A government scientist who helped develop the controversial new naked-body airport scanners says the images could easily be distorted into "grotesque" shapes, much like you would see in a funhouse mirror, to preserve passengers' privacy.
Willard "Bill" Wattenburg, of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told the Washington Post the distortion would also clearly reveal any dangerous objects hidden beneath clothing. He said he suggested the distortion method back in 2006, but Department of Homeland Security officials rebuffed his idea.
"Why not just distort the image into something grotesque so that there isn't anything titillating or exciting about it?" Wattenburg said.
It involves adding a simple algorithm to the scanners' computer code, he said. He said it's so simple "a 6-year-old could do the same thing with Photoshop."
The federal government started installing the scanners last month using funds from the stimulus bill. The backscatter scanners emit x-rays that pass through clothing and bounce off passengers' skin, producing revealing close-ups of passengers' bodies, private parts and all. The process also exposes people to ionizing radiation for about six seconds.
Consumer groups, pilots and privacy advocates have been up in arms, and at least a couple lawsuits have been filed, including one involving consumer crusader Ralph Nader. Passengers don't have to use them, but objectors must undergo an "enhanced" pat-down by TSA agents that involves the touching of genital areas.
In a pre-Thanksgiving travel message, Transportation Security Administration head John Pistole explained it thusly: "You will receive a thorough pat-down by someone of the same gender. If you alarm either the metal detector or the [body scanner], you will also receive a thorough pat-down by someone of the same gender."
Some passengers are planning a national protest day on Wednesday, the busiest travel day of the year.
In the face of all this criticism, President Obama said over the weekend that he asked TSA officials if there was a less intrusive way to ensure passenger safety. Pistole said the agency would make screening methods "as minimally invasive as possible," according to the Washington Post.
Federal officials say the scanners are necessary in light of terrorist attempts like the Christmas underwear bomber. But privacy advocates say the scanners are too invasive.
Wattenburg told the Post that when he first heard the TSA was buying backscatter scanners, he knew people would get upset.
"People are immediately going to scream like hell because they're taking the clothes off everybody," he said.
NO! What part of "the govt has no rights to bombard me with ionizing x-ray radiation" do you guys not understand?
On top of it, there will always be a "raw" mode where they can go back to the unaltered image (of course for the sake of the children) or that same simple code can be reversed ... with Photoshop by a 6 year old!
1, the radiation isn't enough to hurt you. Wear sunblock on your genitals and you'll be fine. = P
2. The rumor that images could be saved from the machines just isn't true. They're very limited machines. It's like saying that someone's going to fire up Photoshop on a voting machine.
Incidentally, do TSA *really* not understand that putting "enhanced" in front of *anything* now means waterboarding?
If the X-ray bounces of the skin, is it hurtful?
Let's put it this way. At sea level on an average day you absorb about 26 millirems of radiation. The scanner exposes you to 5 microrems. That means you get 5000 times more radiation just being outside on any given day than when you get scanned. And exposure gets worse the higher you go, so actually sitting at a window seat on the plane is far more "dangerous" than the scanner.
If anyone missed the SNL commercial from this past Saturday (11/20/2010), you soooo need to watch it. hehe
Jesus,doesn't anybody realize that the feds have blown billions on security that doesn't work? Sure,it would stop a pre-911 terrorist carrying weapons on his or her person,but is completely obsolete today. Dissecting the finer technical points of this or that scanner is academic. The next attack will be committed by a bomber with a bomb carried internally,to put it delicately.Scanners and pat-downs would be useless to stop it.The whole thing is Security Theatre.
Will the next level of airport security involve cavity searches? That would be the kiss of death for commercial aviation.
The only real solution will be to do what the Israelis do-psychological profiling and intelligence gathering on potential terrorists,which starts before passengers even arrive at the airport.
MORE SPAM UP THERE ^
The naysayers really need to just think about it. The people looking at the scans are just doing their jobs, and this is a whole lot safer and less invasive or stimulating than a strip-search or pat-down could be. I'd prefer this over any other methods, especially with the peace of mind I get knowing everyone else had to be checked the same way.
As The Adama put it, the amount of radiation received is far less than the amount you will receive on the plane ride itself, so that's a non-issue.
If people are worried about perverted airline security seeing the colorless shape of their body, then just handle it the same way they handle pat-downs: Divide the lines into male and female, and heterosexual security members will only view the scans of passengers of the same gender. Should be problem solved, right?
