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TSA Response to “Feds admit storing checkpoint body scan images”

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Friday, August 06, 2010
Screen Shot of US Marshals Press Release

An article from cnet has been making the rounds today about the US Marshal Service (NOT Federal Air Marshal Service) storing Advanced Imaging Technology images at a Florida courthouse checkpoint (Not a TSA checkpoint). This has led many to ask if TSA is doing the same.

As we’ve stated from the beginning, TSA has not, will not and the machines cannot store images of passengers at airports. The equipment sent by the manufacturer to airports cannot store, transmit or print images and operators at airports do not have the capability to activate any such function.

Feel free to read a post from earlier this year: Advanced Imaging Technology: Storing, Exporting and Printing of Images You can also read all of our other AIT related posts dating back to 2008 here. Our imaging technology page at has been updated as well.

Also, please note that the US Marshal Service falls under the Department of Justice, not under the Department of Homeland Security.

***Update - 12:00 - 8/6/2010***

The U.S. Marshals Service has issued a press release to clarify recent stories about the scanners they use. You can read it here.

U.S. Marshals Service Press Release

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team


Submitted by Anonymous on

Advanced imaging technology cannot store, print, transmit or save the image,

Why does you website state the TECHNOLOGY CANNOT store save images when the TSA provided procurement documents specify they must be able to store images? Stop lying!!!!

and the image is automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared by the remotely located security officer.

Not AUTOMATICALLY DELETED it needs to be MANUALLY DELETED by the officer in the booth. Stop lying!!!!

Please correct the blatantly misleading information posted on your website:

Submitted by Sam Gross on

I have a question: why do the TSA RFP's include requests for imaging machines that have the capability of storing and transmitting images? It seems as if the next threat will be used to justify the storage of images for reference or other recall.

Submitted by Anonymous on

If strip-search scanners are "optional for all passengers" then why is the pat-down option not verbally given by the TSO?

Every passenger the reporter spoke to in the airport did not know it was optional because there are no signs posted which I thought was mandated by congress.


Submitted by Anonymous on

Sorry if we don't believe a word you say Bob.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What date and year are the TSA provided sample images from?

Are the TSA provided sample images taken with the newest type scanner with the most updated software?

If you can't answer this question please forward it to the appropriate party.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Please reconcile your claims with Gale D. Rossides statements.

“TSA requires AIT machines to have the capability to retain and export imagines (sic) only for testing, training, and evaluation purposes,” states a TSA letter dated February 24, 2010 and signed by Gale D. Rossides, Acting Administrator.

How is this storage and export prevented at the airport?

According to Rossides, engineers, training contractors, and “Z” level users will have the ability to retain and export images.

Probably Q and MacGyver will too.

How will you stop the methods used by engineers, training contractors, and “Z” level users to retain and export images from being used at the airport?

Is retaining and exporting images something an engineer, training contractor, or “Z” level could leak to the public or airport staff?

Does the plan boil down to just telling airport staff they should not do it after they learn how?

Submitted by Anonymous on

So if TSA doesn't store the images then, which agency does TSA transmit those images to for storage?

Submitted by Anonymous on

How much detail of genitalia is visible to the image viewer?

Please don't tell me the sample images are what the screener sees.

i will quote BOB:

You guys are killing me (and others) with this. These pictures were provided to TSA by the vendor. I have never claimed they are the exact size and resolution that our officers see. I have provided video examples showing what our officers see. I have requested the resolution and size and was told it was proprietary information that I could not release. I'm still looking into being able to get that info for you, but I can't promise anything.


Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

February 3, 2010 1:22 PM

Any progress on you inquiry?

Submitted by Abelard on

You mean we are to believe you after this blog maintained for two years that the images were ready for the cover of Reader's Digest and to be handed out at the local preschool? Or was Rolando Negrin at Miami International just clobbering his supervisor for giggles?

Why should we believe anything the TSA says?

