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UK Immigration Officer Put Wife on No-Fly List

This is awesome terrible. Apparently a UK immigration officer added his wife to the no-fly list when she was out of country effectively stranding her.

Based on the lack of details and the fact that she could have just taken a ferry not an airplane, this story doesn't really seem that likely, but it's making the rounds and the most important issue here is that the possibility of a single government official working alone abusing the system. While important security databases are poorly controlled, these kinds of abuses are possible.

Speaking of, I found a supposed copy of the no fly list online. Check it out!

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Israel Airport Security is Good Because of Profiling

You know a good way to spot a terrorist? Look for someone who looks and acts like one (like they do in Israel)!

I know this ridiculous concept of banning profiling came out of the dark days of racism where people were profiles on things that didn't matter like the color of your skin. But that doesn't mean that profiling is wrong.

People profile all the time and they should. If you walk out to your car late at night and there's younger male with ratty clothes staring you down while sharpening a machete, should you keep walking since you "don't want to offend him by running the hell away"?

Give it a rest folks. If the TSA didn't have to give kids and the elderly the same attention as someone who's actually likely to be a terrorist, imagine how much smoother and simpler flying would be.

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4th Amendment Underwear and Shirts

This isn't what it would look like though...

It'd be nice if they could post an actual picture of a backscatter scan instead of a full x-ray, but this is still pretty cool. I personally wouldn't buy one since I'd rather not be scanned at all than try to make a statement after the fact.

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TSA Scanner Political Cartoons

(Image is in the Public Domain)

Check these out 🙂

Also a series of current articles and links about the issue here.

And finally a story of a pat down that's been resurrected from 2002 by Penn of Penn and Teller.

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Nude Scan Photos Weren’t Supposed to be Stored – They Were

The TSA has constantly said that photos from the nudie scanners wouldn't be stored so how did we get : this story of nudie scanners where over 35000 photos were stored. Whoops.

To be fair, this wasn't the TSA, but US Marshalls in an Orlando courthouse, but the technology makes it possible. If the only thing that stops someone from recording a pic is a setting on the machine, I don't feel very safe.

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TSA Pilot Refuses Naked Scanner – TSA Response

(Image is in the Public Domain)

Maybe you haven't heard of this yet, but a pilot working for ExpressJet refused to use the new nudie scanners installed at his airport. They offered to pat him down instead, but according to him:

"Pat down is misleading," Roberts explained. "They concentrate on the area between the upper thighs and torso, and they're not just patting people's arms and legs, they're grabbing and groping and prodding pretty aggressively."

I've written about this previously as it's been reported that refusing the scanner will get you a ''super-sized'' pat-down almost like a punishment and this experience seems to confirm that.

Peter Pietra, the head of privacy for the TSA is a reasonable guy who I met at a conference once. I asked him about this issue and he stated that the procedures seemed to work as intended. People have the right to opt out, but must be patted down in the process. I asked him about the "aggressive pat-down" and he said this:

There is no retaliatory pat-down for people who decline AIT. There used to be several types of pat-downs, but there are now only two (standard, and resolution). People who decline AIT or metal detector, for that matter, get the standard pat-down, but our standard pat-down changed about a month ago .... There was a flurry of media attention about a month ago on it, and some complaints following the news articles, but not a lot. My rough recollection is a dozen or fewer complaints specific to the new pat-down.
There is no retalitory pat-down…people who decline get a standard pat-down

Along with my previous talks with him, this is the second time he's assured me that there is no special treatment of people who refuse the scan. While I'm positive there are people who abuse their authority or make things tougher for people who they think make things tough for them (asserting rights which also makes their job harder), here's the thing:

There are two pat-downs and while I don't know what warrants the second, you should only get the first by refusing to be scanned. Therefore, if your pat down is more extensive than what you see old people with heart devices getting, it's time to complain and complain loudly (which is what I believe this pilot has done and good for him). Peter says he thinks there's no problem because he hasn't received many complaints. If you think you've been a victim of retaliation or excessive probing, make sure he hears about it.

Make sure your voice is heard. You can connect with his office here: TSAPrivacy@dhs.gov

Support for the Pilot

There's been a lot of support for him in the airline industry (among workers not officially). Here are some of the industry forums where they're talking about him:


UPDATE 2010/11/07

I recently went through the airport and also refused the scanner. I was patted down, but the TSA employee was very clear and professional. At no point did I feel uncomfortable.

It's a big deal if someone overdoes it and they should be called out, but it really wasn't a problem for me.

