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TSA Purchases Additional Advanced Imaging Technology Units (And a Quick Word on Automated Target Recognition)

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Friday, April 30, 2010
Advanced Imaging Technology

Why did TSA decide to use backscatter instead of millimeter wave advanced imaging technology (AIT)?

This is a question we’ve been getting a lot lately. The truth is we didn’t choose one over the other. We’re currently using both backscatter and millimeter wave technology, and we just announced that we purchased 302 additional imaging technology units. We are buying 202 millimeter wave units and 100 backscatter units.

In order to be included in the competitive process, strict detection standards must be met. Currently, only two companies have AIT machines that meet those standards. As companies develop new über cool technologies, they can be included in the competitive process.

Speaking of fantabulous über cool technologies, many have also asked why we’re not using Automated Target Recognition (ATR) software since the technology exists. ATR software is used with AIT and displays a generic stick figure-like image on the monitor attached to the AIT machine to show potential threats concealed on a passenger, and does not display the actual image of the passenger. It provides stronger privacy protections and eliminates the need to staff an extra officer in a private room. We’re very interested in this next generation software, but ATR in its current form does not meet TSA’s detection standards.

Software development is currently underway and will be followed by testing to ensure it meets our detection standards.

We’ve posted many times on AIT. You can read much more about it here on our blog, or at TSA.gov.

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

Who edited this new post?

Submitted by Anonymous on

From the complaints that have been coming in, it seems to be common practice for TSA to send people through the machines without telling them what they do or offering them a choice. How does anyone think that this is OK?

Submitted by RB on

We’ve posted many times on AIT. You can read much more about it here on our blog, or at TSA.gov.
.............
Everything but actual images in the size and resolution seen by the operators.

These images would allow a person to make an educated decision to accept WBI "Strip Serach" Screening or not.

What harm is there in being honest with the public?

Seems typical operations for TSA to mislead and be dishonest with the public.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Where is the cost benefit analysis for the use of these machines?

Also does this screening take more or less time to complete than the previous way.

And what are you doing to ensure passenger's belongings are safe guarded against theft from either fellow passengers and/or rogue TSOs?

Submitted by Blogger Bob on
Where is the cost benefit analysis for the use of these machines?

The analysis we've done in a primary setting shows a significant increase in detection that could only otherwise be obtained by increasing manpower to conduct pat-down searches.

The benefit of this technology is that it provides enhanced detection capabilities and an alternative to the physical pat down at the security checkpoint.

Also does this screening take more or less time to complete than the previous way.

The scan itself takes a few seconds, but the complete scan is about 20 seconds.

And what are you doing to ensure passenger's belongings are safe guarded against theft from either fellow passengers and/or rogue TSOs?

Passengers can always request that their items remain in their view. Passengers can also request a pat-down and have all of their items placed in their view prior to the pat-down. We also have CCTV in place at most airports.

Thanks,

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team
Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, when will you publish samples of the images generated by these strip-search machines at the same size and resolution seen by the operators of these strip-search machines?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, how many alarms have these strip-search machines generated as a result of detecting harmless, private medical devices that would not alarm a WTMD?

How is TSA tracking the number of alarms these strip-search machines generated as a result of detecting harmless, private medical devices?

How are alarms caused by the detection of harmless, private medical devices resolved?

Submitted by RB on

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/28/AR201004...

The Navigator: Objections to TSA's full-body scanners are rising

""In other words, the TSA claims it isn't pushing travelers into the scanners and punishing those who decline a scan.

But Cummings and others say they don't feel as if they have a real choice.

"The additional screening makes you want to go through the scanner, as it is so much more impersonal in the long run," she told me.""

Say no to a TSA WBI "Strip Search" and get a retalitory screening in its place.

Nice choices TSA!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, what's the name and contact information for your direct supervisor?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Will these strip-search machines be used to screen TSOs?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why is TSA incapable of honesty when it comes to its desire to take naked pictures of children?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, please post a scan of yourself. If the images are so innocuous, you should have no objections whatsoever to doing so!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Speaking of CCTV, why have you refused to share the video of Britney Spears getting special treatment at LAX?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why did you deliberately post a misleading picture on your April 20 post about strip-search machines? Why did you feel the need to lie to the citizens you're ostensibly protecting, Bob?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, are backscatter and castscan machines registered with the bureaus that track radiation generators in each state where they are used?