Submitted by Simon on

Really? I am skeptical of your claim that your imaging machines cannot store or transmit images. Documents from the manufacturers show that the machines have the capacity to do both. You tell us that it is turned off, but we are supposed to "trust" you on this?

Submitted by Avxo on

So, it is your assertion that the machines deployed at airports absolutely cannot store, transmit or print passenger images. Is that the official TSA position on this matter?

I am somewhat skeptical, especially in light of previous statements made by others (and you) on this blog.

Have these machines, and their security/privacy been evaluated by an independent body? If so, is that report available?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Get ready for all of the why should we believe you comments from the people with tin foil hats.
Bob why waste your time. It's the same 15 or 20 parnoid people who think that big bad Government is out to get them who are going to respond to this in the same way they do every post. It doesn't matter what the answer is they will always say its not an answer or they just won't believe the answer.
Mr Pistole, maybe we are wasting our time. What I mean is maybe we are wasting our time doing everything we can to protect a forgetting and ungratful group of people who will never get it through their heads that they are worse than the agency they continually insult.

Submitted by Rock on

"Get ready for all of the why should we believe you comments from the people with tin foil hats."

Also get ready from the people who apologize for everything the TSA does because they are naive little sheep who think the government somehow is devoid of the all the greedy, power-grabbing, sexual and NORMAL (if base) desires of people and the inevitable consequences when they get into positions of power.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"tin foil hats."
"naive little sheep "



Thanks. Now I'm off to bed to count young sheep in tin foil hats.


Submitted by Anonymous on

"What I mean is maybe we are wasting our time doing everything we can to protect a forgetting and ungratful group of people who will never get it through their heads that they are worse than the agency they continually insult."

Heh. We're not the thugs taking naked pictures of little kids.

Submitted by BloggerBobRlyNe... on

So, if two entities are doing these scans, why does the TSA need to exist at all?

Plus, please respond to the *unanimous* comments that cite your own documentation's requirement that the hardware do the exact opposite of what you are saying in this post that they do.

Really, with all the money being wasted on the TSA, you would think that their PR wing could concoct a more convincing brand of doublespeak. It's almost more insulting to be addressed in this manner than it is to have to comment as "anonymous," since it is well-known that dissenting on this awful blog is a surefire way to get on the no-fly list.

Submitted by Isaac Newton on

Bob said:
As we’ve stated from the beginning, TSA has not, will not and the machines cannot store images of passengers at airports.

Bob, you've also said from the beginning that people can opt out of the WBI. Yet reports from El Paso, at least, indicate that passengers are not being allowed to opt out. Do you intend to comment, or are you just going to ignore it?

Bob, you've said "from the beginning" that signage would show the WBI image and let passengers know that they can opt out (except in El Paso, where they can't). Yet numerous people have reported that the signs in some airports are missing, in the wrong place, or have insufficient information.

Bob, you've said "from the beginning" that the WBI would be used for secondary screening. Yet many airports are now using the WBI for primary screening. The 2009 Privacy Impact Assessment is based on the assumption that the WBI is only used for secondary screening. Where is the new PIA?

Bob, your colleague Nico said "from the beginning" that the WBI images were suitable for the cover of Reader's Digest. Yet you and Nico fail to provide images in the same size and resolution as seen by your screeners.

In summary, Bob, why should we place any trust in any claim you've made "from the beginning"?

Submitted by Patrick (BOS TSO) on
Anonymous said...

Ahem... but I've worked at three checkpoints (Delta, American and somedays the Int'l checkpoint) since these machines were installed... and all of them have the signage right in front of the machine stating that it's optional.

May I ask which checkpoint you traveled through Anonymous so I can verify this for myself?
Submitted by Anonymous on

Why do we now need to further undress ourselves with these machines? Now we have to remove a belt every time through security? I can't have paper such as money in my pockets? I have to remove my wallet?

