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TSA has not, will not and our Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) cannot store images of passengers

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010
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The Drudge report recently linked to this article with the very misleading headline: “TSAXXX: Naked Body Scans Leak Online” This is 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. You can read our blog post on this subject from earlier this summer. Or you can read the US Marshals Service Press Release on this matter.

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team


Submitted by Anonymous on

the tsa has been caught storing this data. to deny this now is irresponsible and typical of the tsa. ignore the problem and deny if it doesn't

Submitted by Parkylondon on

You know what Bob? We don't beleive you.

Submitted by American Securi... on

True or False?:

The AIT Machines software is based on Windows XP

Submitted by Anonymous on

True or false Bob; the hardware was sourced with the ability to store images. That is known, you claim ( you make a lot of claims ) that this is disabled by policy but the hardware can do it.

So your title is factually wrong, the hardware can store images of passengers, you *claim* to disable this feature just like the marshals service did, right?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Can they Print? What happens when you catch someone with contraband - surely there's an image captured for prosecution?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Well, first of all, there's been enough TSA hijinks already reported that no one trusts the "oh no, we won't do THAT" line.

You also have NO idea what the long term health risks of this will be.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, why do you continue to mislead people? The scanners DO have the ability to store images; such ability, according to the TSA, is simply "disabled".

And as anyone who has experience with computers knows, a feature that is simply "disabled" can almost always, with enough effort, be "enabled".

Submitted by Anonymous on

So what happens if you do indeed see something dangerous in a picture? You don't have a way to store it for proof and potential litigation or law enforcement use?

And you always said that these machines are not networked. I still don't understand how the porno scanner is connected to the remote location. Is it one looooooong cable, or are you going through a data network?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Except you don't need the machine to actually capture and store images when the operators (against policy mind you) capture the images on mobile cameras.

Also without an INDEPENDENT 3rd part audit I don't believe you can even assert that they devices can't store images.

As to will not....I seem to recall a similar statement regarding the AIT devices would NEVER be used as the primary screening device....except now they are in some locations.

Submitted by LD on

I don't believe you or the TSA. Period. The technology is closed source and not open to independent review (not even for health concerns). Unless and until it is there is no reason to believe this is not possible.

And besides, there's always the "analog loophole". That is to say an agent snapping a pic with a phone or camera.

People were reassured in this particular case that images weren't stored either. So why should we believe the TSA when they say the same thing? Please answer that.

Submitted by Anonymous on

This is a complete and utter lie. Your machines can store images, can store images, and HAVE stored images.

Submitted by Tim Hutch on

It's interesting to see how these new systems get vetted to prove that they don't. If the statements are true then that is a start. But till that moment we won't have proof till a 3rd party trusted vendor in the public verifies this and not a closed 3rd party company that doesn't publish the report.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You mean your STRIP SEARCH technology, Bob. Call it what it is.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Thats what they all say.

I'll take Penn's approach and call a officer of the law and have the renta cop brought up on charges for assault if they "touch my junk!"

Submitted by Anonymous on

why have you disabled all comments? what happened to transparency?

on this issue, specifically, are you arguing that the computers used to view the AIT images cannot screen capture? or are they not networked? or are you arguing that employees will never snap photos of the monitor with their cell-phone cameras?

I'm going to need more details before I decide whether I want to subject myself to what some are calling 'security theater'

speaking of which, is there any indication that TSA policies will prevent the next attack? because it looks like they're designed around "fighting the last war". Actually, has the TSA actively stopped even one attack? proof of that would go a long way towards silencing your critics

Submitted by Anonymous on

Unfortunately, some people will not believe anything the government says.

And will keep repeating things that are not true.

Thank you for the thankless job you do.

Part of me thinks being a TSA agent to day is like being a Vietnam vet in the 1970s.

Submitted by T on

The machines have this capability. For the moment, TSA has disabled it.

Have they disabled the cameras on the cellular phones that the screeners in that private room carry?

When the machines were installed for testing, there was a non-invasive opt-out. Users who did not want to be exposed to X-ray radiation could be inspected with the wand, and given a perfectly reasonable pat-down, that did not involve the touching of junk.

Now, by making the pat-down extremely uncomfortable (bordering on assult), TSA is trying to take away the opt-out.

Do you think they might re-enable image storage in the future? I sure do.

Submitted by Anonymous on

We do not believe you.

Submitted by Jeff on

I'll spot you the current policy to not store or transmit images, but the hardware supports it. So you cannot say that it cannot save images. If you do, you are being intentionally misleading which leads to the lack of faith in your good intentions.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Given your previous lies, why should we believe you?

We know from the manufacturer's specs AND TSA's own requirements that the machines are built with recording and networking capability. We also know that TSA has lied in the past about the machines.

For example, there was a post on this very blog about how the scanners were going to be a supplemental piece of equipment and not the replacement for the WTMD and wanding.

Submitted by Chris Bray on

Anyone who knows how to do a google search -- that is, anyone smart enough to not work for the TSA -- already knows that the TSA's puschasing specs require that these machines be able to store images for training purposes. You are lying.