However, I was once told that signs would be prominently posted showing people they could opt out of the scan, but I found none anywhere.

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Skip the Nudie Scanner, Get Extra Frisking as Punishment

There are some people who have reported extra screening and scrutiny of their person and personal belongings when they refuse to engage in the TSA nudie scanner fiasco.

I went over to the TSA blog to see what the climate was and the responses are overwhelmingly against the technology.

From the complaints that have been coming in, it seems to be common practice for TSA to send people through the machines without telling them what they do or offering them a choice. How does anyone think that this is OK?


Bob, why would the TSA use backscatter at all when MMW is much less risky in terms of exposure to harmwave wavelengths.

There were other issues listed such as the scanning of children nude and the right to ask that your belongings always remain in your sight while they're being analyzed (which is only useful if you know about that right).

I once met the head of privacy for the TSA, Peter P., and got his contact information. I just sent him an e-mail suggesting that the only way that it would be ethical to use these machines is to:

  1. Post on the machine actual, unedited, unblurred photos of real people being scanned.
  2. Verbally tell each person to be scanned that they may opt-out every time

I don't know if he'll respond or what he'll say, but expect they won't do either of these because if they did, people would probably never use them at all. But that's the point isn't it? We should know exactly what's going to happen and be able to make an informed choice.

Anyway, if he does respond, I'll post it here.


It's really quite surprising how quickly he responded. Not more than 2 hours after my e-mail, I received a phone call where he answered my questions.

He says there are already images on all machines that are exactly what the operators see, just not life sized though he didn't know why that matters to people. In fact, some people have complained about the nudity on the signs (which I expected would happen, but we don't care about them do we :)).

There are also indications that you can choose to have a pat down in the largest font of all text on the machine. I can't really say if that's sufficient considering I haven't seen the machines personally, though I doubt a simple sign is enough unless it's a pretty big font.

He says a verbal notice would add too much time and present it more as a negative thing when it wasn't (a matter of opinion) and he's right about that so I didn't expect much. The main thing is how the operators act in practice. If someone seems hesitant, they should immediately offer the pat-down instead, but do they?

On the subject of how people are treated when refusing the scan, he said that it's impossible to monitor that process, but they are trained not to do extra screening just because someone opted-out. He also pointed out that at last year's CFP Conference a woman who claimed to have been subjected to nearly 20 minutes of screening was actually only there for less than 3 (they checked the video). He said perception plays a large part and I can't disagree with that.

What is fact is that people are frustrated and angry. We don't trust that the machines won't be misused and there's at least one case where they already were. Is there anything the TSA could do to win our trust? Who' knows, but here's the page where they have all the information about the machines and how they're used.

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Coalition Petitions DHS to Suspend Nudie Airport Scanner Technology

Looks like The Electronic Privacy Information Center - EPIC is hard at work blanketing the DHS with a variety of arguments why the porno scanners shouldn't be used. Religious freedom, privacy law, and even a simple argument that they're not effective enough for the money.

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Airport Worker Nude Scanned Co-Worker, Commented on Her “Attributes”

No more invasive than a pat down. Really?

Privacy groups like The Electronic Privacy Information Center - EPIC have been warning us about these things for a long time and it seems like as much as the TSA would want us to believe otherwise, we were justified in raising the alarm.

In this case a male worker at Heathrow flipped the machine on as an attractive female co-worker walked near the machine. He apparently made some lewd comments and though I haven't been able to find any sources saying what those comments were, I think I can make some general guesses.

The British House of Commons said this of the machines when they were deployed:

"Having witnessed these full-body scanners working at first-hand, we are confident that the privacy concerns that have been expressed in relation to these devices are overstated and that full-body scanners are no more an invasion of privacy than manual "pat-downs" or searches of bags," the committee said.

Oh really? A pat down and a nudie scanner are the same thing? What do you think?

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TSA Nudie Scanners May Violate Child Porn Laws

EPIC has been fighting what they call Whole Body Imaging for a while now, but this is an interesting new twist. I never thought about this before, but taking a nude scan of a minor is a violation of child pornography laws.

So if this is really the case, and the TSA doesn't get some kind of exception they will be barred from scanning anyone under 18 at which point the terrorists get an advantage by sending through young recruits (or ones young enough to plausibly lie about it).

The really sad thing about all this is that the technology is very good. It's less invasive than a strip search or pat down and it's extremely fast and easy for the traveler. If it were possible to trust that the TSA could keep the images from being stored and distributed, maybe even I could support it.

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