Are TSA screeners who operate those machines trained to x-ray human beings?

Is each machine inspected on a regular basis to insure safety by a medical physicist?

If not, why not?

Submitted by Anonymous on

How many countries demand that 100% of air travelers remove their shoes at checkpoints, Bob?

Submitted by Marshall's SO on

Yes, "Passengers can always request that their items remain in their view."

The big question is: how often does the TSA accede to that request?

The answer: Next to never and all the passenger gets is grief for asking.

Why don't you try traveling through an airport with WBI (incognito, of course), Bob, and ask to keep your belongings in your view. Then come back and tell us, honestly, the results.

Submitted by TSOWilliamReed on

RB said...
We’ve posted many times on AIT. You can read much more about it here on our blog, or at TSA.gov.
.............
Everything but actual images in the size and resolution seen by the operators.

These images would allow a person to make an educated decision to accept WBI "Strip Serach" Screening or not.

What harm is there in being honest with the public?

Seems typical operations for TSA to mislead and be dishonest with the public.

April 30, 2010 3:06 PM
------------------------

Once again two pictures of the actual MMW screening terminal and 1video of the terminal have been posted on this blog. In this video and two pictures you get to see the actual size of the screen along with its detail.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What happens when one of these machines detects a breast prosthetic?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, how does TSA plan to prevent pedophile and criminals in the ranks from operating these machines?

Submitted by FriendlySkies on

Bob said:
Passengers can always request that their items remain in their view. Passengers can also request a pat-down and have all of their items placed in their view prior to the pat-down. We also have CCTV in place at most airports.

----

Yes, but if one requests a pat-down, they are given the most humiliating pat-down, encouraging them to choose WBI the next time they fly..

Bob, if you won't answer our other questions, please answer this:

Why won't you release the actual image that the TSO sees in the "private booth"?? Why are you trying to hide this info from the public??

Submitted by Anonymous on

Y'know what would be uber-cool? Some sort of devise that could just read our minds! And then it would also be uber-cool if there was some kind of chamber where the state security organs could just gas those of us with subversive ideas. Boy would that be uber-cool!

Just because a technology exists does not mean that you have to use it. Stop looking at my penis. Stop looking at naked pictures of my family.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob,

Thanks for attempting to answer my questions.

What I don't understand is why you are buying machines in a configuration that you admit has privacy concerns instead of getting the automated recognition to work first.

Also, why is the current automated recognition available good enough for people traveling to the US from Amsterdam, but not for people traveling within the US?

Submitted by Deadpass on

Bob, why would the TSA use backscatter at all when MMW is much less risky in terms of exposure to harmwave wavelengths.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob said:

Passengers can always request that their items remain in their view. Passengers can also request a pat-down and have all of their items placed in their view prior to the pat-down. We also have CCTV in place at most airports.
---------------------

But Bob, TSOs continue to do whatever they want to do regarding the passenger and the passenger's belongings. Are TSOs being trained to do this or is this one of the things that varies airport to airport?

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

Um, that you are using bxr at all when mmw is available is still an important question. But it depends on the TSA caring about the health and safety of the passengers...

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

There is a problem with the question you quoted.

I asked "Why did the TSA decide to use unsafe backscatter instead of safe millimeter wave?"

You quoted "Why did the TSA decide to use backscatter instead of millimeter wave?"

Do you see a difference between the two questions?

Bob?

Curtis?

Do you see a difference?

I see two words in my version that were left out of your version.

Do you see the difference?

Submitted by Avxo on

Blogger Bob wrote: "Passengers can always request that their items remain in their view. Passengers can also request a pat-down and have all of their items placed in their view prior to the pat-down."

May I suggest that on your next trip you request that the items that you have placed on the belt remain in your view as you wait to go through either the metal detector or one of the AIT machines?

Of course, don't inform the friendly TSOs -- or anyone from TSA -- of your official status/association with the agency. Just so the test is accurate.

Submitted by Jim Huggins on
Passengers can always request that their items remain in their view. Passengers can also request a pat-down and have all of their items placed in their view prior to the pat-down.

