Full Body Scanning Comes to Denver Airport

Denver is one of five aiports in the country that has begun "full body scanning" of passengers.

The Transportation Security Administration today will start screening travelers at Denver International Airport using a machine that bounces radio waves off skin to produce a graphic, whole-body image. The scan aims to reveal weapons, explosives or other items hidden on a passenger's body. But because the image is anatomically explicit, millimeter-wave screening is controversial.

DIA and five other U.S. airports are using the new technology in pilot programs to assess its capabilities, said David Bassett, TSA's federal security director in Denver.

Passengers who object can request a pat down search. The other cities:

Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Los Angeles International, JFK International in New York, Baltimore-Washington International and Albuquerque International.

This is a very invasive machine. [More...]

Whole-body imaging "is an extremely high invasion of privacy," although TSA's effort to ensure that images are never made public is "commendable," said John Soma, a University of Denver law professor and executive director of the Privacy Foundation.

As for protections:

To deal with privacy concerns, TSA is offering protections on whole-body scanning, including blurring the faces on images of passengers being screened, examining the images in a remote room and offering no possibility for images to be stored, printed, transmitted or reproduced, Bassett said.

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  • Display: Sort:
    I'm going to opt for the pat down (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by DandyTIger on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:20:49 PM EST
    I really don't like this idea. And I have to fly into DIA all the time too. I'm amazed at what liberties we are forced to give up to fly commercial carriers. I'm going to take a close look at other flying options too as I've been hearing the lease a seat on a business or private plane is not much more than first class these days, and with those you can sometimes bypass TSA.

    Free Massage Or Radiation Therapy? (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by squeaky on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:24:25 PM EST
    I'll take the massage.

    There you go (none / 0) (#31)
    by Wile ECoyote on Sat May 24, 2008 at 03:04:01 PM EST
    burn that carbon on a private jet.  Use Al's!

    I've been saying for some time... (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by dianem on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:24:57 PM EST
    ...that eventually we would simply have to strip down and go through airport security naked. I guess we're there. I'm going to avoid going through any airports that have this technology for as long as possible.

    What exactly is this gaining us? We have an airport system where the flying public is searched invasively but airport workers barely have to show ID to get to their jobs. This entire system is designed to provide us with a public perception of safety without actually making things safer. I still can't take a water bottle onto a plane, even though nobody has explained how anybody could make a bomb out of normal liquids on a plane. I've had sewing scissors taken from me when flying - even though the TSA web site said they were legal, and there is no way I could have hijacked a plane with 3" scissors, and even if I somehow did, the cockpit doors would have been sealed safely and the passengers would have beaten me to a pulp.

    There might be a market in items (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by blogtopus on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:30:10 PM EST
    That you put around your midsection before walking through (in the bathroom, maybe), very thin and harmless plastic, that spells out various obscene phrases or perhaps even the 4th amendment.

    It would antagonize the hell out of the screeners of course. Time for a 'private' patdown in the back room!


    How about a market for (none / 0) (#19)
    by cpa1 on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:54:21 PM EST
    slip on appendages so that in case your picture does get around the net, at least you'll enhance your image.  

    I'd bet if Hillary said that she'd be accused encouraging racial stereotypes.


    The train is going to get real popular (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by JavaCityPal on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:43:11 PM EST
    again for domestic travel.

    I have been dreaming (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by reynwrap582 on Sat May 24, 2008 at 01:19:06 PM EST
    of a high-speed rail system similar to the ones operating in Europe and Asia...  They really have it down over there.  Instead we have one eastern corridor route with the Acela Express which is only marginally faster than the same route on an old diesel electric Amtrak.

    Um, (none / 0) (#32)
    by Wile ECoyote on Sat May 24, 2008 at 03:05:22 PM EST
    pilots and flight attendants have to go through the same security as the passengers.  

    But airport workers don't (none / 0) (#37)
    by dianem on Sun May 25, 2008 at 11:34:27 PM EST
    Read "Ask the Pilot" on Salon. One of his pet peeves is that pilots, who could easily hijack a plane with no weapons whatsoever, have to go through security while many airport workers don't.

