back to article TSA bars security guru from perv scanner testimony

Security expert Bruce Schneier was been banned at the last minute from testifying in front of congress on the efficacy – or otherwise – of the US Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) much-maligned perv scanners. Schneier is a long-time critic of the TSA's policies for screening travelers, and was formally invited to …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. LaeMing

    Couldn't have that, now.

    He might give the 'wrong' evidence.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Couldn't have that, now.

      Exactly, we want fact-free politics!

      Sounds like they like Gordon Way's inverse expert system: don't reason based on facts to get the best possible conclusion, but enter the desired conclusion beforehand (along with the known facts) and let the program come up with a plausible reasoning to support the conclusion.

      Douglas Adams, you are sorely missed!

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


      The problem isnt that Bruce Schneier is involved in a lawsuit, but that he actually knows what he is talking about, as anyone who has read his books, his blog, or the Cryptogram newsletter will know.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      have a good grope if you want

      Though they might not let me board with my extremely large offensive weapon.

  2. Jeff 11

  3. Nights_are_Long

    The first thing I though of when I saw this was the recent South Park episode.

  4. Graham Marsden

    Why don't they just...

    ... offer the TSA an alternative to having Bruce Schneier testify?

    I know a good supplier of latex gloves...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    also coming to australian airport near you soon !!!!

  6. andro

    false security theatre

    I recently flew between Singapore and Thailand, and was handed metal knives and forks to eat with on the plane. I gather this is normal for that region, and I dont see millions of terrorists hijacking planes or people being stabbed because of it. Just people eating their dinner.

    It is such a load of rubbish we are forced to deal with in countries where so much money changes hands between mates in the name of this security theatre.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: false security theatre

      And pilots being made to eat with plastic knives, with an axe on the door behind them.

      And Congressional medals of honor being confiscated from Generals, it had sharp corners.

      And penknives being removed from DHS agents who were still allowed to carry their gun

      And nail clippers being confiscated from a US marine returning from Afghanistan - on a plane with 330 other marines - in case he used them as weapon to take over the plane.

      Either it's a conspiracy by makers of video conferencing software to stop people flying - or the lizard people have taken over

      1. Oliver Mayes

        Re: false security theatre

        Don't forget the guy who had a picture of a cartoon gun on his t-shirt. That was just as dangerous as a real one.

      2. h 2

        Re: false security theatre

        Or even the pilots that were blocked from taking liquids on the plane.

        Hey, I don't think they need a bomb to destroy the plane as they are hanging onto the steering wheel, (well stick)!

        1. Rob Daglish

          Re: false security theatre

          I would have said you were joking if I hadn't seen this myself, at Edinburgh Airport, about 6 weeks ago. Pilot & Co-pilot walk to security - Security Guard says "You can't take that through with you" pointing at cup of costa coffee, and pilot & co-pilot then have to take off belts, money from pockets etc as does everybody else.

          FFS, they're already flying the plane, it's not like they would have to work to hi-jack the damned thing!

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: false security theatre

            The reason they screen air crew is that there is no easy way to tell the difference between a pilot and someone in a pilot's uniform, with a fake id. The easiest thing to do is send everyone through the same screening process. The problem is, that a lot of that process itself is nonsense.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: false security theatre

              >no easy way to tell the difference between a pilot and someone in a pilot's uniform, with a fake id

              So safest not to let them on the flight deck then ?

              1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

                Re: false security theatre

                My point is that it is non-trivial and expensive to have separate bypass/screening procedures for pilots and people dressed as pilots. From an economic (and security) point of view, it makes sense to screen them the same as everyone else. I believe Mr Schneier himself has written on the subject.

                1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                  Re: false security theatre

                  So the highly trained government security specialists at the screening with access to all the databases, high tech screening machines and so on, can't confirm that somebody is a pilot.

                  But when they walk upto the aircraft they are allowed to walk straight into the flight deck with perhaps an air hostess glancing at their badge?

