get a clean image. And that goes to the folks who tuck stuff in their socks too. Making sure you get all the items out of your pockets will get you through the machine much more quickly without secondary screening and will allow the lines to move faster.

This post highlights that AIT is detecting potential threat items concealed under clothing and its deployment is helping to keep travelers safe by improving security at our airports.

As of yesterday, Charlotte Douglas International Airport is the latest airport to roll out Advanced Imaging Technology.

We’ve talked about this technology on the blog many times and you can read all of the AIT related posts here.

***Update - 4/21/2010***

We wanted to clarify that the ceramic knife in the image used for this post was discovered during the pat down of a passenger who opted out of AIT.

Thanks,

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

Pocket knives are not more dangerous than other knives, metal scraps and any other sharp object easily obtainable within the secure area. If you can´t hold up more than one person at a time with a weapon, it is not a threat to an airplane.

The amount of powder shown and a liquid filled syringe can pass through security easily by not being on the persons body surface. A bag that big would go unnoticed in a carry on or could be placed in body cavities, in the mouth or between skin folds. The only reason a person would put it on their body is because they are junkies hiding their stash. That does not make them a threat to an airplane.

Whole body scanners do not detect explosives.

Oh yes, and please explain what you did with all the images of maxi pads you saw. Ignoring them leaves a huge loophole in security, doesn´t it? Did you inspect all menstruating women??

Submitted by Anonymous on

How can we ensure that our wallets are safe while being virtually strip-searched?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Blogger Bob said:

"There’s more to a bomb than the explosive (timers, initiators, switches, power sources, etc.)."

And all the items listed above can also be part of everyday objects currently passing through checkpoints everyday.

Do you really believe anyone trying to smuggle the parts you listed couldn't get them through a checkpoint in their carry-on bag?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob,

I noticed that the article doesn't actually mention the knife that is shown. A metal detector or X-ray would have easily found the knife.

Are you trying to be a bit deceitful by showing the knife?

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

And the reason the TSA prefers bxr to mmw is ...?

Once that is settled, then we can move on to the issue of how much of what you found is actually a danger to a flight, but you are putting us in harms way when you use bxr when completely safe mmw is available.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, does the fact that TSA is finding these items indicate that people only started carrying them when virtual strip-searches started, or that people carried them for years before virtual strip-searches with no ill effects on any flight?

How many harmless items, like private medical devices, have these items detected?

How are alarms that are the result of a harmless medical item like a prosthetic breast or adult diaper resolved?

Is TSA tracking the number of harmless items that alarm the virtual strip-search devices?

What steps is TSA taking to secure the belongings of individuals it virtually strip-searches?

What steps is TSA taking to ensure every passenger knows they are not required to be virtually strip-searched?

How many countries force every air passenger to remove their shoes for screening?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Anonymous said... Pocket knives are not more dangerous than other knives."

Most officers and HQ peeps would agree with you.

This is one that the critters on the hill have to fix. TSA can't just decide they are okay.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, is the knife shown in the image with this post one that was detected by a virtual strip search device?

Submitted by Blogger Bob on

Anonymous said... Bob, I noticed that the article doesn't actually mention the knife that is shown. A metal detector or X-ray would have easily found the knife. Are you trying to be a bit deceitful by showing the knife? April 20, 2010 2:33 PM

------------------------

Hi Anon. It's a plastic knife. Not a toy, but an actual durable pointy plastic knife that can do some major damage. Why is it plastic you might ask? It's made for folks who need/want to get a knife past a metal detector.

Thanks,

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, why does this post open with a picture of a large knife when the only knife you can claim to have found is a three-inch pocketknife that can harm no one?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Why is it plastic you might ask? It's made for folks who need/want to get a knife past a metal detector."

Bob, are you claiming that this knife was found by a virtual strip search? If so, why no mention in the post? If not, why post the photo?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"It's made for folks who need/want to get a knife past a metal detector."

YES OR NO, BOB: Was this knife discovered by a virtual strip search?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Blogger Bob said:

"It's a plastic knife. Not a toy, but an actual durable pointy plastic knife that can do some major damage. Why is it plastic you might ask? It's made for folks who need/want to get a knife past a metal detector. "

Can it do more damage that scissors or knitting needles that are allowed through?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, how are virtual strip search alarms resolved?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob,

Can you show us the results of false positive alarms with these machines, and how they are handled? Unless you can prove that false positives are rare and can be resolved quickly and unobtrusively, I can´t accept a "layer of security" that is ethically questionable and seems to bring little help in terms of real safety (as commented by all the persons above).

Submitted by Winstonsmith on

So let's see. You are telling us that you found several small items, none of which were an actual threat to the aircraft, while showing a picture of something you didn't find. To me, this is nothing more than an unconstitutional dragnet. I know that I will never personally submit to being strip-searched simply to board a flight. I am hoping to get some congressional representation in November who will support my bid to disband the TSA in its entirety, to return airport security to what it was pre 9/11, and to put the resources we are wasting on this agency into programs that might actually make a difference, such as FBI infiltration of terrorist groups, etc.

