A video posted by blogger John Corbett demonstrated how TSA (Transportation Security Administration) body scanners used at airports for security screening failed to detect a metal object placed at the side of a passenger’s body.
In the video, Corbett was carrying a metal case, about two inches by two inches in size, when he passed through airport inspection. The metal case was placed in a pocket that Corbett handsewn to the side of his shirt. Corbett videotaped the security screening he went through inspection at two airports.
He was able to sneak in the metal case without being detected because of a flaw in the way the scanners display the full-body images for the TSA screeners. The scanners present only the front and back images of the person. The scanners are unable to show both sides of the body.
Furthermore, the full-body scan shows only light-gray shades against a black background on the monitor. Any metal object that a person carries in the front and back of his body is shown only as black image. If a metal object is placed on the side of a person’s body, it becomes almost impossible to detect visually, Corbett said.
Corbett wrote that before he posted the video in his blog, he provided a copy to the TSA to give them time to stop using the scanners and revert to the more effective metal detectors which were used in the past.
He advised the readers of his blog against trying to pass any contraband through airport security because the nude-body scanners, as Corbett calls them, are not that effective and detect false positive most of the time.
As an example, he said, while a metal object on your side cannot be detected, a button on your shirt or a sweaty armpit may look suspicious, and this would prompt the screeners to conduct further investigation.
The TSA body scanners, which have been put to use since the fall of 2010, are now being used as a primary method of detecting deadly weapons and contraband items being brought by passengers to airports. It was claimed that the US government spends some $1 billion a year to operate and maintain the scanning equipment in airports all over the country.
Corbett, a scientist and an engineer by trade, is one of the individuals who sued TSA for violation of the Fourth Amendment (protection against unwanted searches and seizures) in connection with the use of body scanners in security screening. The court ruled against him, and he has elevated the case to the Supreme Court.
One interesting thing I noticed in Corbett’s blog is that somebody commented that the flaw in the use of scanners was detected in 2010, and a website detailing the flaw was cited.
Corbett’s video may be the first evidence proving that the scanners are not reliable.
You may watch the video at tsaoutofourpants.wordpress.com.