If the belt scanner can see inside my bag, why can't these scanners see in the same way so that we don't have to have all this additional hassle.

Submitted by Bubba on


The machines can store and transmit images. They have that capability. Whether we believe you are using them or not is really a question of trust.

I don´t believe you aren´t transmitting them, because you are. There is no way the image can get to the "remote location" in which it is viewed without being transmitted.

I don´t believe they will not be stored because you can store them. The TSA always does things just because they can. Privacy, scientific soundness, legal rights and all that are not a TSA concern.

And when debunked, like the SPOT program in the extensive article published in the top journal Nature months ago, the TSA simply ignores all evidence and continues harassing us and spending our money.

Why should I believe an agency that says it can spot a terrorist through "microexpressions" and insists that toothpaste is deadly?

Submitted by Anonymous on

quote from Blogger Bob: "the machines cannot store images of passengers at airports."

Is that cannot through physical means, software or will not as a matter of policy?

If not policy has this been verified by an independent 3rd party?

Submitted by Anonymous on


Are you going to address the reports that at El Paso and Boston passengers were told that they could not opt out of these scanners?

I'm guessing you won't, or if you will you will be dismissive of the reports.

After all, TSO's always follow procedures (like not taking camera's into the AIT booth)

Submitted by Anonymous on

I think this whole debate is designed to distract people. The problem is not that the machines can store these images (obviously that capability exists); the problem is that we spend a ton of money on this stuff and it doesn't really get us much. Perhaps it might provide an incremental increase in security, but the bottom line is that it just isn't cost effective. Money doesn't grow on trees; at some point you've got to cut your losses and move on. Of course this country's debt continues to grow exponentially, so it's only the next generation that will have to worry about it. Sucks to be them.

Submitted by Ethel Rosenberg on

Bob a few notations from a post on F/T:

From Procurement and Operations Specs for WBI Privacy
Enabling and disabling of image filtering shall (11) be modifiable by users as defined in the User Access Levels and Capabilities appendix. Test Mode

For purposes of testing, evaluation, and training development, the WBI shall (22) provide a Test Mode.

The WBI Test Mode shall (23) be the sole mode of operation permitting the exporting of image data.

WBI Test Mode shall (24) be accessible as provided in the User Access Levels and Capabilities appendix.

(From Gale Rossides letter of 2/24/10 to Rep. Bennie Thompson:

“Any changes to privacy settings on individual machines can only be made by the "Z" users. The only people with "Z" user access for use in the lab setting are select personnel in TSA's Office of Security Technology and technicians from the manufacturer.”)

Therefore, TSA does have the capability of changing the “privacy” settings on the machines.

When in Test Mode, the WBI:

• shall (25) allow exporting of image data in real-time;
• shall (26) prohibit projection of an image to the TO station;
• shall (27) provide a secure means for high-speed transfer of image data;
• shall (28) allow exporting of image data (raw and reconstructed). The IOCP:


(d) shall (72) provide image enhancement tools to have, at a minimum, the following image processing capabilities, each selectable by a single keystroke to support image review:
(i) Reverse image contrast from full negative to full positive
(ii) Zoom from 1X to 4X Data Storage and transfer
The WEI system shall (98) provide capabilities for data transfers via USB devices.

2.6. Image Screening Position (ISP)

The WBI SHALL (17) provide a means to achieve the following at the ISP

b) Communicate to the SIP display that the ISP operator wants to take
additional scans of the passenger beyond the required minimal
number of scans.


So many items to address, let’s start from the bottom up:

The IO can zap a passenger with more radiation than we are being told we get when going through backscatter. How does the IO know when “enough is enough?” Why is the public NOT informed of this?

Data can be transferred to USB devices.

Why has TSA not made it clear that there are “image enhancement tools” on WBI and that the IO can enlarge the image of one’s genitals by up to 4x in order to get a better look?

Images can be transferred in real time.