Come on, airport security already knows where you live, how much you fly, and a whole lot of other things about you, yet no one complains about invaded privacy for that! And quite frankly, this would reduce the hassle of a lot of folks with metal implants who always have to have pat-downs because they set off the metal detectors. Another problem solved!
And if you ask me, distorting the image enough that it removes any erotic potential would almost certainly backfire. It would either shrink a problem item, causing it to get through unnoticed (which defeats the ENTIRE purpose of the scan) or enlarge certain body parts making them more obvious and stimulating for the viewer (exacerbating the problem the distortion is intended to fix). Just separate the genders being scanned to security guards of the same gender and leave it at that.
Lastly, distorting a sexy body just means it's a distorted sexy body. Distorted private parts still look like private parts, so what difference does it make?
Maybe a better solution to distorting the image is for the iamge viewing to be done in another part of the airport or in a centralised facility away from the airport, that way the "operative" cannot connect the image to an individual and just presses an alert whenever the image looks suspicious.
@Gort60 is absolutely right that this type of scanner only works with a certain type of threat, but while that threat is out there I personally am fine with being scanned if it helps make my flight even a little bit safer.
Have those idiots thought of the fact that if a "terrorist" knows what he or she is doing can swallow two different pills that contain liquid explosives and have a specified melt down period (the plastic cover) that when mixed can produce an explosion equal to many kilos of TNT, and that these kind of explosives exist and can be mixed from household items!?!?!? these pills would not even show up in that or any other kind of detection, what would it detect? Chlorine?
What chemicals, when mixed in quantities that can fit in a pill, can produce an explosion equal to many kilos of TNT?
Does your mouth taste like horseshit?
It's far easier to do than idiot commenter's assume who have no programming skills or only basic computer skills like ranting in these comments rooms.
They can very easily write code to 'chop of the head' of each person scanned, which nothing is going to be hidden inside a head. Then it's just a headless body and that isn't going to scare anybody but removes any erotic possibility. They can even insert another animals head in it's place to make it look comic without having to distort other body parts.
In fact, they can just chop off the arms too. Then it's a headless,armless torso which isn't going to stimulate anyone.
There are lots of possibilites to distort the images without interfering with the ability of trained personnel to spot obvious hidden weapons around a person's midsection.
They can also shrink the legs to a thin skinny skeleton to make it look even more ridiculous.
It's sickening the hype over the scanners because they produce over a million times lower radiation than an xray and even frequent travellers will still get hundreds of thousands of times less exposure than a typical chest xray.
You get more exposure to xrays just walking on the beach for a couple of hours. Jeeze what a bunch of idiots in America.
I love the moronic comments that say you get more radiation from standing outside then in the machine. So is "radiation" some magical constant that would affect you the same in any form? How about we shove plutonium up your rear for a few days as its probably the same as sitting outside for a year and see if you just happen to get cancer.
This radiation in backscatter is concentrated on our thin layer of skin. So would you be ok if we took a 1 watt laser up your rear because it's the same "radiation" as the being in the sun for 0.1 seconds?
@ cruzinmy64, the problem with your idea is that we are being constantly bombarded by radiation,the sun, in all the glory that is nuclear fusion, spits out copious amounts of radiation, thankfully, at the distance from the sun we are, we experience little of it, humans are built to withstand and repair a small amount of radiation damage, however if to much damage is dealt death ensues, you sir are an idiot.
~duct tape is like the force, it has a light side, a dark side, and it binds the universe together.
To dumb freak Gort60,
I am sick of you profile lover idiots who are keep giving israeli examples. First, israel is much smaller country (about the size of washington dc) with lot less flights. Second profiling could not stop underwear bomber, his father reported to authorities. And third, all the intelligence agencies know that terrorists are trying hard to recruit whites (westerns) or blacks, that means your profiling will easily fail.
Europe has RF scanners and the body is just a stick figure. RF scans have no adverse reaction on the body at all and stuff in your pockets floats in space around the stick figure.
Oh and the underwear bomber was coming into the US not leaving. If I remember correctly he was caught cause he burned his privates in a failed attempt at martyrdom. Then he got caught. In flagrante delicto indeed.
@guineapigworshipper, again you prove my point as an idiot who does not understand. So yes, we are always bombarded by "radiation", but one type of "radiation" is not the same as another.