Why should a passenger specifically have to request this? Heck, *how* does a common passenger know that they can request this?
Submitted by Beth on

What factors are in place to ensure that the screener won't take a camera into the room to take a picture of people in the scanner?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why is TSA buying 202 of one and 100 of the other? During trial runs, didn't one model prove to be superior from either a cost and/or performance standpoint?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Where is the cost benefit analysis for the use of these machines?

Cost of another 9/11 style attack-about $2 TRILLION.

Cost of these additional machines- about $50 Million.

You do the cost/benefit analysis.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Can you answer this question:

If you admit the images do show passengers penis and labia then why do they not appear on the sample images? Can the sample images provided even qualify as accurate samples?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Great - What I read is:

"We don´t use automated recognition because we don´t want to. We want people to see under your clothes. We want to use backscatter because then we can see even better. We can do whatever we want! We always have."

No, this is not an answer to our questions.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Only 2 companies met the standards? Hmm...Let me guess, yet another contract for Rapiscan Systems. More money in the pockets of former Homeland Security chief Chertoff

Submitted by Isaac Newton on

Blogger Bob said:
We’re very interested in this next generation software, but ATR in its current form does not meet TSA’s detection standards.

In other words, there isn't a US-based vendor of the software or they haven't yet offered your management enough "incentive." We get it.

Anonymous asked:
Where is the cost benefit analysis for the use of these machines?

to which Bob replied:

The analysis we've done in a primary setting shows a significant increase in detection that could only otherwise be obtained by increasing manpower to conduct pat-down searches.

The benefit of this technology is that it provides enhanced detection capabilities and an alternative to the physical pat down at the security checkpoint.

Sigh. Do you know what a "cost-benefit analysis" is, Bob? This isn't one. This is your summary of your view of the benefit. A cost-benefit analysis weighs up the cost (financial, time, public reaction, etc) against the benefit to see whether the benefit justifies the cost. We know that you've already decided that these are worth it, but we're asking to see your work in coming to that conclusion. "We think it's a good idea" is NOT a cost-benefit analysis.

Anonymous also asked:
And what are you doing to ensure passenger's belongings are safe guarded against theft from either fellow passengers and/or rogue TSOs?

to which Bob replied:

Passengers can always request that their items remain in their view. Passengers can also request a pat-down and have all of their items placed in their view prior to the pat-down. We also have CCTV in place at most airports.

Why is it necessary for passengers to REQUEST this? Do you believe that some passengers want to keep their property secure but most don't? The TSA has created this situation where people are asked to stand in a booth without their bags or get patted down - it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to ensure that the passenger's property is secure during the process. It should not rely on the passenger knowing what they are allowed to ask for.

Similarly, there are many reports of passengers not being clearly informed that they can request a patdown. It is the RESPONSIBILITY of the screener to offer the option, not the responsibility of the passenger to know what their options are.

You say "most airports" have CCTV. How many is "most"? 51%? 75% How can I know whether MY airport is one that does or doesn't? Is the CCTV positioned to observe the theft of possessions while the passenger is being screened? What steps are required for the passenger to get that CCTV footage if someone takes their property? Wouldn't it be better to prevent the opportunity for theft than to try to track someone from CCTV footage long after the event?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Blogger Bob said:
Passengers can always request that their items remain in their view. Passengers can also request a pat-down and have all of their items placed in their view prior to the pat-down. We also have CCTV in place at most airports.

Looks like the left hand does not know what right hand is doing in such places as San Diego, Las Vegas, Seattle, O'Hare, Honolulu, San Francisco, Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, New York La Guardia, New York Kennedy, Norfolk, and St. Louis. But especially in Seattle (Hello, south gates screening!)

Submitted by Anonymous on

Are you going to put one in every lane at every airport?

Until you do, all a terrorist has to do to evade strip-search screening is to begin their trip at a small airport without the technology.

Which pretty much makes it useless, doesn't it?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Blogger Bob wrote in response to my question: "Where is the cost benefit analysis for the use of these machines?"

"The analysis we've done in a primary setting shows a significant increase in detection that could only otherwise be obtained by increasing manpower to conduct pat-down searches.