    This is pretty sick (5.00 / 5) (#7)
    by blogtopus on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:27:28 PM EST
    I have a friend who works in security video software (face recognition, etc) who says that if there is a mirror in a public place, even in a dressing room, expect a camera of some kind behind it. There was trouble a little while ago when video footage of two underage teens fooling around in a lingerie store's dressing room leaked onto the internet by some wanker who was responsible for 'scanning' the video. Being a lingerie store and a dressing room, a good deal of nudity was involved. My friend gets all her clothing over the internet now, she refuses to change in dressing rooms anymore.

    Of course, you might also want to just hang your jacket in front of the mirror until you are finished changing; if they complain you might have reasonable objections with invasions of privacy.

    Here's another article on the airport screening subject.

    Choice graf:

    Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's program on technology and liberty, doesn't buy it. "I continue to believe that these are virtual strip searches," Steinhardt said. "If Playboy published them, there would be politicians out there saying they're pornographic."

    Very true, by the same politicians who bray about keeping America safe by making these invasive searches.

    Snopes says that's an urban legend (none / 0) (#15)
    by JavaCityPal on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:41:52 PM EST
    Has there been any study done to determine the health factor?

    Can the machine conduct the analysis without the need for a human reviewer?


    Thanks (none / 0) (#24)
    by blogtopus on Sat May 24, 2008 at 01:19:33 PM EST
    I'll have to find and send her that; but the fact remains that she sees enough footage in her work to convince her to stay out of dressing rooms. :-(

    No storage? (5.00 / 6) (#9)
    by CSTAR on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:29:46 PM EST
    examining the images in a remote room and offering no possibility for images to be stored, printed, transmitted or reproduced

    I don't believe it.

    Exactly. (5.00 / 4) (#11)
    by blogtopus on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:31:08 PM EST
    Same thing I thought. Just like the Diebold machines: TRUST US.

    Several issues (none / 0) (#18)
    by CSTAR on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:49:51 PM EST
    Assuming the computers are isolated networkwise (very unlikely) there is the risk of permanent storage (ie hard disks) falling into devious custody.  An individual or organization with enough financial resources that's looking for a full body scan of someone can recover it,  even if it's been "deleted" from the hard disk. I'd be surprised if the manufacturers of these devices are going to scrub the disk by fully overwriting it several times with random data.

    Yes and what if somone needs to go back (none / 0) (#20)
    by cpa1 on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:57:42 PM EST
    and look at some scans for fear that some got through who shouldn't.  I'd bet they'd want to see faces then.

    No hard disk necessary (none / 0) (#36)
    by Knocienz on Sun May 25, 2008 at 01:01:04 AM EST
    Use volatile memory for image processing only (and Read Only Memory for system boot.) System power down and the memory is all cleared.

    There are plenty of close-circuit cameras out there that are the equivalent.

    That said, I wouldn't trust the system unless I examined it first and wouldn't let anyone use it on me regardless.


    Ditto to Exactly (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by jawbone on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:43:56 PM EST
    I remember when commuters were assured their use of Easy Pass would never, ever, be permitted to be used for anything other than billing purposes.

    Trust us, they said. We're sincere.

    Have any courts at all disallowed such info? Quashed warrants?


    Easypass is used in divorce cases (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by cpa1 on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:59:57 PM EST
    to track where spouses traveled to and at what time.  I imagine they can be used in murder and almost any kind of case.

    I don't either (none / 0) (#26)
    by Nadai on Sat May 24, 2008 at 02:13:04 PM EST
    Suppose someone comes through with a gun under his shirt - wouldn't they want the scan of that as evidence when the guy was arrested?  They have to have some way of saving the images.

    Why? They would have the gun (none / 0) (#33)
    by JavaCityPal on Sat May 24, 2008 at 05:03:26 PM EST
    Why would arresting someone with a concealed weapon require a different set of rules for the airport than for the streets?