Submitted by Anonymous on

WHAT PROVISIONS ARE BEING TAKEN FOR WOMEN WITH BREAST CANCER PROSTETICS? WILL THEY BE ASKED TO REMOVE?
ANONYMOUS LB

Submitted by Anonymous on

Oh, yeah, this post really proves why these machines are worth over half a billion dollars. Nice job, TSA.

Submitted by Cerulean Bill on

Interesting. I like that it can pick up things like that - I've wondered about bomb-makers 'miniaturizing' their stuff. Not too thrilled about having to take every last thing out. Gah. I guess there's NO way to make this painless, is there?

Submitted by RB on

How many children have been virtually STRIP SEARCHED by TSA employees?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, since the TSA is now requiring that I give up my wallet before going into the nude-o-scope machine, what hope have I of protecting it? Given how many thefts occur at checkpoints, isn't that more or less allowing anyone to steal the property of others? I can't imagine that a TSO would think good things if I were to try to move, make noise, or leave the nude-o-scope machine if I saw someone trying to leave with my property.

Submitted by Sandra on

Winstonsmith wrote:

"So let's see. You are telling us that you found several small items, none of which were an actual threat to the aircraft,..."

Thank you, winstonsmith, for making that important observation.

Bob, until you can come back to us and tell us that you found an item that can bring down an aircraft, please stop with your crowing, because it just make you and TSA look like fools.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Sigh..........still waiting for an answer to this question.

Do AIT scanners show any detail of a woman's labia, breasts or a man's penis?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The post states:

Some of these items have been smaller items such as a three inch pocket knife hidden on someone’s back, little packets of powder, a syringe full of liquid hidden in someone’s underwear, and other small items either intentionally hidden or forgotten.

Questions:

1)The knife in the post is 9 inches but the pocket knife concealed on someones back is a 3 inch pocket knife. Was the 9 inch plastic knife found by a strip search scanner?

2)Was the packet of powder found chemicals to an explosive or something non-life threatening? Was it intentionally hidden or forgotten?

3)Was the liquid in the syringe found a deadly chemical or liquid detonator? Or was it a legitimate drug for an existing medical condition?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Come on, I've got to leave my wallet unattended now? I don't trust fellow passengers or the TSA agents to not steal it. The entire process is becoming a bigger pain and isn't making us one bit safer. Come on guys, spend the time and energy catching bad guys BEFORE they get to the airport.

Submitted by AngryMiller on

About the thieves working for TSA, how will you be able to keep them from making off with your wallet while you've surrendered it for a thorough going through?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Quote from your post:
This post highlights that AIT is detecting potential threat items concealed under clothing and its deployment is helping to keep travelers safe by improving security at our airports.

My that is one heck of a sentence.
Where are the potentional "threat items" that were found?
How am I safer at the airport by the use of these machines? You mean to tell me that at airports that do not have AIT, that I am not safe?
Improving security? So before AIT, the TSA now admits that we were less safe? And once again, what about airports without AIT? We are less safe there?
The government is bent on forcing this technology down our throats if we want it or not. It will not make anything safer, in fact it may make us less safe.
What happens next when someone does get something through the AIT? Once it is compromised, it becomes obsolete. Just as the WTMD is becoming, as it cannot detect all threats.
There are many "holes" in the security system. Trying to close one (hiding objects on a persons body that allows detection) with a system full of flaws,is pointless, unless all "holes" are closed.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I can't read these blogs anymore. The sheer ignorance of some of these idiots is sickening. No wonder this country is so messed up.

Submitted by RB on

How TSA protects the flying public:

http://cbs2.com/local/Woman.Accused.Of.2.1643774.html

A judge Tuesday threw out a case against Nadine Hays, who is accused of hitting a TSA agent who allegedly tried to take away her elderly mother's applesauce-


The Transportation Security Administration declined to comment, but said they did review all allegations internally in hopes that agents will learn from them.
......................
Why is it that TSA refuses to meet the public when its employees abuse citizens?

Why were these employees not fired for their actions.

More well trained employees as claimed by Bob!

Submitted by HappyToHelp on

Anonymous said...
“How can we ensure that our wallets are safe while being virtually strip-searched”
Before going through Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), you can place your valuables inside your bag or at least make sure they are not visible such as leaving it under a jacket. This trick is very common, and is recommended by traveler sites even before TSA used AIT machines.

Tim
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Gunner on

Wow, someone in Miami actually tried to sneak a ruler through security.

Great catch, boys and girls, great catch. The Republic is much safer as a result of your efforts.

Ban all rulers!

An Catholic schoolchild can tell you that in the hands of a 92-lb Nun, rulers are definitely instruments of terror!

Submitted by Isaac Newton on

Bob, your frequent mention of "bags of powder" and syringes suggest that this is really just a dragnet for drugs. As others have stated, there are other ways to get such things through security without detection, yet no evidence of such items being successfully used in an attack on an aircraft.

