back to article TSA to revise nudie scanner software

America’s Transport Security Administration has decided it doesn’t need full nude outlines to work out whether or not someone is carrying a bomb under their clothing. Since their introduction, the voyeuristic millimeter-wave scanners have been defended by the TSA as indispensable, in spite of failing to detect guns in tests, …


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  1. jake Silver badge


    As long as they continue the Federally Mandated Molestation Stations, I don't fly anywhere that I can't fly myself ... I don't do business with outfits that assume I am a criminal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      RE: Whatever

      The TSA are the sole reason for me never wanting to visit America and the reason I veto any suggested trips there with mates.

      Land of the Free? More like the world's biggest prison.

      1. Eddy Ito

        It is the land of the free!

        We are free to do as we are told or sneak across the border, just like everyone else. Well, everyone who lives here anyway. Seriously, as long as you aren't rich, they'll let you leave... on foot and without possessions. If you are rich, all you need to do is hand over your monetary accounts and become not-rich, assuming of course you can prove you haven't hidden any money in a furrin' cuntree.

      2. jake Silver badge

        World's biggest prison? Nah.

        We have other options for getting around here in the USofA, most of which don't require "credentials" to be presented to a so-called "authority".

        For "world's biggest prison", see mainland China.

  2. Robert E A Harvey

    but but but

    >the administration is rolling out new software that will display a generic

    >human outline identifying any concealed objects

    The ones at Schiphol have been doing that for a long time, and on a screen where you and the "search operative" can both see the results, as large squares on an outline.

    3 years ago they refused to let me see my own scans 'for privacy reasons' but that was long since fixed and the Mr Blobby version was introduced. At least 2 years ago.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: generic human outline

      Does it have to be generic, or can operators "skin it" with their favourite eye candy? (Obviously this feature would be added to the software as part of the localisation support, and as such it would be culturally sensitive and wholly politically correct, not just a way of tarting up the passenger list.)

  3. lIsRT

    The possible responses scare me more than the threat.

    Maybe it's because any competent terrorist now realises that the only practical way to conceal a bomb is not under clothing, but under skin (and preferably some fat/muscle layers too).

    Sort of like that fat bloke the Joker got to in the last Batman movie.

    All you need is a friendly surgeon.

    Should be interesting to see how they respond.

    X-rays, ultrasound? - too slow and/or dangerous.

    Stitches == no fly? - horrifically discriminatory.

    No fatties on the aircraft? - this would actually have a pleasant unintended consequence, but probably wouldn't stop a smaller bomb that could still do some damage.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Rumours worth more than actual trying.

      As interesting as it is to speculate on how to best turn your body fat in-place into HE, I don't expect many of the scary turbans to be quite mad enough to turn their bodies into retorts. And if they do, well, I'd expect them to fall over and die first. Having a surgeon stuff you full of explosives? Er, you'd need quite a mad surgeon and it too is quite risky, that with not wanting to have your detonator go off on the wrong moment. How much explosive can someone carry inside their body without having to sacrifice a lung or something?

      I think you'd have to be quite insane to even try, and the timing requirements may make it harder to conceal. As in, will have such a walking bomb have the time to heal up before getting on a plane and blowing up? If not, the pain is probably going to cause them to be even easier to spot.

      Thus again we see that the best detection mechanism is competent guards paying close attention to the people under scrutiny, as opposed to trawling through databases stuffed to the brim with "potential information" (==useless data) or perving it out with scanners.

      The very fact, though, that the USoA saw fit to publicly warn everyone the world over that some wonky turbans on unspecified "forums" elsewhere entertained the notion means further justification for more privacy invading, more passenger inconveniencing, more FUD, and, on account, a cheap net win to the explody turbans.

      In that sense, the governments' actions and the USoA government's actions in particular have quite striking similarities with the terrorist agenda: Strike terror in other people's hearts. Either one succeeds, both win on that point. Terrorism and anti-terrorism together are made of pure win-win, baby.

      1. dssf

        More LILI than Stitch...

        Liquid IN, Lipids OUT more than a massive stitch job on the body-bomber.

        Anyone going for stitch job had better hope a salt wash is not part of the inspection routine of the future. On arrival:

        -- separation from personal belongings

        -- forced disrobing in dark box

        -- forced march through bomb-grade encasing filled with shock-attenuating, syrupy-like consistency salt water

        -- emergence from the goo into a fresh water washdown...

        Hell, market it as a free, pre-flight mudbath by a compulsory washdown, many women would go for it. Just throw in some cucumbers and a pedicure. Many backpackers, though, could use it. And, planes might need less air freshener or odor-killing ozone-like devices if they even use them to knock down essence de funkor from the mothers of all funkers who don't like baths or showers.

        THIS, boys and girls, probabyl is the REAL reason for the body scanners, the long-term plan to reach sanitized flight cabins, liceless headrests, and ...