    Wouldn't they need (none / 0) (#35)
    by Nadai on Sat May 24, 2008 at 10:51:24 PM EST
    the scan to show why they singled someone out for a search by hand?

    Could we please (5.00 / 5) (#13)
    by jazz on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:35:16 PM EST
    Have the president, vice president and their spouses as well as all the top presidential candidates and their spouses go through these devices at one of these five airports and then tell us how they feel about having these systems deployed?

    Yikes... I WILL NOT look at a nude Dick Cheney (none / 0) (#29)
    by ksh on Sat May 24, 2008 at 02:52:19 PM EST
    the pain!!!

    So if they view (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by Makarov on Sat May 24, 2008 at 06:48:44 PM EST
    the scan results in another room entirely, what prevents the security officer from taking stills with a cell phone camera or other imaging device? As the saying goes, who watches the watchers?

    It will be somewhat hilarious when the TSA gets to respond to the issue of leaked images of -insert pop star- on the net.

    Law (none / 0) (#1)
    by Athena on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:18:10 PM EST
    A Fourth Amendment search?  But the diminishing reasonable expectation of privacy expands government power little by little.

    They could filter out the normal bits (none / 0) (#2)
    by nellre on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:18:44 PM EST
    So the image showed only bits not part of the human anatomy.
    Then only the computer would "see" private stuff.

    Reformat (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Athena on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:21:33 PM EST
    It should be possible to design an algorithm that would reformat the information in a manner that would eliminate the anatomical review, as you suggest.

    this has already been done (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by DandyTIger on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:27:50 PM EST
    Image recognition technology has advanced very far and yes, various regions of a body and naughty bits can be recognized and filtered (blurred or whatever) very easily.

    The problem of course is that materials being looked for can come in any shape and size and since the point of this is to look for such things, then I'm afraid a human would need to look.

    But I have to say I disagree with the premise of the search. I think reasonable search and seizure laws should still hold. And yes, that means we're a bit less safe. I'd much rather trade some level of safety for keeping my liberties any day. And besides, I don't believe for a second that even this level of technology will stop someone who really wants to do bad things. It's really a lost cause from the beginning.


    If this continues (none / 0) (#12)
    by blogtopus on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:34:48 PM EST
    We will literally be given cat scans on the way through. This search is external only; what's from stopping a guy from bringing in contraband the old fashioned way? It's done in prison all the time, and explains the 'full body cavity' searches done that everybody jokes about.

    So basically, people who are more likely to have histories of violence are the ones who are more likely to figure out how to sneak something on board, at any cost, right?


    in fact, free cat scans! (none / 0) (#30)
    by ksh on Sat May 24, 2008 at 02:53:44 PM EST
    If your doctor says you need one, you just go down the airport and request a copy.  That would keep health costs down.

    Have body cavity searches been proposed? (none / 0) (#14)
    by jawbone on Sat May 24, 2008 at 12:41:12 PM EST

    Are there alternative to the Denver airport?

    Glad I never took Karate... (none / 0) (#25)
    by reynwrap582 on Sat May 24, 2008 at 01:23:45 PM EST
    Next thing they'll put everyone on the no-fly list who took a martial arts class as a kid.  I know a guy who studies a fighting style (I can't remember the name) thats specialized in fighting in tight quarters (like ship corridors and whatnot).  He could fight off every passenger in a commercial airliner and bust down the cockpit door.  It's a good thing he's extremely apathetic.

    if you don't like it... (none / 0) (#27)
    by diogenes on Sat May 24, 2008 at 02:26:36 PM EST
    If you think that this is a privacy violation, you can always be frisked.  No one will be forced to do this.  How is it a privacy violation if it is not mandatory?

    fly naked! (none / 0) (#28)
    by cpinva on Sat May 24, 2008 at 02:29:56 PM EST
    solve that whole "hiding things" issue once and for all.

    everyone disrobes as soon as they enter the a/p, the only clothes allowed are those required for safety reasons. all flight staff is naked.

    if you think about it, who's going to hijack a plane naked?