                  Makes you wonder about the air marshals. "You can't take that gun through security". "I'm an air marshal" "Well we don't know that".

                  Actually in practice it's probably - "I'm an air marshal"

                  "Well then you can keep the gun but you have to take your shoes off and hand over any liquids"

                  1. despairing citizen

                    Re: false security theatre

                    Air Marshals are a classic logic flaw.

                    1. screen everybody getting on the plane for weapons

                    2. put 1 person on the plane with a weapon, and call him a marshal

                    resolution 1.

                    the 5 terrorists over power the 1 bloke with a gun, and then use it

                    resolution 2.

                    dirty harry starts shooting terrorists, and hence puts 9 and 10mm holes into parts of the aircraft, and most bits on an aircraft do not react well to having holes in them (for example the miles of data cable that run from the front to the back of the plane, that enables the pilot to fly it)

                    1. Marcelo Rodrigues

                      Re: false security theatre

                      I agree that the whole process is ridiculous, but ther is two things I believe are wrong in your post:

                      1) I remember to (read? hear?) somewhere that air marshalls use special ammo. One that is designed not to go trough and trough the fuselage/windows of a plane.

                      2) Yes, there is the possibility of one stray bullet damaging something like that. But, as I recall, these systems are triple redundant. You would have to be extremely (un)lucky to cut all of them with a random pistol shooting.

                      That said, I agree that is ridiculous the idea of one single armed person. All it would take is 3 suicide terrorists. One, or two, of them take the bullets. The one (or the two) surviving take the marshall down.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: false security theatre

            ... and then there's the way they take all those confiscated highly explosive liquids and destroy them safely in a controlled explosion... or ...maybe just put them in the garbage... or ...maybe even take some of them home...

            The guys who have to shift it all at the end of the day would have to be on danger money if anyone actually believed in all that tosh they tell us...

      3. Peter Simpson 1

        Re: false security theatre

        When my son went to Iraq...they x-rayed his (carry-on) weapon.

        When he came back...they confiscated his bottle of water.

      4. jason 7

        Re: false security theatre

        I'm not sure what it would take to take control of an airliner nowadays.

        Now the precedent has been set, everyone knows that if that situation happens you may as well "have a go" as the alternative of just sitting there isn't going to help either.

        Interesting that plane hi-jackings were quite regular before 9/11. Not so much now.

        Is it the 'extra security' or the fact that maybe passengers wouldn't be so compliant now? It would take more than a penknife/bolt cutters or a pair of nail clippers to stop most folks now.

    2. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      Re: false security theatre

      It’s not really security, it’s the illusion of security, more I suspect, so that the politicians can say that are doing something, and it makes the manufacturer of perv scanners happy as they get to sell lots of relatively useless tat courtesy of Michael Chertoff.

      It keeps merkins happy as it means that merkins who comprise 5% of the word's population can continue to consume 30% of the world's resources[1] in continued oblivion as to what is happening in the rest of the world and what real security means.

      Real security is not perving at people with eastern names and wearing turbans[2][3], or letting kiddie fiddlers to strip search children (search youtube for vids).

      Real security is a state of mind, real security is the state of mind that when you board the Dublin-Belfast train at the height of ”the troubles” in the early eighties, that you check under your seat and the in overhead luggage rack for any orphan packages. To this day there are still police in Northern Ireland that have to check under their car every morning to make sure nobody has stuck a pipe bomb to their car.

      Perv scanners at airports, I laugh at them as a security measure.

      [1] Denis Hayes, "Economic Power," Seattle Weekly, November 10, 1993, p. 15.

      [2] yes! Yes! I know, Sikhs traditionally wear turbans not Muslims, Osama bin liner usually wore the draped headscarf and band, a kufiya or kefijeh.

      [3] Didn’t stop Timothy McVeigh getting in to merkin-land, did it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not the first time.

    It's not like Uncle Sam hasn't bought into bullshit security theatre devices in the past.