        But, back to STITCH... Salt water would burn the hell out of any sliced and stitched bomb stuffers. They'd likely be sent to an embalmer who'd load them up with a 25-gallon injection via that hose and drain needle.... Going to the embalmer to become a bomb... Would that be "embalmber"?

    2. FuzzyTheBear

      Any competent terrorist ?

      They are all home watching the show with their popcorn.

      98% if them are laughing their asses off because they won.

      They won a long time ago and still win everytime those idiotic

      TSA morons spend yet more money for totally useless devices.

      The terrorists won a long time ago by changing the US top to bottom and

      turned it into a police state.Yeah .. it's now a large slave camp.

      Thank the republicans for that.

    3. dssf

      Miscellaneous Subcutaneous eggs-stream explosive composition?

      Even if the explosives' CHEMICALS do not set off scanners, you'd have to de-lump any explosives to prevent the lumps and irregular blobs from appearing. Maybe an UltraSound machine will take over some day. But, such smooth, syrupy explosives might be toxic and corrosive to the carrier. Besides, how would such body of explosives be detonated? A puch in the face to release compound A, followed by a fist to the gut to rupture compound B, and a kick in the nuts to release compound C, just to get a Trinary Explosion. Might eject a lot of brains and crap omnidirectionally, but anyone walking with a thick stream of explosive syrup probably will die on the drive to the airport, hehehehe... before they get to detonate their missile-anus-sub-cute-anus c*mposition eggs-stream bomb....

      Now, if Stretch Armstrong were allowed on flights, there could be problems....

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    This bullet silver, by any chance?

    So will this trickery make the scanners suddenly do what previously was promised they could only turns out they could not?

    Relatedly, INTERPOL showed off not too long ago colour coded passport checkpoint "tunnels" to indicate just how stuffed full they would be of peeping kit like this and worse. They seem to expect that either terrorists will self-sort or their governments will do it for them, and record the colour coding in the RFID chip in our every passport. That struck me as just about as useful an addition to the state of the world's security as their earlier assertion that migrants positively love being felt up through an INTERPOL biometric database of the world's population.

    All that high technological privacy invading is one thing; it's but a mask for the real problem. And that is that the thinking at these agencies is, let's put it dimplomatically (typo left in), not conductive to measurable improvements in actual security.

    That is, it's a dog and pony show. And yes, we already knew that. But the point is, it's not just the theatre that's the problem, it's that the people that make up the circus actually believe they are contributing to security. They honestly believe their snake oil positively works. At least the top brass but in some cases also very visibly down to the lowliest bureaucrat. Companies that insist on believing their own bullshit tend to go tits up in a hurry. However these, er, persons got themselves federalised.

    Carry on government.

    Paris, for she knows what it is to suck.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    So no longer able to see whose got stuff worth nicking

    The Thieves Support Association cannot be happy with this.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Question not asked

    So it shows the Mr Blobby to the victim but does it still record the high resolution image?

  7. Anonymous Coward

    I don't travel to the states any more

    Not for holidays. Not (voluntarily) for business.

    Its that simple.

    1. Restricted Access

      RE: I don't travel to the states any more

      Be a man, stand up for what you believe in and tell your workplace you refuse to visit the states.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RE: I don't travel to the states any more

        "Be a man, stand up for what you believe in and tell your workplace you refuse to visit the states."

        And what exactly do you think I have done since the liquids farce, for one?

        I will also not travel through any European hubs in and out of Europe, seeing as one has much more civilised alternatives in the Middle East which nowadays offer an extensive range of connections from European airports of any size.

        It is not called being a man, it's simply called putting your own convenience before that of your employer. Something quite reasonable as a general principle unless you're bound by a "duty of sacrifice" as codified in civil law jurisdictions.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    They've progressed from the absurd to the merely ridiculous. What progress.

  9. Andre Carneiro

    What was the guy's name again?

    "John Pistole"? Seriously? :D

  10. PaulK

    The TSA is as nothing...

    ... compared to the true professionals at Ben Gurion. At least the staff are not in need of a gastric band though a sense of humour transplant would not go amiss.

    1. MarkieMark1
      Thumb Up

      Be Fair

      the risk level at Ben Gurion makes it one of the few places that a lack of much of a sense of humour is understandable; even so I'd say the checkers there are more human than at, say, Heathrow; possibly it's the level of intelligence, possibly the standard UK security guard mentality

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think Daragh O'Briain said it best

    "The war on terror - if we have to show our genitals to a man in a box to fly, I think that means the terrorists have won, does it?"

  12. Coyote
    Thumb Up

    I've been through one of these at McCarran

    Flying out of Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to go through one of these instead of the metal detector. Apparently, if I had been wearing a belt or other accessories with metal, I wouldn't have had to remove them. I'm guessing my shoes could have been left on as well, if I had known I was going to get the body scanner.

