Will New Technology Fix The TSA Scandal?

What if you could walk through that airport body scanner, pause for the camera, and know that your naked image would never be pored over by human eyes? If it was software, not TSA screeners, who searched you and other passengers for possible explosives?

That’s the vision of Transportation Security Administration head John Pistole. At a Senate hearing yesterday, Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson conjured this future and suggested to Pisole, “It looks like technology can be a solution to the privacy issue.” Pistole responded, “I think so, I’m very hopeful in that regard.”

The lead two paragraphs from an Atlantic Monthly story written by Alexis Madrigal. Mr. Madrigal them goes on to explain why this is probably never going to happen.

From the article

While vendors like L-3 and Rapiscan are actively trying to come up with a magic technological solution for the TSA, independent experts on body scanning technology and automated threat detection aren’t nearly as optimistic as the TSA head. Setting aside the question of how much real safety would be afforded by body scanners that use algorithms to detect artfully hidden explosives under someone’s clothes (I’ll leave it to our big guns to debate that point), there are fundamental problems that may make it very difficult to deploy them.

This is an excellent description of how the technology used in scanning works. I heartily recommend it.

There is no magic bullet.

Currently our actions are terrorist driven. Have one terrorist hide an explosive near his genitals and suddenly millions of Americans are having the genitals groped by the unfriendly hand of the government.

Tell me, what are we going to do if a terrorist hides the explosive more internally? Do you really want to meet your friendly TSA employee while he’s putting on the rubber gloves?

Let’s stop the nonsense now.

James Pilant