Submitted by Matt Gallagher on

With all due respect, what independent assurance does the traveling public have that this machinery "cannot store images"? Is it just the word of the TSA and the manufacturer that the hardware is crippled? Is there an 'off switch' that can be flicked on again, in hardware and software? Or is the hardware physically incapable of storing images (e.g. no hard drive or memory of any type whatsoever, which seems impossible)?

Until this technology is independently evaluated by a trusted, non-governmental and non-manufacturer testing body (UL, ISO, Consumer Reports come to mind), I will not go through it and I will not allow my minor children to go through such a machine.

The vast majority of TSA employees are undoubtedly hard-working, honest people. However, with absolute certainty, an agency this size has one or more 'bad people' working there - it is unavoidable. This technology is basically a gift to the pedophiles of the world.

Submitted by Anonymous on

That may be true. But it doesn't take a screen-capture button on the device itself to store images of passengers. An immature screener who wants to show off to his friends a particularly hot, sexy, weird, fat, ugly, or otherwise interesting image of a naked passenger just has to hold up their cell phone for a second to save an image of the screen. Are screeners having all their personal image-taking devices confiscated?

Screeners are just people. Of the thousands of screeners, some of them are bound to be silly, immature, insensitive, unthinking, or simply fail to see the harm in snapping a quick photo with a cell phone.

How can the TSA guarantee this won't happen?

Submitted by Git Em SteveDave on

I used to run a x-ray machine similar to the machines used at airports for scanning baggage. Being a geek, I of course went online and found the manuals for all my equipment. While the model I used COULD store images, it was an add-on feature that my company didn't choose, so we didn't have that ability. If we did, the storage was on a Zip Drive in a locked compartment. I could scroll back about 3-4 belt lengths to see what I had scanned earlier, but if I turned the machine off, or scanned more items, those images were gone forever.

Also, there were a lot of features that my machine did have that I could not access/turn on because the user interface I had was custom, and locked down very well. With the control panel/board I had(not a keyboard in the traditional sense,which allowed me to change/invert image colors, run the belt back and forth, zoom, etc...) there wasn't the ability to "ctrl-alt-del" or reboot and force a safe mode or make it boot off a external CD, etc... The machines are very "dumb" and are built to do their job and not much else, so it's easy to lock them down and prevent people from tampering with them.

Submitted by Anonymous on

As a computer developer in the heart of the valley, I ask "where's the proof"? Computers are extremely good at saving information, and it is hard to just take the TSA's word for it.

Why can't you just show the software and hardware running and prove that no pictures are saved?

Submitted by JohnO on

Blogger Bob:

Will you permit your co-workers to do the extensive physical search on yourself, wife, or children?

Will you daily allow your body to be subjected to the radiation like you are asking us to do?

I want America protected. Why not do these things on inbound international flights?

Why not use logical profiling like EL AL?

Submitted by Anonymous on

So tell me this Bob. If an individual did have some sort of dangerous material on him, i.e. a TSA agent spotted something and then frisked the man/woman beyond belief, how would the image used for probable cause to search be brought before a court of law or necessary committee?
This is a lie. Just like everything else that comes out of Napolotano's, Pistole's and the TSA mouths.
LIE! Don't believe it people.

Submitted by Anonymous on

If you put it in "TEST MODE" then it stores the images.

If it can't store images, then how would you present evidence that you even detected something on the person?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Leaving aside the fact that your computers were specified to have hard drives, USB ports, and Network ports - all potential avenues for exploitation, there is a simpler way to record images from the scanner:

Camera built into Cell Phone.

And by the way, where can I find the actual policy that states my under 12 child won't be molested by a TSA employee during their genital pat down check?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Can the machines store images of those who do NOT pass security (i.e. a threat) so they could be used for prosecution?

Submitted by Anonymous on

AIT scanners can and will store images when in test mode. How will the flying public know whether or not a scanner is in test mode and storing naked pictures of themselves?

Furthermore, someone can simply take a photograph of the screen that displays the images regardless of what mode it is operating in.

And the fact that the TSA has released their own images of what the scanners see proves that, yes, obtaining images from scanners is quite possible.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The point that has been made is not that this was a TSA checkpoint, but that they too claimed the machines "could not" and would not save images. They continued these claims until it was proven the truth was otherwise. We also have repeated reports of TSA officials behaving immaturely about the machines and pat downs, so how is the public honestly expected to believe that the person monitoring isn't saving things using their own camera or that the TSA is telling the truth about saved images to begin with?

Fool us once, shame on you, twice is shame on us. There is a reasonable amount of evidence that blocks my ability to trust these statements.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"TSA has not, will not and our Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) cannot store images of passengers."

Nice picture for your blog post. Looks like it doesn't matter if those scanners store images, you can just as easily obtain them by photographing the screen.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You are treating air passengers like prisoners. What is next? Latex gloves and body cavity searches? Strip searches and arrest frisks are not a reasonable policy in the absence of any objective evidence of particularized risk.

Israel does not do use strip search scanners at Tel Aviv/Ben Gurion and has not plans to adopt the machines? What about that? No society in the world has a greater need to focus on security issues than Israel, and they view this technology as unreliable/not worth the cost of use.

