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  (Source: Cynthia Boll/AP)

Pricey new "millimeter-wave" full body scanners may seem promising, but in reality they do little to detect liquids, plastics, or chemical explosives, say UK government officials.  (Source: IOS Graphics)
Turns out we might really not be any safer with new semi-nude scans

On Christmas Day Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, attempted an audacious terrorist attack on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.  Fortunately, the Nigerian native's scheme failed due to faulty explosives and he was taken into custody after being restrained by passengers.  However, in the wake of the attacks, U.S. President Barack Obama is considering rolling out current test-phase 3D scanners on a national basis.

Privacy advocates are outraged as the scanners show basically a nude image of the passenger -- with genitals and breasts blurred by software (though the raw image is fully nude).  However, there may be a far greater problem with the scanners. According to British government officials -- they don't work.

The British Department for Transport (DfT) and the Home Office tested the new 3D scanners thoroughly and found that while they were relatively accurate in catching high-density materials that pat-downs missed (such as knives, box-cutters, or other problem items), they failed to detect most low-density items, including bags of liquid.

The Christmas Day bomber used a 3 oz. package of the chemical powder PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate), disguised in his crotch.  Hard to detect in a pat down, British politicians familiar with the country's internal research say that "millimeter-wave" scanners would also likely fail to spot the bag of low-density chemical explosives.

According to Ben Wallace, the UK Conservative MP, tests showed that the new scanners failed to detect a variety of low-density materials, including, plastic, chemicals and liquids.  The waves pass through these materials, hitting the body and then bouncing back, revealing only the underlying skin.

Like the U.S., the UK is now considering adopting the scanners on a broad basis.  However, emerging evidence from government studies on the scanners indicates that the rollout may be nothing more than a pricey game of "security theater" designed to make people feel safe, while doing little in reality.  This is significant, considering the investment may amount to hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, an expense that will surely be passed on to taxpayers.

Mr. Wallace comments, "[UK Prime Minister] Gordon Brown is grasping at headlines if he thinks buying a couple of scanners will make us safer. It is too little, too late. Under his leadership, he starved the defence research budget that could have funded a comprehensive solution while at the same time he has weakened our border security.  Scanners cannot provide a comprehensive solution on their own. We must now start to ask if national security demands the use of profiling."

Mr. Wallace is among the politicians in the U.S., UK, and abroad that's suggesting some sort of profiling system as an alternative to more effectively increase security.  Such a system might involve additional searches of foreign nationals, particularly from volatile regions like the Middle East and Africa, while potentially lightening the searches on certain groups, like the elderly.

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Perfect Security Shall Never Exist....
By TheEinstein on 1/4/2010 2:01:09 PM , Rating: 2
I shall be writing a book here but I will break it into multiple posts on different issues. I assure you I am an expert in this topic.

Let us first cover basics in this, then specifics in each subgroup.

Security is made up different layers which all suffer from one common denominator: familiarity. This one word encompasses a lot of different nuances, including laziness, favoritism, and prejudices.

Perfect security requires the absolute inability of anything being harmed, or lost/stolen/misplaced. Security is about preventing an act occurring in the first place, not in going after those who did it after they did it typically.

When talking of security you need to know, nothing is secure. I commonly say give me a month, give me some assets I will need, and I can get into the first floor of the CIA headquarters without issue. This same issue is shown with the party crashers at the White House.

Now to break this down into devices, methods to bypass security, and airports in general.

By TheEinstein on 1/4/2010 2:15:46 PM , Rating: 2

Devices are an interesting topic when relating to an airport. We have dogs, we have metal detectors, we have 'sniffer/blower' devices, and we have body scanners of different sorts.

Each device has it's handicaps, and issues. For instance if you wish to throw dogs into a tizzy you can get a spray can filled with residues of common explosives, and spray baggage going in clandestinely, then leave the area. This also will make false positives on sniffer devices.

Dogs are also unique that they usually are effective for a moderate range of specific types of odors. They can however detect even the smallest traces of those odors, and commonly track it from a pretty decent distance if it is the primary odor they are attracted to.

Metal detectors detect just that, metals or anything which will interrupt a magnetic field in a strong manner. This means some of the new plastic magnets will set these off as well.