While IOs do not have the ability to change the mode of WBIs, other individuals from the TSA do have the capability of changing privacy settings. What assurances do we have from TSA that those settings won’t be changed from operational to test mode at the whim of one who has access to a particular machine? Or that they will not be run in “test” mode all the time? We have no such assurances.

Submitted by RB on

"The equipment sent by the manufacturer to airports cannot store, transmit or print images"

Contract specifications require the ability to save images.

Contract specifications require Network capabilities.

Also contract specifications require "The WBI shall (13) provide a means for passengers to maintain a line of sight to their divested carry-on items during the screening process."

This is not being accomplished. Passengers are totally out of sight of their carry-on items particularly when Backscatter Child Porno Viewers are installed.

Time to the pull the plug on another failed TSA boondoggle.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Does the TSO see live video of the person being strip searched or are they looking at a still picture?

If it's a still picture, it is being saved. Is it then automatically deleted?

And the machines CAN store images if they are in test mode. What if someone forgets to disable the test mode? Can the TSO see if the test mode is on or off?

And how is the image received by the TSO if these machines are supposedly not networked?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Body scanners might improve our odds from 1/16,000,000 to maybe 1/20,000,000, maybe not. Checkpoints will continue to miss things as they always have. Federal Red teams get 60% of their contraband through the checkpoints as it is. I think we are safe enough (2009 levels), that they need to concentrate on things like baggage screening (only 40-60% as of now). Like Rep Chaffitz (UT) said: Does strip-searching my mother or 8 year old daughter make flying safer?

It’s so important to keep reminding people that the government’s most important priority is to protect our freedoms, not Keep Us Safe(tm). Over the years many thousands of Americans have given their lives to secure those freedoms, and to simply hand them over now in exchange for a dubious promise to Keep Us Safe(tm) is a disgusting insult to their sacrifice.

Look here to see what the pervs see:

Submitted by Anonymous on

Saying that TSA has intentionally misled the public about these virtual strip search machines could easily classify as the understatement of the year. Consider the following:

- TSA has stated that the images cannot be stored, yet the specifications for these machines clearly show a capacity to store images.

- TSA has stated that the images cannot be transmitted, yet the specifications for these machines clearly show that they have this capacity as well.

And then of course there are the rather serious open questions of just how much detail these images contain... TSA still hasn't released a single image from any of these machines to prove its assertion of their family friendliness.

And we also have the even more serious question of how dangerous it is to go through them or even work around them to begin with. Considering that a number of experts in the radiological field are bringing up concerns about this, I'd say it's certainly a relevant question that needs to be answered.

And we also have other issues that TSA must address for public safety... How many screeners who are looking at these images have been screened to ensure that they're not some sort of pervert or deviant? Does TSA know for sure that screeners directing people into these machines aren't doing so for the "pleasure" of the screeners viewing the images? Who oversees this, and what sort of accountability is there?

TSA has a lot of questions to answer surrounding this technology. It is a shame that those who run the organization perceive themselves as above the law and not having the obligation to answer to anyone, when it is taxpayers who are paying their salaries. Mr. Pistole and his screener brigade should be hanging their heads in shame over the agency's pervasive bad attitude and continual problems with honesty and ethics.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Well, considering that the TSA already breaks their own rules about allowing pax a clear line of sight with their belongings while in the WBI, why should we believe you that you are not storing or saving images?

Submitted by Your Friend, Ethel on

On July 24, West wrote:

"GSOLTSO said...
Anon sez - "

Was a lot of that post redacted?"

Nope, published as it came in. Blogger does not allow for modification of the comments as they come in. To publish or not to publish, that is the (only) question.