I know that TSA does not care what frequent fliers think, and I have no expectation that the agency cares what those most affected by these Soviet policies thinks about them. I hope that Congress takes action to protect the privacy and dignity of the U.S. traveling public. Absent Congress taking action, I feel certain that anal and vaginal probes are not far down the road. Why not make us fly naked, chained to our seats?

Submitted by Adrian on

It is a lie to say that the whole-body imagers cannot store the images. The requirements document the government issued during the procurement process *required* that the devices be able to retain images. The machines have a mode where they do not retain images, and we're told that the TSA uses them in that mode, but there is little public information available on how hard it is to change the mode. Also, the MMW machines abused by the Marshal Service are the same models as some of the MMW machines used by the TSA. Therefore, the machines *can* retain images.

Question: Are the machines connected to the internet?

Submitted by Gunner on

That is, simply put, a lie.

The systems are capable of storing images.

You claim to have disabled it -- which is fundamentally dfferent than it not being capable of storing images.

The fact that few people believe you is a different matter.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Oh. Well, if the government says it then it must be true. Good enough for me! /sarcasm Power has been abused, is being abused, and will be abused; such is the nature of power.

People, you've got to fight tooth and nail for your rights. If you give the government an inch they'll try to take a mile.

I'm praying for the day some imbecile gets caught with explosives up his anus (hopefully he won't have the opportunity to hurt somebody). TSA will predictably react by requiring mandatory cavity searches and the airline industry will cease to exist. But hey, at least the skies will be safe!

Submitted by Rick Boatright on

Bob, you keep saying that the scanners "can not" store, print or forward the images.

And you point us to a blog post where you explain that you don't mean that, that the machines CAN do those things, and DO do those things in testing mode, but that they are disabled (in software) before being delivered to the airport.

It would be more honest, and cause much less screaming if you just said "Have those functions disabled in a way that the operators can not re-enable them."

Also, you keep posting the two images, but there's no indication of what size the images are when the operators view them. Can we get a sample screenshot of what the operators actually see?

Finally, are the operators physically searched each day so that the people entering the operating room for the scanners are certain to not have a cell phone or pen camera or button-hole camera to take photos of the screen as they're working? Have you plugged the analog gap?

Submitted by DevilDog438 on

Once again, Bob, intellectual honesty instead of "1984"-esque doublespeak would be good to have here on a GOVERNMENT-sponsored forum.

If I remember correctly, the initial WBI RFP (the one EPIC and others have posted before) required the ability to store images (yes, it did say when in training mode, from what I recall) and further stated the specific levels of personnel that were enabled to place the system in said mode and permit captures. Several of the personnel listed appear to be assigned at the airport level from what other sources have posted.

If the two Qualified Vendors have installed machines at the airport checkpoints without that capability (the ability to go into training mode and capture/store images), then they are in violation of the Federal Acquisition Regulations for failure to comply with deliverable specifications (at least according to my annual FAR courses here at work) and should be reported to the GAO for investigation.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Er.... are you sure?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why, and please be specific, would we believe the TSA when they say the same things that the Marshalls said about the ability of the scanners to save images? What exactly makes the TSA more credible?

Also, what will stop TSA employees from taking pictures of the screen? What will stop them from training a security camera on the display?

And how will any of this make us safer?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Wait a minute Bob, you say "the machines cannot store images," but that is false and misleading. They can store images, you just claim that the function is turned off.

You need to be more precise with your language!

Submitted by John C Welch on

You say, talking about the scanners that because they are not networked, they cannot be hacked.

That's actually quite wrong. They can in fact be hacked. Just not remotely. However, hardware hacks are a well-known technique. Ask the people making fake readers for ATMs.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, you're contradicting yourself. Yes they CAN store images. Remember how you admitted that the machines can store images in "test mode" ? Of course, since you're a PR mouthpiece and have given us inaccurate information time and time again, your assurances that the images are not stored and that TSA will never leak images of our naked bodies are not really very reassuring. TSA has lost our trust, Bob, your assurances are meaningless. Show us proof.

Meanwhile, your agents continue to make life hell for people who opt out of body imaging, and continue to make up their own rules and flaunt standard operating procedure ( with seemingly no repercussions for either the agency or the employees involved in incidents such as this. When is TSA going to enforce a reasonable code of conduct?

Neither body imaging or genital touching are going to fly, Bob. Find another way.

Submitted by Your_Friend_Ethel on

Thats not what the spec that was put out for these devices says. The device has a harddrive so short of NSA destruction of the harddrive scans are still on the drive. just because it was "deleted" doesnt mean its gone. Its still recoverable.

Furthermore "test mode" anyone with half a brain and knows how computers work knows there is a way around that.

Yet more lies for TSA.

Good job Curtis your censorship has garnered a call to the OIGs office. hope you enjoy explaining you and your agencys actions

Submitted by Anonymous on

And you also said Macbooks don't need to be separated.

There are other examples demonstrating a difference between what you say and what happens in reality.

Submitted by Anonymous on

We don't believe you.