    Polygraph, anyone? That device federal agencies use in security clearances with about as much science supporting it as Scientology's E-Meter?

    Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen and Bradley Manning all passed just fine.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: It's not the first time.

      To be fair - the polygraphs were rigorously tested.

      The hooked up the salesman and asked "does this thing work" and it said yes.

      What more could you want?

  8. Eddy Ito
    Paris Hilton

    I don't know

    I laughed, I cried, I screamed, I cried some more. Perhaps I'm not seeing the plot of this theater show; Broadway it ain't.

    Even Paris is confused.

  9. Chad H.

    Will someone please tell me...

    Why someone boarding a plane in Glasgow, changing planes in heathrow and remaining airside but changing terminal needs to re-go through security? You guys realise if I wanted to do something, its kinda too late right?

    1. The BigYin

      Re: Will someone please tell me...

      This simply means that Heathrow does not trust the security at all feed-in airports. Quite sensible really. If a nutter wanted to get air-side with a real naughty, they would pick a soft-target to begin from and then get to the real one via a transfer.

  10. rockyflatsgear
    Thumb Up

    It's the radiation stupid...

    Bruce is a very sharp guy he would have left TSA looking badly. It begs the question when a citizen can be banned from speaking to his employees. The privacy, search and abuses of the machines will fill volumes. The topic of radiation is avoided because of the liability but, with gov health care they have that covered.

  11. The BigYin

    The scanners are useless

    One does not need metal objects to carry a weapon. Quite innocuous, everyday items can be used (or combined with others to make) weapons. Whilst these would not be ballistic or explosive in nature, with enough of them on board (and trained nutters to wield them) it would be quite possible to compromise the aircraft (i.e. take, and potentially execute, hostages).

    If the security agency does not already know who the terrorists are whilst they are on their way to the airport in a taxi, then that agency has failed. A simple scanner is not going to save you.

    Then we have the other risks. Let's say the scanners do work - how many lives does that save (Na)? How many lives do they ruin from cancer (Nb)? Unless Na >>> Nb then the scanners are more dangerous than what they try to prevent.

    This also brings the whole ID thing into question. If the agency is doing its job, it already knows which Joe Schmoe is a plumber and which one is a terrorist. They don't need biometrics, ID cards, RFID passports or any other crap. All those do is instil fear in the populace and allow the state to exercise more control.

    I for one am glad that I do not have to travel to the USA, although more and more places are using these useless devices.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Quite innocuous, everyday items can be used.

      A couple of years ago security at Schiphol confiscated my Kensington cable because the eye in the end meant I could loop it and make a garotte.

      Then the next trip they confiscated my RS232 cables "because they could be used to strangle someone" but left me the power cord for the computer "because it is part of the computer, so it is legitimate".

      (1) trying to pull a kensington cable tight would be a superhuman task

      (2) and the RS232 cables were part of my alarm clock?

      1. Vic

        Re: Quite innocuous, everyday items can be used.

        > they confiscated my RS232 cables

        Take a coiled cable. Swap two loops over. You now have a clove hitch, which is a locking knot, and possibly useful as a weapon.

        I carry a power cable onto just about every flight I take. I also generally carry a 1L glass bottle of fluid - effective as a club at elast once, and thereafter as a dagger.

        With a bit of thought, just about anything with strength either in tension or in compression can be used as a weapon. Confiscating nail clippers is simply daft.


        1. The BigYin

          Re: Quite innocuous, everyday items can be used.

          You know what I am waiting for next?

          "Are you now, or have you at any time in the past, taken martial arts training attaining a rank equal to or greater than first black?"


          "I am sorry, you are too dangerous to fly. Kindly step into the bin."

        2. Lee Dowling Silver badge

          Re: Quite innocuous, everyday items can be used.

          And you can't do that with a necklace? Or a coat? Or a jumper? Or a handbag-handle? Or a plastic bag?