Lets take visible LIGHT radiation. We get 120 watts/meter here on earth. So would you want me to stick a 1 watt laser up your rear "for the children" and "security theater" since after all a 1 watt laser is less than 1 percent of the "radiation" from the sun on your body. Why don't you try it and let me know how it goes.
I am not allowing the govt to bombard me with MORE radiation without testing long term effects of that specific wavelength. If you want to be a sheep, go ahead and accept their BS and let them experiment on you.
In addition, who the hell is the TSA to have all this power?? An airplane is no different than any other method of transportation like a CAR or city BUS so what the #%$#%$ do they have the power to control me when I want to take a short 1 hour flight in my own country or even within the same state??? I'll tell you why - Sheeple like you guys allow it.
Are you people THAT HIDEOUS To not want your body to even be seen DISTORTED?...
Ok, the term "sheeple" just negates any intelligence you might've been able to share.
How is an airplane different than a bus or car? The magnitude of damage it can cause in the wrong hands.
Run away car - maybe a few deaths possible
Run away bus - maybe a couple dozen deaths possible
Run away plane- hundreds possible
Plus there’s mobility aspect. A car, bus or train is limited to roads and tracks whereas a plane is not and has a range much farther and can cover it much faster than a land vehicle. Furthermore, a plane can't easily be taken back (a train either, but at least it’s on the ground.) The only way we have a counter a plane is to chase it with fighter jets and hope for the best.
But to side with you one note, from what I've read solar x-rays don't even make it through the atmosphere. Nevertheless, I find it hard to believe this is dangerous except for maybe the very young or very old and very frequent fliers (including flight staff/pilots.)
iCdumbPeople: My point was that the Fed's billion dollar toys are useless against a bomber carrying explosives internally,so we better start thinking about something that works.The bad guys aren't all stupid,and will not show up at the airport with guns/knives/plastic explosives in their inner coat pockets.Profiling is not perfect,I agree, and intelligence gathering must be added to the mix.The record shows that systemic intelligence failures were to blame for this guy being allowed to board the plane.If you have any better ideas,stop bitching and lets hear them.
the difference between a car and an airplane? an airplane is a 100 ton metal tube full of explosive fuel traveling at 500 mph that can strike anywhere in the contenental united states
Straight people constantly say that queer & trans people should never "flaunt" who we are, but now you wanna use machines so that you identify trans people and intersex people...but the machines can't ID terrorists?
I love the example about how only heterosexual people of the same gender (and same biological sex, one presumes) should be employed by the TSA. What about if we only employ gay & lesbian people, with the lesbians watching men's scans & gay men watching women's scans? Like that solution?
And for the intersex or trans people who don't want to flaunt it, who really actually value their privacy a lot more than you could possibly value not seeing them naked? Which line do they go in? If you create a special, 3rd line, then they have to flaunt it even more publically...
And the men who've had testicular cancer & don't want people to know they're living without their junk?
Don't tell me about fuzz, because it's not fuzzed enough to not be able to tell the difference between a vulva & a phallus....
There's all kinds of reasons why people wouldn't want to be felt up and/or imaged naked. They include all of the above + religion + certain disabilities + ....
All the people who think they have the "perfect" solution need to get a life. If things were that easy, it would have been done & there'd be no complaining. But people have real reasons for wanting privacy. They also have real reasons for wanting to minimize radiation exposure, especially ionizing radiation (which the sun produces in some quantity, but the solar radiation that reaches earth's surface contains very little of, so no, it's not the same). The people that minimize flying to prevent cancer recurrence don't need to add 2-4 scans every round trip. *Every* scan is extra risk, and though most cancer survivors won't have a recurrence because of these devices, the number of people scanned guarantee that *some people* will die *only because of these scanners*. The exact number - or even a careful estimate - is not yet available, but it's clearly non-zero.
If you were the one who was going to die, would you think that "security" is worth it?
I lean against these machines *and* the gropes because carrying explosives internally, especially if you get 4 people to do it on a single flight as they did on 9/11, makes them useless. And the terrorists know that.
There is no such thing as a foolproof security measure if the bad guys know exactly how it works. With the workings of these scanners so public, it's impossible that the terrorists don't know how to beat them.
That's enough for me to believe that they aren't worth the massively complex problems that result. I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, but for darn sure all the people on here with their simple answers are neither convincing me otherwise *nor* contributing to finding whatever the real security solution to this problem would be.
I like the idea. )I also don't know any 6-year-old who can handle Photoshop, so please leave implementation to genuine coders, and stop speaking in exaggerations.)