TSA Blog Team


July 24, 2010 9:38 AM "

If the above is true, how does it happen that Ethel Rosenberg's two posts were combined into one?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Went through IND the other day, didn't get selected to go through the AIT (not that I would have) but noticed that the machine at my line DID NOT have the optional sign. When I inquired to the TSO why not he stated it was "because it is not optional unless the machine is broken", I called over a supervisor and asked her what the situation was, she responded the machine was new and was being tested (hmmm...) and that she would have a sign put in place (didn't see it happen though)and then to her credit she did correct the TSO about the screening being optional. My only question is how many other TSO's don't know the rules...

Submitted by RB on

Anonymous said...
Went through IND the other day, didn't get selected to go through the AIT (not that I would have) but noticed that the machine at my line DID NOT have the optional sign. When I inquired to the TSO why not he stated it was "because it is not optional unless the machine is broken", I called over a supervisor and asked her what the situation was, she responded the machine was new and was being tested (hmmm...) and that she would have a sign put in place (didn't see it happen though)and then to her credit she did correct the TSO about the screening being optional. My only question is how many other TSO's don't know the rules...

August 5, 2010 3:40 PM

Apparently every TSA employee in ELP thinks it is not optional!

Submitted by George on

I do wish the TSA would address the one serious concern I have about WBIs. That's the risk of theft (and even identity theft) to which the scanning procedure exposes passengers because they can't keep wallets or passports on their person.

Blogger Bob has made vague statements that we can "request" that the TSOs keep our belongings within our line of sight while being scanned. Obviously we can make that request, but is there anything in TSA operating procedures that in any way obligates the TSO to honor that request? Or is it like many other aspects of TSA screening, entirely at the whim of the TSO?

If a passenger makes a polite, respectful request to maintain visual contact with their belongings and the TSO responds with "Do you want to fly today?", what recourse does the passenger have?

While I appreciate the TSA's earnest efforts to keep aviation safe from terrorist threats, "security" means more than than just protection from terrorists. It also includes protecting passengers and their property from the far more common threat of theft. A passenger who becomes a victim of identity theft as a result of TSA screening procedures has suffered an unacceptable failure of security even though terrorism is not involved.

So Bob, what provisions does the procedure for whole-body scanning include to protect passengers from that kind of failure? I actually fear that more than terrorism, but I've seen no evidence that the TSA even cares.

Submitted by Vikki on

This has been a long standing global lie regarding body scan machines.The constant justification has been that they have no storage capacity , yet now it seems they do - how long before we see the images creeping onto the web? How are they going to prevent perverted sickos having access to these machines and the images stored within?

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

Curtis, you're not being honest here. You say the equipment sent by the manufacturer cannot store images, yet we both know the correct statement is that the capability has been disabled.

We also know that the capability has been disabled in order to convince the flying public that there will be no privacy violations in these virtual strip searches.

We also know that once the public accepts these pervert devices the capability will be restored, that is the long term plan of the TSA.

We also know that any capability that has been disabled can be enabled.

The only sentence you wrote that I agree with is that, based on hiring people willing to obey unlawful orders instead of people willing to think, is that the front line operators are highly unlikely to be able to do the enabling on their own.

By the way, this was a rather fast response, unlike the response to the Nature article about the BDOs.

Submitted by Chris Boyce on

Face it, Administrator Pistole: When you've lost Fox News, you've lost America.

Submitted by Sulayman on

Even if the machines delete the images immediately (which the vendor doesn't seem to agree is the default), What is to stop TSA officials from taking photos of the screen? Are there guidelines to prevent that? What would the punishment be for a TSA worker caught storing images?

Submitted by Anonymous on

IND has had full body scanners neatly arranged between the lanes for at least a year and a half. I saw them there. That supervisor who said they were new and being tested lied.

Submitted by Buddhist Temples on

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Submitted by Anonymous on

Good grief Charlie Brown-- and all you conspiracy theorists! The TSA specs need a machine that can store images so they can test it and make sure it does the job as intended. Once it has been proven they work as intended, they can deploy the machines. The ability to store images is then locked down and not used. If a machine needed service in the future they could conceivable turn the feature back on during service and off again when it goes back into use. Nobody from TSA at an airport can turn on the feature or use it.