Sniffer/Blower devices rely upon a device to blow chemicals on your body, on your clothes, in your hair, etc. into a sniffing device which can detect a very large range of explosives, chemical agents, etc. However these devices currently, as recently explained in here, suffer a lot of breakdowns, and also give plenty of false positives. Additionally they are inept of handling issues where the person has a sealed container, not sealed by him, that is clean of materials carried inside it... but I digress and will post this in the next comment box.

A full body scan, of which there are three types last I heard available, utilize a variety of methods to examine a human looking for contraband. Now due to enemy action, lawyers seeking cash, people who are scared the world is going to laugh at their winky, and so forth, we have neutered this system to nearly making it inoperable.

The best arrangement of a full body scan would be to have a closed off, no outside influence possible of a room with a provision of NO ELECTRONICS on pain of 20 years in jail inside the room. The operator inside does not know who is in the scanner, and there is separate rooms for female and male with operators of the proper sex only in each room. The scan is done, the image is in the booth only, and in a temp ram buffer only, where the operator can green, yellow, or red light the person. Yellow is for pat down, and red for 'danger' as in 'has a gun, knife, or something equally dangerous'. Green means go enjoy your flight.

However the situation now has genitalia blurred out, and the chest. As evidenced by the underwear bomber this creates a significant hole in security. A computer may not notice the gonads of a person are way to big, where a human might decide that is not possible.

Devices sadly are easy to counter, as will be demonstrated next.

By TheEinstein on 1/4/2010 2:39:38 PM , Rating: 2
How to bypass security

You ever been in Wyoming in the winter? Brrrr, all I have to say is BRRRRRRRR. Windchill can bring it down so low as to be unbelieved by others until they feel it. Your body tempature, unless properly clothed, will drop so fast as to leave you desperate for heat for a long time after getting out of the cold.

So you have to bundle up for the cold. A native in a cold region, in a cold snap can be expected to have a thick jacket, a scarf, a hoodie of some sort, gloves, etc. And of course you have to place these all in an xray type machine and get them scanned.

Now the xray machines are sorta funny with certain things, they will show the outline of thin materials, show the entire shapes of thick materials, but if the whole material is the whole shape then it shows the whole shape.

A good winter jacket can have its lining replaced by something a little different. Since these jackets are typically sealed against water they can be very airproof even. If a sealed lining, thick in nature, but flexible was inserted inside one of these, with a that horrid plastic like exterior that always crinkles to much is on the outside you could in theory have quite a bit of explosives well disguised.

So next Homeland Security will be telling us to show up naked to the airport, or with throw-away clothes and they will provide safe and secure clothing for us.

Now a lot of talk has been on Fox News and elsewhere of these blower/sniffer devices. They seem to think these devices can solve it all. Pffft.

Build a house, design the interior into 10 small rooms. Each room has an entrance to an over-pressure chamber, and then to a hallway. The first room makes the bombs, getting the materials straight from the outside world. They seal the bombs in vacuum tight bags, which have been floated in water from the room next to them (the only way from room to room is via a water channel, no air possible to transfer the airlock system is just to let clean room garbed employees in each room to effect procedure and transfers to the next room via the water channels of the bombs).

A drying procedure is done on the outside of the package. The package is then placed in another airtight bag which is inside water, and vacuumed out. Alternatively you could use a chemical solvent, such as bleach in this stage if desired, or if counter to the chemicals you have used. Keep transferring the package to room to room with different procedures to make sure the water in each room has less chance of contagion of the original chemicals, and each sealing is effected with the most thorough removal of any outside contagions remaining. The last room used a vacuum chamber to remove all air around the package, places the package in it's final container, removes via string based cutters (like opening a pack of gum, or cigarettes)the previous seals, one at a time, in vacuum, and then seals the remaining container. (Or if vacuum is to hard, just use as it is, inside 5-6 independently mostly vacuumed containers).

All in all it is way to easy to so assure no bomb particles are available for sniffing, and shapes and sizes are easy. You can buy vacuum systems online designed to help you fit clothes in these really small bags, with airtight capabilities, and store the whole in really tight spaces. Quite good stuff, and not very expensive.

Need to bypass a metal detector? Simply go with plastic, wood, or a non-ferric metal.

