Thursday, May 12, 2011

Shocking news: Maker of the scanner calls them safe

Of course, he has no other motive.

I should say that I'm very pro-business, and I think Mr. Chopra is just taking advantage of an opportunity. It is possible that private enterprises would demand these scanners in an alternate world. In that case, however, he would have a smaller profit margin and full liability for any ill effects. What we have in the case of the TSA is moral hazard: all profit and no loss for Mr. Chopra.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Poll on TSA thuggery

Sodahead asks the following:

Should It Be a Felony for a TSA Agent to Give an Invasive Pat-down?

Click through to vote and register your comment.

Monday, May 9, 2011

TSA at the ballpark? I hope not!

Recently my wife and I attended a MLB game at Camden Yards in Baltimore, and experienced the light security measures in effect there. Not much, really; they inspected my backpack at the gate, probably looking for glass bottles, beer cans, etc. A bried inspection, almost apologetic, and a thank you followed. Later, we were walking around the perimeter of the park, and blundered into a chained off section that was reserved for a private (outdoor) party. The agent asked to see my ticket, and I explained we were just trying to make our way around to our seats behind home plate, and he courteously pointed out the route to bypass the party area.

The point is to contrast the way our government's TSA treats passengers at an airport to the way private security operates, as a general rule. When (not if, apparently) TSA starts random screening (including use of backscatter scanners) at ballgames, the first thing that will be lost is civility. Anyone who has experienced being barked at and ordered around by TSA at an airport will agree with me, I'm sure.

For the sake of our enjoyment of our national pastime, I hope that the league and the team owners will staunchly resist allowing TSA to inflict any kind of "security" on the public at the nation's stadia, minus a very specific threat that they are obliged to follow up on. Given the sports world's almost jingoistic pandering to the military, however, I have slim hopes. However, we noted that at Camden Yards, at least, management has finally dropped the playing of "God Bless America" in addition to the national anthem, so maybe the tide is changing to a more relaxed atmosphere. We'll see.

Brookings on the privacy-security compromise

This write-up is really about technology, but it goes on at length about TSA scanners. Here's the relevant excerpt:

The paradigmatic case of the kind of political mobilization on behalf of constitutional values that I have in mind is presented by my second case: the choice between the naked machine and the blob machine in airport security screening. In 2002, officials at Orlando International airport first began testing the millimeter wave body scanners that are currently at the center of a national uproar. The designers of the scanners at Pacific Northwest Laboratories offered U.S. officials a choice: naked machines or blob machines? The same researchers had developed both technologies, and both were equally effective at identifying contraband. But, as their nicknames suggest, the former displays graphic images of the human body, while the latter scrambles the images into a non-humiliating blob.[10]
Since both versions of the scanners promise the same degree of security, any sane attempt to balance privacy and safety would seem to favor the blob machines over the naked machines. And that’s what European governments chose. Most European airport authorities have declined to adopt body scanners at all, because of persuasive evidence that they’re not effective at detecting low-density contraband such as the chemical powder PETN that the trouser bomber concealed in his underwear on Christmas day, 2009. But the handful of European airports that have adopted body scanners, such as Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, have opted for a version of the blob machine. This is in part due to the efforts of European privacy commissioners, such as Germany’s Peter Schaar, who have emphasized the importance of designing body scanners in ways that protect privacy.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security made a very different choice. It deployed the naked body scanners without any opportunity for public comment—then appeared surprised by the backlash. Remarkably, however, the backlash was effective. After a nationwide protest inspired by the Patrick Henry of the anti-Naked Machines movement, a traveler who memorably exclaimed “Don’t Touch my Junk,” President Obama called on the TSA to go back to the drawing board. And a few months after authorizing the intrusive pat downs, in February 2011, the TSA announced that it would begin testing, on a pilot basis, versions of the very same blob machines that the agency had rejected nearly a decade earlier. According to the latest version, to be tested in Las Vegas and Washington, D.C, the TSA will install software filters on its body scanner machines that detects potential threat items and indicates their location on a generic, blob like outline of each passenger that will appear on a monitor attached to the machine. Passengers without suspicious items will be cleared as “OK,” those with suspicious items will be taken aside for additional screening. The remote rooms in which TSA agents view images of the naked body will be eliminated. According to news reports, TSA began testing the filtering software in the fall of 2010 – precisely when the protests against the naked machines went viral. If the filtering software is implemented across the country, converting naked machines into blob machines, the political victory for privacy will be striking.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Gawking at the stars

One blogger doesn't like seeing Rhianna comply with TSA procedures. He also points out:
Rhianna was randomly picked for a naked body scan at LAX. Randomly, like we are to believe some perv in a TSA uniform didn’t see her coming.