Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

Browsing Posts tagged full body scanner

In response to evolving terrorist threats, including non-metallic explosive devices and weapons, the U.S. TSA has adopted full-body scanners as the primary passenger screening method at nearly 160 airports nationwide at a cost exceeding $1 billion. Although full-body scanners play a critical role in transportation security, they have generated considerable controversy, including claims that the devices are unsafe, violate privacy and civil liberties, and are ineffective. Furthermore, these scanners are complex embedded systems that raise important computer security questions.

Despite such concerns, neither the manufacturers nor the government have disclosed enough technical details to allow for rigorous independent evaluation, on the grounds that such information could benefit attackers, or is a trade secret. To help advance the public debate, we purchased a government-surplus Rapiscan Secure 1000 full-body scanner and performed a detailed security evaluation of its hardware and software.



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After years of backlash, the TSA removed the controversial screening machines that had the capability of revealing too much in their images. They weren’t scrapped entirely. They are now being transferred to state and local prisons across the country.

So far, 154 of the machines have been transferred to prisons in states including Iowa, Virginia and Louisiana. It’s a good fit because privacy concerns raised by airport passengers do not apply in many cases to prisoners, according to TSA.

Arkansas received five of the scanners in early May for use by local sheriffs as well, according to TSA. The remaining 96 scanners are still being stored in the warehouses of scanner manufacturer Rapiscan.

“TSA and the vendor are working with other government agencies interested in receiving the units for their security mission needs and for use in a different environment,” TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein said.

TSA owned about 250 of the screening machines at its peak — valued at about $40 million — before removing them from airports in the first half of 2013 in response to pressure over the virtually nude images it created of passengers.

The machines were banned in Europe. The TSA trivialized health and safety concerns until Congress got involved, but, somehow, after sitting in a warehouse for a while, they are magically okay to use on prisoners.

The very real health concerns were never addressed and will become a problem if these machines are widely used on a regular basis.

The systemic repercussions of widespread application of X-Ray backscatter systems in the various private penal colonies of the united states, while financially sound at its salesmans word, certainly isnt a long term bet to hedge. Incidences of debilitating cancers will need medical treatment for both guards and prisoners alike as has been shown in the incidences of cancer for certain groups of TSA screeners. Liability for introducing a prisoner or employee to a cancer suspect agent will likely follow the course of most other folly of american scientific perversion in the hands of government.

It will likely be assigned to the government, who in turn will insist it was the technology, and in turn the manufacturer will absolve itself through a complex series of medical puppet shows, out of court settlements, and evasive restructuring practices so as to ensure no real harm comes to the corporation. Once your sentence is complete, and you emerge from prison, the biblical retribution set upon you is now the denial of employment, housing, food stamps, medicare, and finally a malignant cancer risk substantially greater than the rest of society as your corrections system applied background scanners quietly and incessantly for the duration of your incarceration.

America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. The consequences could be staggering.

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Last month, the TSA began the task of removing the dangerous backscatter machines from airports. They never worked 100% and numerous health issues surrounded them. Now, however, instead of leaving them to sit and rot in a warehouse, never to be used again, the TSA is actively shopping the machines. They could end up in federal buildings across the nation where tourists and employees would be subjected to them.

“We are working with other government agencies to find homes for them,” Transportation Security Administration spokesman David Castelveter said. “There is an interest clearly by DoD and the State Department to use them — and other agencies as well.”

Members of Congress and privacy advocates raised objections to the almost-nude images of travelers produced by the backscatter machines. Congress passed legislation in February 2012 that required TSA to upgrade the machines’ software to display less-detailed images of passengers or to stop using the machines.

The backscatter machines also have sparked fears about radiation exposure since they were first installed.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, however, has stated that, if the backscatter machines cannot meet the requirements set forth by the government, then they should not be used at all. The machines were removed largely because Rapiscan, the computer that created the machines, could not alter its code so that nude pictures of individuals did not appear on their screens.

“The American public must be assured that these machines will not be used in any other public federal facility,” Thompson said.

A further question yet to be answered would be if individuals would be allowed to opt out of the machines in federal buildings and, if not, what if they have required business there? What would happen then?

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Just who are the TSA protecting and how far do their intimidation tactics go? That is what two journalists attempt to find out.

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Many are cheering the fact that the TSA has begun moving backscatter scanners from major airports around the country, but it isn’t all good news. These scanners are being moved to smaller airports and aren’t being mothballed as most had hoped. The larger airports are also getting the millimeter wave scanners, leading some to believe that the TSA is preparing to admit that the backscatter scanners are, indeed, dangerous. Millimeter wave scanners have a significantly lower radiation risk and do not have naked picture representations of passengers.

The backscatters, as the X-ray scanners are known, were swapped out at Boston Logan International Airport in early October. Similar replacements have occurred at Los Angeles International Airport, Chicago O’Hare, Orlando and John F. Kennedy in New York, the TSA confirmed Thursday.

The X-ray scanners have faced a barrage of criticism since the TSA began rolling them out nationwide after the failed underwear bombing on Christmas Day 2009. One reason is that they emit a small dose of ionizing radiation, which at higher levels has been linked to cancer.

In addition, privacy advocates decried that the machines produce images, albeit heavily blurred, of passengers’ naked bodies. Each image must be reviewed by a TSA officer, slowing security lines.

To read the rest of my article, please visit The Daily Censored.

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