Worried about a full body scan? Wear the bomb as clothes. Yes clothes can be made from a variety of unique explodable materials. I am not sure if Gun Cotton will fit your bill, but some over-sized buttons with C4 inside a very thin shell can help you do some scary things. What about filling those shoulder pads or bra stuffers with PTN?

No security will detect everything, everything is exploitable, there is no safety via devices.

By TheEinstein on 1/4/2010 2:47:15 PM , Rating: 2
Ahh Airports...

Airport security I have done, and Airport security I have accidentally mocked through and through.

There are many holes in this security, mostly it's for those people who know nothing of how airport security in the United States works, and is a panacea for the masses.

I once walked, in a security uniform, during a terrorist warning time, in a warehouse bordering the airport, and through to the tarmac, yelling 'security, I need help' the whole way. I was 50 feet from a full sized aircraft and could have boarded if I desired.

I have seen many other holes, this was just the most 'facepalming' of a hole.

Each airport, if it is large/busy enough, has it's own police force. Some have a huge police force, which is always on standby, much like their over-sized fire departments.

However where ever we start screening people, we create the ability to attack the people in a major airport. This has been done in Iraq often, where police candidates would line up before a safety screening, only to get blown up before they reached the first of the screenings.

Additionally as described there is any number of infinite ways to smuggle what you want into an airport provided your fanatical enough.

RE: Perfect Security Shall Never Exist....
By TheEinstein on 1/4/2010 2:58:41 PM , Rating: 2
How do we win then?

There are three ways we win.

1) Profiling

2) Armed 'passengers'

3) Guarantee to do more harm to them and theirs than they shall do to us and ours.


Profiling in the statistical sense is very sound math. You can determine the current patterns for specific crimes and you can reduce that crime using the profile data. In this case terrorism abroad is frequently done by Islamic males, young in age, who usually have gone to a Middle-Eastern nation for 'training'.

Using profiling seems to some to be wrong, and flawed, however in the statistical nature it reduces the probable false outcomes and increases the probable positive outcomes. Aka your more likely to find a bomb on that Arab male than that Asian grandmother. It also goes to the basic need of security, cost effectiveness. You could in theory pay for a security system so complex it reduces the chances of a crime to 1 in 100,000,000^100 but... at what huge and tremendous, and will never be able to be paid back of a cost? Security is about the least money for the most bang.

Profiling means yes... that hispanic male is more likely to be an illegal immigrant that that Irish haired female. It also means those who cannot speak English are a higher chance than someone who cannot speak another language than English...

Profiling is not evil, it is math. Math does not lie, people lie.

2) Guns on aircraft.
A single armed person, sitting who knows where, on an aircraft represents a threat to any would be hijacker or terrorist. They have to do their deed with worry that if they cannot get the job done quickly, and gain control quickly (if hijacking) they may get shot down with ease. This also would resolve a lot of out of control passengers with ease as well. A gun in your face when your flipping out cause you did not get rocks with your bourban? Yeah no more flipping out for you!

Modern ammunitions include rounds which while harmful to the person they are hit with, will not go through the skin of an aircraft. This means increased security all around in my opinion.

3) Who is the bigger a-hole?

I have two sayings regarding security:

Regardless... my sayings will always hold true:

"You can never have perfect security, you can just have affordable security".

"The only way to truly be safe from a fanatic is to show him you truly will destroy him, his family, his friends, his home, his valuables, his culture, his nation, his religion, and anything else he holds dear."

This time the second is in play, for this section specifically. So long as someone feels they benefit from doing an act of utter evil, there will be these acts of utter evil. There is no getting around this. The only way to stop them is to remove all benefits from doing that evil, then they will never commit that evil.

RE: Perfect Security Shall Never Exist....
By AEvangel on 1/4/2010 3:35:32 PM , Rating: 2
How do we win then?

The best way(other then changing our foreign policy) is to turn the Security over to the airlines since it's their responsibility to provide the traveler with safety since they bought the ticket from the airline.

The TSA concept is actually ridiculous, demanding I pay for security for a service I never use. It amazes me more people who don't fly are not upset about this waste of tax money.

By Omega215D on 1/4/2010 10:15:12 PM , Rating: 2
Because after watching some passengers questioned on the news the answer will always be that they "feel safer" no matter how much of an ordeal it may be.

I weep for this country.

"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken

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