          This is the problem, which is why the TSA doesn't want to expose this publicly - ANYTHING can be used as a weapon and some of the least obvious things can do the most damage. Trying to garotte someone is really an ineffective method of attack anyway - they will take minutes to go down and attract a lot of attention. You'd be better off just whacking them over the head with a bit of luggage.

          There is NO logic in banning 100ml+ fluid containers if I can book 20 people onto the same flight. There is NO logic in banning cables when they can't be used on the pilots anyway (real security - lock your fecking cockpit doors!) and the pilots wouldn't be stupid enough to cede control because of what's happening to the passengers. There is NO logic in requiring me to put a laptop into a separate box - what do you think you'll see there that you wouldn't see inside the bag / wouldn't have missed on its own if I'd just put it inside the bag anyway?

          All these things are elements of paranoia, not security, and come at the EXPENSE of security. Scrap them all and have your officers have a 10 second chat with every passenger instead. You'll discover a LOT more.

          1. Nexox Enigma

            Re: Quite innocuous, everyday items can be used.

            """There is NO logic in banning 100ml+ fluid containers if I can book 20 people onto the same flight."""

            Ehh, no reason to book anything. All you need is 20 people with passable ID (it's not recorded... so using your real one wouldn't be the end of the world) and a faked boarding pass. Since they let you print your own boarding passes these days... you pretty much need half a brain and a printer to get into the secure area of an airport.

            Once there, give all of the 100mL containers to one guy, have the others blend in with people who have just landed, and head out of the airport. Sure they'll be able to trace things on the security cameras after the fact, but your mules probably have a better chance of getting away than if they're on an airplane that you blew up... Or whatever you can /actually/ do with a couple liters of liquid(s).

            Honestly, it'd probably be cheaper to smuggle booze in that way than pay airport bar prices...

        3. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Quite innocuous, everyday items can be used.

          Like, say, YOUR ARMS? Nothing like the ol' sleeper hold to put someone at your mercy. Then there are YOUR LEGS. There is a reason for some people that THEIR BODY is considered a lethal weapon. Supposing these people will never be allowed to fly since they can kill people and maybe even break down the cockpit door without any assistance or augmentation at all...

    2. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      Re: The scanners are useless

      No! No! No!, they do work, how many airplanes have been hijacked/bombed since they were introduced? See, proof they work.

      Do they cause cancer, of course they don't, have you ever heard of anyone dying of cancer while they are being perved at scanned, see proof they don't cause cancer.


      1. Graham Marsden

        Re: The scanners are useless

        Time to repost the clip of Adam Savage from Mythbusters who went through the security scanners with two twelve inch industrial razor blades in his pocket...

  12. Graham Bartlett

    Love that excuse

    He's in a lawsuit with us, so clearly he doesn't agree with us. So his opinion isn't valid. Eh?!

    By that reasoning, the TSA themselves shouldn't be involved...

  13. Sir Cosmo Bonsor
    Thumb Up

    Thumbs up if you only clicked because of the girl in the pink hotpants.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This is not YouTube

      1. jukejoint

        Thank you AC. Sir Cosmo needs to be more politan.

  14. jukejoint

    Totally Sucks Azz

    is what TSA stands for. They would not take a theft report from me when jewelry was stolen from my luggage. (Silly me, I thought thieves were looking for actual gems'n'stuff - valuables, ya know? - instead of keepsakes from my children & old costume jewelry :( which nonetheless meant something to me.) Their reason? "You did not report it immediately" - no, because I did not discover it until I reached my destination which actually wasn;t the airport itself!

    Another trip, while catching a flight with my husband and child, my child asked me why security had stopped my husband (we could see him in some type of discussion with security from our vantage point at the top of the escalator). 'Oh they want to confiscate his (tiny!) Swiss army knife' I said. 'You mean, like this one?' and my child pulled out of her pocket her own identical knife - keychain size.

    bwa ha ha ha ha ha, security. I also remember getting a lot of mail from TSA wanting me to give them information about people fired from my place of work, so I began to think of TSA as the Misfit Brigade.

