Saturday, January 2, 2016

Blask: Are these TSA claims true?

An airport director has made some surprising claims about naked scanners:

"'It allows TSA to process our passengers faster,' said Airport Director Kip Turner. 'It’s the same kind of equipment you see at most airports now.'

"The body scanner also reduces the number of pat-downs, he said."

On speed, walking through a metal detector is faster than standing still in a scanner for several seconds Additionally, the metal detector only requires that you remove metal objects - not all objects - from your pocket. Are there any studies that compare processing at metal detector-only checkpoints and naked scanner checkpoints?

I wonder if Mr Turner is referring to using the naked scanner in addition to the metal detectors. If 1 passenger  can be scanned while 3 walk through the metal detector, then that would increase processing by 33%. However, adding a second metal detector would increase processing by 100%, so it's not an apples-to-apples comparison to say the scanner is inherently faster. This is all assuming my guess above about scanner inefficiency is correct.

On pat-downs, I  am baffled. Prior to 2008, pat-downs were virtually non-existent. If you triggered the walk-through  metal detector, they used a handheld wand to isolate the problem. In my experience, one was frequently allowed to remove the offending metal and walk through the detector as many times as was necessary to pass. I assume that people with metal implants would get localized pat-downs, but the majority of passengers were sent on their way. Certainly, full-body pat-downs using a pre-custody search method were unheard of.

My understanding of naked scanner use - ignoring opt-out pat-downs, which are presumably still a small minority - is that many scans identify anomalies that require a full or partial pat-down. These anomalies are not resolved by the equivalent of a hand-held wand, and visual inspection followed by re-scanning is against policy.

Now that scanners and pat-downs are policy, are the TSA  patting down more passengers who trigger the metal detector? In other words, is Mr Turner's comment,  again, less to do with the efficiency of the two technologies and more a reflection of new policies? Or is he just wrong that there will be fewer pat-downs?