Also, you really need to address the question of how screeners will resolve false alarms on adult diapers, sanitary pads, and other medical items. You keep writing about how good this technology is, but have failed to answer this simple question.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What measures is TSA taking to ensure that now with the advent of this new screening that REQUIRES the person to remove their wallet that this item will not be a) stolen or b) searched by over eager TSOs (contrary to policy).

Submitted by Anonymous on

The head of a sex crimes unit is busted for what? SEX CRIMES All sex crimes special unit officers are pervs.

(sarcasm)

Submitted by Anonymous on

Here is an idea to protect your wallets and other valuable items. Put them inside your carry-on after you have completed the ID checks. This way they are not just sitting out, they are inside the bag. TSA should not be allowed to go inside your bag until you are standing there, watching them. Just an idea and hope it helps the concerned.

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA does not care that their policies leave our luggage vulnerable to theft and the insertion of bombs.

TSA will not care about our wallets being stolen.

Submitted by RB on

HappyToHelp said...
Anonymous said...
“How can we ensure that our wallets are safe while being virtually strip-searched”
Before going through Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), you can place your valuables inside your bag or at least make sure they are not visible such as leaving it under a jacket. This trick is very common, and is recommended by traveler sites even before TSA used AIT machines.

Tim
TSA Blog Team

April 21, 2010 12:09 AM
..............
Letting my wallet out of my direct control is a problem.

Could a person just hold their wallet in hand if they choose to be screened by the STrip Search Porno Machine?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Before going through Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), you can place your valuables inside your bag or at least make sure they are not visible such as leaving it under a jacket."

How far are the strip-search machines located from the bags passengers must abandon in order to be strip-searched?

How is this an improvement over WTMDs, which let people leave their wallets in their pockets, where they belong?

Submitted by Anonymous on

H2H -- That's all well and good, but that doesn't make it any less likely things will be stolen. What's to stop someone from walking off with a bag or a jacket? Come on now.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why is it so hard for TSA blog staff to answer simple yes/no questions? Was the knife pictured in the post found by the nude-o-scope (or whatever the heck you're calling it these days) or was it not? Answer the question.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Um, I can just take a knife from the table at one of the nice restaurants in the "sterile zone". Why would I have to smuggle one through security?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Don't put valuables in suitcases".
"Put wallets in carry-ons"
"Carry your ID at all times."
"Keep posession of your passport/boarding pass at all times"
"Empty your pockets..."

Hrmm.. Catch-22 much, TSA?

The goal of terrorism is to force your opponents to change. Congratulations! We Lost!

Submitted by Blogger Bob on

***Update - 4/21/2010***

We wanted to clarify that the ceramic knife in the image used for this post was discovered during the pat down of a passenger who opted out of AIT.

(The knife is ceramic, not plastic as I had stated earlier)

Thanks,

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

Regarding your update:

What ceramic knife in which photo?

No ceramic knifes are shown.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, why did you choose to include a photo of a knife that was not detected by a strip-search? What's the name and contact information for your direct supervisor?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The knife in your picture is the Silent Agent ABS Dagger by Grey Eagle.

ABS is plastic, not ceramic.

And just what does the photo have to do with the article and AIT anyway?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Blogger Bob said...
***Update - 4/21/2010***

We wanted to clarify that the ceramic knife in the image used for this post was discovered during the pat down of a passenger who opted out of AIT.

(The knife is ceramic, not plastic as I had stated earlier)

Thanks,

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team
--------------------------------

Thank you for your prompt response. Now I have another question: Knowing that this knife was not detected by the nude-o-scope, what reason could you possibly have for prominently displaying it in a post touting the nude-o-scope's ability to find such items? Is it really worth over half a billion dollars (in this year alone!) to find 3" pocket knives, syringes, and powdered narcotics, none of which poses a threat to air travel? If this device is really needed in order to detect small, concealable, non-metallic bomb components, why don't you show us some images of the small, concealable, non-metallic bomb components that you have found?

Until you do so, I will assume that your screeners have not actually intercepted any such items. Perhaps the reason is because attempted terrorist attacks on commercial aviation are extraordinarily rare. Is there anyone who seriously believes that A) competent terrorists are being caught by the TSA and B) the TSA is not rushing to publicize this information?

(Incidentally, to all those who say that we have to invest such a ludicrous amount of money in airline security because the economic impact of even one attack would be so economically disastrous, I have one question: why is no one discussing pouring several billion dollars into systems that will prevent the eruption of volcanoes? After all, this would appear to be as feasible (or infeasible) a proposition as your apparent belief that we can prevent a successful attack on commercial aviation.)

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Could a person just hold their wallet in hand if they choose to be screened by the STrip Search Porno Machine?"

Seems very reasonable. How about it?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
Bob, why did you choose to include a photo of a knife that was not detected by a strip-search? What's the name and contact information for your direct supervisor?
----------------------------------
I will second that request. Bob, why is it so hard for you to do what any customer relations professional in any business would be expected to do and provide us with the information we need to register a complaint about your deceptive posts and your egregiously unprofessional tone? People have been requesting this information for months.

Pages