    1. George of the Jungle

      Re: Totally Sucks Azz

      I've thought of them as the "Theft from Suitcases Agency". Your story makes that hold water.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Conversations from the future

    Somwhat off-colour but accurate:

    "In our day, they would just grope you and look at naked pictures of you"

  16. Graham Wilson

    At least Bruce Schneier's on our side.

    Anyone who has Bruce Schneier's famous book knows it's good that he's on our side.

    The TSA's excuse to stop Schneier from testifying is nothing other than an utter disgrace and a sham.

    It's times such as this that (a) you've proof that democracy isn't working and (b), effectively the terrorists have won as they've enabled an opportunistic and authoritarian Security Industry to rampantly run riot over our rights, not to mention our dignity.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Dan 10

      Re: Process Vs Security

      What makes me laugh about this is how they would have reacted if the alarm had gone off. Let's say you had been negligent in turning your kit around when leaving theatre, and following a 'beep!' you had retrieved a couple of live rounds from a chest pocket. 'Oh, sorry about that, they should have gone back in the armoury". What's he going to do?

      Alternatively, what if you happened to carry a knife in your kit? "I'm sorry sir, the assault rifle is fine but you can't take the bayonet attachment!"

  18. Hollerith 1

    I opt for pat down every time

    On civil liberty grounds, I always opt for the pat down in the USA. Each time, the security guard has been respectful, polite, formal, and very clear what is going to happen. each time it has been the same pretty thorough pat-down.

    But as the USA pat-down is pretty much exactly the pat-down I get in the UK when I forget I am wearing a belt, with no formality or warnings in the UK, just a quick, rough and thorough hands-over, the pat-down I have been getting for years, I was less than upset in the USA.

    What Americans think of as intrusive touching and what the UK thinks of as it are very different. But I find neither very upsetting. Save for the fact that I feel the security guard and I should light post-pat cigarettes and do some sleepy love-chat, I have no issue with the pat-down.

    1. Mako

      Re: I opt for pat down every time

      Upvoted for this...

      "I feel the security guard and I should light post-pat cigarettes and do some sleepy love-chat"

      ...because it made Fanta come out of my nose.

    2. L0ki

      Re: I opt for pat down every time

      While you can opt out in the US you cannot in the UK. The law states that if selected to go through a scanner you can a) go through and get dosed or b) go home because they won't let you through otherwise.

      Sometimes, the US actually does things better.

  19. Nextweek

    He cannot testify for legal reasons

    I took the time to read his blog post.

    Someone kindly commented that its not lawful for congress to hear him.

    He is an expert witness in a case against the TSA, therefore congress would be hearing the same arguments as in that case. They have to leave it to the justice system to decide what is right.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: He cannot testify for legal reasons

      This raises the question of whether the result of the legal case trumps the verdict of the congressional hearing. If not, then why is there a conflict? If so, then why is there a congressional hearing at all?

  20. Scott 19


    'It's a Dildo, not your Dildo'.

    Sorry was on TV last night and the TSA guys are 'a Dildo.' (There's me on a no fly list).

  21. Seb123

    TSA should sort out their own house first

    I fly a lot due to "business travel" and recently I went to San Diego. I often put my laptop into my main luggage because I don't feel like going through the comedy of having to remove it from my bag along with all of my clothes and dignity at the scanner. This has never been a problem and wasn't a problem when I flew to San Diego.

    Unfortunately it was a problem on the flight back as I discovered when I got back to the UK – my laptop was gone. Clearly my sunglasses that were in the case were also a security risk so the TSA official helped himself to those as well. There were no signs of damage or forced entry on the suitcase so the objects were removed by using the TSA keys (I have “TSA approved luggage” like a good, law-abiding citizen).

    How can this happen? I’ve travelled throughout Europe and to some more colourful and “unsafe” places and have never had a problem. What’s worrying is how can the people working behind the curtains get away with this? I assume they need to be scanned. If they can happily walk out with a laptop, charger and sunglasses at the end of the shift, how difficult can it be for them to walk in with anything they want and place it into someone’s bag?

