TSA to remove nudie scanners from airports because they couldn’t make them less nekkid

posted at 12:33 pm on January 18, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

A minor victory for those of us who think security theater shouldn’t look like a Pussycat Theater. If you’re ineffectively protecting us, we should at least have the dignity of our clothing to cling to. The company that makes the scanners— named Rapiscan, apparently without irony— had a chance to make them less invasive, but couldn’t do it.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration will remove airport body scanners that privacy advocates likened to strip searches after OSI Systems Inc. (OSIS) couldn’t write software to make passenger images less revealing.

TSA will end a $5 million contract with OSI’s Rapiscan unit for the software after Administrator John Pistole concluded the company couldn’t meet a congressional deadline to produce generic passenger images, agency officials said in interviews.

There will still be backscatter and millimeter wave scanners , but made by different companies (L-3, Smiths Group Plc, and American Science & Engineering Inc.) and with required privacy protections. They’re also advertised as faster:

Under pressure from privacy advocates and some members of Congress, the TSA moved its screens to separate rooms away from airport security checkpoints. Officials monitoring the scanner images alert agents if they see a possible risk.

The agency put out a contract in August 2010 asking L-3 and Rapiscan to develop the software to make images less revealing. L-3 developed its product in 2011, according to John Sanders, the TSA’s assistant administrator for security capabilities.

Rapiscan recently indicated to agency officials that it couldn’t deliver its software until 2014, Sanders said. It couldn’t come up with an algorithm that met the agency’s standards for accurately detecting objects without generating false alarms, he said.

“You can have a high probability of detection but a great deal of alarm,” Sanders said. “Everybody’s alarming. That doesn’t work from an operational perspective.”

Someone will still get the pleasure of going through the Rapiscan procedure, though, as Wired notes:

However, the scanners aren’t on the way to the junk yard just yet. OSI has struck a deal with the TSA which will see the machines being used by multiple government agencies across the country. That does, at least, mean that it will be federal employees who have their genitals imaged, as opposed to the public.

The news will no doubt be embraced by the legion of protesters, outraged by the privacy implications of the naked body scanners. But save a thought for the poor TSA employees: how are they going to get their kicks now?

And, in what is probably my favorite part of this story, the TSA would like to make sure you know just how little it cares about your privacy:

Sanders said the Rapiscan units did their job by screening 130 million passengers, and the agency wouldn’t have acted if not for the congressional mandate for privacy software.

“We are not pulling them out because they haven’t been effective, and we are not pulling them out for safety reasons,” Sanders said. “We’re pulling them out because there’s a congressional mandate.”

That seems at odds with Sanders’ earlier statement, highlighted above, about false alarms, but the important thing is the privacy and comfort of law-abiding passengers are not part of the agency’s calculus.

By the way, we are still waiting for the TSA to comply with a 2011 court order to hold public hearings on the scanners and other junk-touching related security. An appeals court gave them until March of this year after they defied the order for more than a year, but I imagine they’ll argue the removal of Rapiscan’s scanners precludes the need for public discussion of their methods. Sure, move along, nothing to talk about, here.

Previous:

Surprise: TSA hasn’t held court-ordered public hearings on scanners, junk-touching

Pat-down: Federal court demands to know why TSA it’s defying court order

Transparency: TSA takes 4 years to respond to one simple FOIA request

TSA Theft of Passenger Valuables a Nationwide Problem

TSA chief to senators: I can arrange to have your junk touched if you’d like

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It’s a good news/bad news bit. The bad news – groping to increase at airports.

Steve Eggleston on January 18, 2013 at 12:37 PM

So the end of transparency as we know it – great /

rsherwd65 on January 18, 2013 at 12:38 PM

Under ObamaCare, your TSA scan was going to be sent to a panel of doctors, to check for abnormalities and by the end of your flight you would be given a prognosis.

portlandon on January 18, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Old way: “Show me your papers!”

New way: “Show me your package!”

Bishop on January 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Under ObamaCare, your TSA scan was going to be sent to a panel of doctors, to check for abnormalities and by the end of your flight you would be given a prognosis.

portlandon on January 18, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Considering the doctors have become arms enforcement officers, makes sense (not really, but what does in the ObamiNation?).

Steve Eggleston on January 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Well, the Perv applications to TSA just took a hit.

ToddPA on January 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM

I haven’t flown since 2005 and I have no plans to do so anytime soon.

Bitter Clinger on January 18, 2013 at 12:43 PM

It’s almost a metaphor for the sad change to our country. Millions of compliant citizens line up to raise their hands in a posture of abject surrender while being irradiated, all in the name of “security.”

And few will notice that the TSA has been arguing all along that there weren’t any “nude images” for screeners to ogle.

Drained Brain on January 18, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Dear President Obama,
 
My name is Jennifer and I think we should all be able to be safe and happy and i dont think you should stop your workers at the airport from looking at pictures of me naked if it means they’ll be safe and happy.
 