About the idea of optional or not and having the officers yell out options, how much longer do we need to be delayed and how many more announcements do we need to hear? Just screen me and let me go catch my flight. Grow up people, I've spent a lot of time at airports and the only people I would ever want to see an image off from those machines are generally wearing cloths that leave nothing to the imagination anyway.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Of course, since you refuse to post accurate images of those generated by the strip-search technology and seen by the operators of your strip-search technology, we have no reason to believe any of the claims you or the Marshall Service make about those images, nor does that refusal incline anyone to trust anything you say.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Of the 141 AIT machines how many are backscatter and how many are mm wave? Also have you ever seen a backscatter screen? I have seen the backscatter screen images used by US troops in Mosul to screen local nationals coming onto a FOB and was amazed at the detail of women breasts, nipples and a men penises. Should the public ever see the level of detail contained in the images, my expectation is most folks will refuse to be scanned.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Sorry Bob, but what one agency does others often do as well. Nice try though.

Submitted by RB on

Sure seems like a lot of effort by TSA to say the AIT Child Porno Viewers are okey dokey.

They are not!

Why are Opt Outs not being honored in El Paso?

Submitted by Lanz on

What little shred of credibility the TSA had left is now gone. Crikey, how hard is it to be honest?

Submitted by Anonymous on

So I see that the US Marshalls Service is clarifying that it is not TSA in the first sentence of their press release.

Would that be because TSA specifically requested that they do so, due to fears about receiving even more backlash over unnecessary use of this invasive technology?

Why does TSA feel that the experience of using an airline should be at least as invasive as that given to a prisoner during in-processing? Even our government acknowledges that our prisoners have rights, while TSA seems to continually trample over those of the average American citizen.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, the naked scanner scandal goes from bad to much much worse.
Now the U.S Marshals Service has admitted it not only stores and allows any security staff to access naked scans of people, it actually COMBINES these naked scans with the actual photograph of the person, therefore removing ALL PRIVACY COMPLETELY. This is utterly shocking on so many levels.
Does the TSA actually expect people to believe that they are not doing EXACTLY the same? The TSA has an appalling record on telling the truth.
Perhaps the most important question which the U.S. Marshals Service has not mentioned is why is it storing tens of thousands of images of naked people? This is deeply worrying.

Submitted by Anonymous on

If I never read this blog I obviously would never understand the *overwhelming* hatred for TSA and specifically the ATI machines.

I currently work at a checkpoint that does not have them and I am asked by passengers with prosthetics a few times a day if there's one at the checkpoint. Every time I tell them there is not they are disappointed.

Submitted by MarkVII on

This is latest example of the TSA's lack of credibility. This blog is laden with stories where "suggestions" or "recommendations" morph into requirements at the checkpoint. The shoes in the bin vs. shoes on the belt situation comes to mind.

When showing ID to fly became a requirement, there were many mentions of screeners not accepting perfectly valid ID's for various reasons. Military retiree ID's and NEXUS cards come to mind here.

Then add this -- passengers are having their hands swabbed at checkpoints, and are told it's a screening for swine flu. The swabs look suspiciously like ETD swabs and shortly thereafter, a program of taking ETD swabs of people's hands is announced. Something's fishy here.

We were told the WBI machines are unable to store images. It turns out they really can, but this feature is supposedly turned off. Any feature that is turned off can be turned back on by someone with the correct access. (I work in Information Technology. I've seen too many cases where the system administrator ID and password gets into circulation, and supposedly secure functions and data are no longer secure.)

Now add that WBI's are supposed to be optional, and used for secondary screening, but the reports are that WBI's mandatory and used for primary screening.

In light of all that, we're supposed to believe that images will not be stored, photographed, etc. The TSA's track record does not inspire confidence.

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