    1. Keep Refrigerated

      Re: TSA should sort out their own house first

      They don't always bother with the TSA key anyway.

      I had a TSA lock and it was gone by the time I got to baggage collection Stateside (thankfully nothing stolen). So I don't bother with locks now, I just use cable ties and clip them to the lock. I also cable tie anything important inside my bag too.

      If they want to rifle through my stuff they can work for it.

  22. Crisp

    If those scanners really worked

    They would have them at the security checkpoint at palirment.

  23. Tom 13

    I don't expect this will stand for very long.

    The Executive Branch can ban their own employees from testifying as long as they work for it, but they can't ban anyone else from testifying, particularly when Congress is engaged in its authorized oversight function.

  24. Tom 13

    I don't really expect to see another successful airline hijacking in my lifetime.

    September 11 was a spectacular tactical success for Osama, but it was a strategic disaster for the long haul. It worked because the expectation was that if you just sat back and cooperated with the hijackers, you would be inconvenienced, made really uncomfortable, possibly beaten, but the majority would come out the other side alive. But even on that horrific day, when the passengers on the fourth plane found out what happened to the other three planes, all bets were off. The only thing that was certain was that the terrorist were NOT going where they planned to go. And that's the way it is going to be from now on.

    So the TSA and HSA and all the other security theater twits should really put the kabuki and the Potemkin away and concentrate on real stuff, which is far more difficult to do, but has a much better payoff in the end.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: I don't really expect to see another successful airline hijacking in my lifetime.

      There is an old military cliche that generals are always prepared for the last war.

      I suspect the TSA is screening Japanese passengers arriving in Hawaii for any hidden torpedo bombers.

  25. norman
    Black Helicopters

    The simple solution

    Hand out Tazers to everyone flying, especially the kids.

    There will be so many misaken Tazerings on each flight, we will be imune to airplane violence.

    God help someone who actually tries something on the resulting plane full of tazer armed, terrorozed, pissed off "victims"...

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: The simple solution

      Perhaps we should all be anaesthetised at the airport, put in vertical body bags with hooks above our heads, and slid in on rails like sides of meat? You can't kill anyone if you are asleep and hanging from a conveyor.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Still possible.

        What about implanted bombs or other explosives hidden INSIDE someone (think an explosive-filled dildo)? They can be armed well before the flight and go off during the flight with no further intervention.

      2. d2

        Re: The simple solution


        ' Air Square is the Future

        Air Square is the ultimate pre-flight safety

        instructional video,

        but not quite politically correct.'

        Air Square

        08 Min 07 Sec


        Electric shock for air passengers?

        By Michael Hampton

        July 4, 2008

        You check in at the airline ticket counter.

        But instead of a boarding pass,

        you get shackled with an electronic bracelet which

        tracks your every move, contains all your personal

        information, and can shock you senseless. ..

        According to a video promoting the so-called EMD

        Safety Bracelet, all airline passengers would be

        required to wear it “until they disembark the flight

        at their destination.”

        ...But, you asked for security and gave up your freedom

        for it, and now you’re going to get it.

  26. gollux
    Paris Hilton

    Empty bottles are highly dangerous...

    If you're of the female persuasion, have a young child and are carrying a breast pump, be sure that the bottles you bring with you are filled with milk. You may be required to fill them at the airport in order to bring them along as empty baby bottles may be used to constitute a weapon.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Empty bottles are highly dangerous...

      Surely you aren't allowed to take a young child on a plane?

      Remember those safety-ads for car seats? The ones saying an un-restrained child had the energy of 100 charging bull elephants or some such rubbish. A small child could be hurled down the aisle of a plane as a weapon.

      Of course a balastic small child could also be thrown to incapacitate a hijacker, which is why sky marshals are now present on many flights armed with a baby. When you next see a women with a crew cut, a mustache and badge breast feeding a child at an airport you will now why.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020