The benefit of this technology is that it provides enhanced detection capabilities and an alternative to the physical pat down at the security checkpoint. "

All I see in those two paragraphs is the 'benefits' What about the costs? The expense of the machines, is 20 seconds for a scan more or less than transiting the metal detectors? You mention it increases detection rates, but how many items detected are either false positives or present no danger to the flying public?

Submitted by Avxo on

Anonymous wrote: "Cost of another 9/11 style attack-about $2 TRILLION.

Cost of these additional machines- about $50 Million.

You do the cost/benefit analysis."

Your answer is intellectually dishonest. It's unclear if these machines would have stopped the 9/11 terrorists -- or even some of them -- from boarding. But why worry about such details, right Anonymous?

They might make financial and security sense even if they aren't a panacea, but without a serious cost-benefit analysis the best we will be able to do is "well, they're probably an ok investment."

Submitted by Anonymous on

"But it depends on the TSA caring about the health and safety of the passengers..."

It's quite clear that TSA is concerned with the safety or health of anyone at all.

Submitted by Ethel Rosenberg on

Friendly Skies wrote:

"Yes, but if one requests a pat-down, they are given the most humiliating pat-down, encouraging them to choose WBI the next time they fly.."

And that is exactly what makes the pat down a sexual assault because it is designed to change your behavior, to make you do something you don't want to do.

Submitted by Ethel Rosenberg on

"What happens when one of these machines detects a breast prosthetic?"

The woman gets pulled aside and felt up in public.

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

Curtis, this blog entry doesn't answer the question it presumes to answer. By your own admission, some airports are using bxr. By your own admission, when you say both are being purchased you are saying that some airports will get bxr instead of mmw.

So, for those bxr machines that you purchased, why is the TSA using unsafe bxr instead of safe mmw? As long as any airports are still getting bxr, the question is still valid.

Submitted by Sandra on

"Anonymous wrote: "Cost of another 9/11 style attack-about $2 TRILLION.

Cost of these additional machines- about $50 Million.

You do the cost/benefit analysis."

From Huffington Post:

"At a financial cost (depending on your sources) from 10 to 40 times pre-9/11 airport security, this agency has pilfered at least the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights from all US travelers. It has imposed indirect costs on the frequent flyer ranging from $15 to $30 billion per year in squandered business opportunity.....

At an annual expense of $7 billion, the "system" (i.e., TSA)..."

Now YOU do the math.

Read John Mueller's The Quixotic Quest for Invulnerability: Assessing the Costs, Benefits, and Probabilities of Homeland Security to learn about how a cost-benefit analysis is done. It ain't just about the cost of the machines.

Submitted by Anonymous on

A friend uses a glucose pump.

This is a small device the size of an mp3 player that feeds thru a fine tube to a needle in her belly.

The very fine, minuscule needle is held in place on her skin by a plastic disc a little larger than a 1/2 dollar.

Clearing security now she simply detaches the tubing, puts the pump in the bin and goes through the magnetometer.

No problem there, but now...

What will happen now when the imaging machine shows this disc?

Will she have to undergo a pat down?

What if they cannot feel the disc thru her clothes? It is very thin.

What next?

Remembering the horrible incident with the nipple rings:

Will she be forced to remove the needle?

This is a common device. has your staff been trained?

Have they been trained better than they were for IPads? Shoes in/out of bin? Etc?

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

Marshall's SO said...
Yes, "Passengers can always request that their items remain in their view."

The big question is: how often does the TSA accede to that request?

The answer: Next to never and all the passenger gets is grief for asking.

Why don't you try traveling through an airport with WBI (incognito, of course), Bob, and ask to keep your belongings in your view. Then come back and tell us, honestly, the results.

Passengers are always supposed to be directed to alternate screening when requested. From what I have heard from folks I know working at airports with the AIT, they accede anytime someone requests.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

Anon sez - "If you admit the images do show passengers penis and labia then why do they not appear on the sample images? Can the sample images provided even qualify as accurate samples?"

Which images are you looking at? The ones posted here:

http://www.tsa.gov/blog/2009/08/imaging-technolgy-bigger-picture.html

Should give you the basic idea of what imagery is generated by the AIT machines.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

Would you please comment on the news reports that came out today regarding DHS forcing a woman to have an abortion?

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