    You step in, arms up, and the scan takes all of two seconds. Step out onto the yellow shoeprints (hence the shoes-on hunch) in front of the male or female screener (they motion based on the usual preference, but you have the choice) and they pat you down wherever the machine put the yellow boxes on a generic outline)

    I had a chance to watch them for a few minutes: I got checked under the arms. The woman going through behind me got her underarms and ankles checked (we both had looser-fitting shirts/slacks on). The next woman had tight-fitting clothing, but big, puffy hair. She got the top of her head patted.

    So they aren't jerks, and the new software is specific enough they don't feel you up all over. I patted down more thoroughly when I go to concerts or nightclubs. It does seem to need tuning as it thinks there might be something there if there's some space between your clothes and your body.

    Bonus: It is by far quicker than the metal detector, especially if you know beforehand you don't have to remove/replace your belt and shoes.

  13. ryanp
    Thumb Up

    vocal minorities

    I love that they point out that it is vocal minorities making a stink.

    Personally I could care less about having to go through one of these scanners. i dont mind having to spend an extra few minutes going through this. And if I am too stupid to remove my belt, change, or whatever else that sets off the scanner, then I deserve a pat down. I wont like it, but hey deal with it. Whether or not it actually improves security, they are TRYING to improve security and I cant fault them on that. It is not some evil plot to take pictures.

    Do you really think that the employees like to look through all these pictures? I am sure that they complain about there jobs just like the rest of the world. Then they go home and surf the web for porn like the rest of the world. I am sure that they are absolutely thrilled when they have to pat down some guys junk, must be the highlight of their day.

    Flying is not a birth right unless you are born with wings. So if you dont like the procedures, then take a bus. After spending 3 days driving in a cramped smelly bus, you will probably take the 8 hour cramped smelly flight home. If you are so offended that you dont want to fly, fine dont fly. If you are so fearful of a pat down that you dont want to visit another country for that reason alone, i feel sorry for you. maybe you can visit in Second Life, hopefully there is no need for TSA there?

    Oh well, I will keep on flying and deal with it. Some people will blow it way out of proportion, as if it were mid-evil times and the village guards were raping the village folk at a record pace. Everyone is entitled to do what they want.

    1. Pat 4


      The vocal minority doesn't actually mind the scanners all that much... I think they do mind the groping of their genitals by random strangers though.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      A minor issue with that

      there isn't a road or rail link from the Americas to any other continent.

      1. idris

        @AC; Different planes for different Dwaynes

        "there isn't a road or rail link from the Americas to any other continent."

        Can't they just get a bus to Mexico and fly from there?

        I reckon what the U.S. should do is divide all flights into two sets and fly them alternately - one for people who want extra peace of mind and who are happy to be subjected to scanners and pat-downs, and one for those who would rather retain their dignity at the expense of their security (and of course people who aren't bothered could get either plane) Then, passengers could make a choice between being fondled or sharing a plane with potentially armed co-passengers.

        But of course, increased dangers in the sky would mean increased dangers on the ground, so the less secure planes would only be permitted to fly over oceans and touchdown at coastal airports where onward journeys could be made by road or rail. These "Freedom Flights" would be fitted with a device that automatically crashes them into the sea if they exhibit signs of having been hijacked, such as if they stray drastically off-course.

        This scenario really covers all the bases - security, liberty, prudishness, consumer choice; yet I wonder how long it would be before the Freedom Flights would have to be scrapped owing to so few people wanting to fly them. After all, half of the appeal of taking an anti-TSA stance is that it lets you make a fuss and declare the government a bunch of Nazi paedos, and if you don't even get to enjoy that then why would you ride a bus to the airport and then risk dying in a fire?

    3. Old Handle

      vocal minorities

      They're not in the minority for hating these things, they're only in the minority by being vocal. The majority of people still don't like it one bit, they're just too cowed to complain. (And to be fair, there is no doubt a minority who actually does enjoy showing their genitals to strangers when they fly.)

  14. Scott L. Burson

    If the Cylons really had humanoid models

    they would look like these pictures.

  15. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Support a police state if you want but I don't.

    In fact, in my part of the States, there's no passenger rail within about 75 miles of where I live (except freight rail.) And that rail only goes to Chicago. It's all driving for me.

    @Coyote and @ryanp, sorry but you're wrong. These are useless security theater and invasive. The health effects are unknown as well (some medical professionals have argued, on the backscatter X-Ray machines, that since the X-Rays that don't reflect are preferentially stopped in a thin layer of skin that they are worse health-wise than full-powered X-rays that are absorebed by the whole body volume. And TSA of course claims "no" but since they lie constantly nobody believes them, and they have no medical evidence to back it up one way or the other.) You can support a police state if you wish, but I do not... if you want to "feel safe" then stay holed up in your house for the rest of your life, thank you very much.

    @ryanp "Do you really think that the employees like to look through all these pictures?" Well, since some have been caught trying to take the "hotter" ones home with them, apparently yes.

  16. Eddy Ito

    Always nice... and fun

    I know, it's a bite of Onion but maybe next time through the terminal...

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