Jennifer,
New Yorks City

 
When are the letters going to be read publicly, Mr. President?

rogerb on January 18, 2013 at 12:45 PM

“We are not pulling them out because they haven’t been effective, and we are not pulling them out for safety reasons,” Sanders said. “We’re pulling them out because there’s a congressional mandate.”

The understory here is that Pelosi had to go through one of these at Denver International, and the resulting image showed that Nancy isn’t a “Mrs.” at all.

BobMbx on January 18, 2013 at 12:45 PM

BobMbx on January 18, 2013 at 12:45 PM

AWESOME!

rsherwd65 on January 18, 2013 at 12:47 PM

So are they going back to the old scanners or is it patdowns for all?

gophergirl on January 18, 2013 at 12:50 PM

When are the letters going to be read publicly, Mr. President?

rogerb on January 18, 2013 at 12:45 PM

Your letter is the hilarious and too true version of what I was trying to say.

Drained Brain on January 18, 2013 at 12:52 PM

The fact that the Feds and the Courts allowed this to be done in the first place amply demonstrates how dysfunctional our government is.

pat on January 18, 2013 at 12:59 PM

But save a thought for the poor TSA employees: how are they going to get their kicks now?

Accidentally pulling sun dresses off of 16yr old girls?

BobMbx on January 18, 2013 at 1:03 PM

Is the TSA going to sell all those scanners to try and recoup some of our money or will they be consigned to a govt warehouse somewhere? Just like everything else the govt tries, make some donors rich, screw the tax payers and move along.

Kissmygrits on January 18, 2013 at 1:05 PM

Enough of the kabuki. Abolish, abolish, abolish.

John the Libertarian on January 18, 2013 at 1:05 PM

No more high resolution body scanners?

Damn. I took the TSA test for nothing??

Oh, well, back to the internet….

:-)

coldwarrior on January 18, 2013 at 1:06 PM

The fact that the Feds and the Courts allowed this to be done in the first place amply demonstrates how dysfunctional our government is.

pat on January 18, 2013 at 12:59 PM

Hmmm, dysfunctional… Is that the new euphemism for incompetent or corrupt, I can never keep up with the new euphemisms…

SWalker on January 18, 2013 at 1:09 PM

MKH, how about a caption under the picture “Nakid truth”?

Schadenfreude on January 18, 2013 at 1:09 PM

AWEGRUESOME!

rsherwd65 on January 18, 2013 at 12:47 PM

FIFY!

GWB on January 18, 2013 at 1:10 PM

Hmmm, dysfunctional… Is that the new euphemism for incompetent or corrupt, I can never keep up with the new euphemisms…

SWalker on January 18, 2013 at 1:09 PM

No, “dysfunctional” is inclusive of “incompetent” and “corrupt”, making it more succinct than having to type both words out all the time.

GWB on January 18, 2013 at 1:13 PM

Personally, I think people should simply refuse to fly until the TSA is put under adult leadership.

The airlines would come to a screaming halt – and something would be done rather quickly.

GarandFan on January 18, 2013 at 1:17 PM

Personally, I think people should simply refuse to fly until the TSA is put under adult leadership.

The airlines would come to a screaming halt – and something would be done rather quickly.

GarandFan on January 18, 2013 at 1:17 PM

Minor problem – the Left is fine with bankrupt and non-operating airlines. Means either more AMTRAK traffic or people trapped in their assigned sectors of Hell.

Steve Eggleston on January 18, 2013 at 1:25 PM

GarandFan on January 18, 2013 at 1:17 PM

When you consider limits to liability, seems TSA is not liable for a passenger getting aboard an aircraft and doing mayhem…the airline is, however.

Thus, why not let the individual airlines conduct their own procedures, either strict El Al type, or more lax, sorta like boarding Air Kenya in Addis Ababa…in the long run, passengers will make a personal and financial decision as to which airlines are safer, and which are to be avoided at all costs.

Could save billions in misspent federal dollars (forcibly removed from our pockets) and maybe get some common sense back into the equation.

coldwarrior on January 18, 2013 at 1:27 PM

We will never fly if their are people that might feel up our yung uns.

Possum Holler ain’t goin fer these nekkid things either.

PappyD61 on January 18, 2013 at 1:29 PM

It’s always good when there is a Hot Air story featuring the word “nekkid” in the headline. Just sayin’

Galtian on January 18, 2013 at 1:38 PM

My lord, we are a nation of prudes. Not that I am a fan of the TSA, but I never thought those digital scans were terribly revealing. You get better peeps out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog.

“OMG! Someone saw a digital, generic, and relatively fuzzy scan of my body! I may as well have been in porn!”

Geez. Grow up.

gravityman on January 18, 2013 at 1:45 PM

My lord, we are a nation of prudes. Not that I am a fan of the TSA, but I never thought those digital scans were terribly revealing. You get better peeps out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog.

gravityman on January 18, 2013 at 1:45 PM

The quality of said photos is a triple-decker nothinburger, you liberal low-rent wonder. What we’re objecting to is being forced to have scans of OUR BODIES (or is “my body, my choice” only valid for abortions?) simply because we want to go from point A to point B by plane.

None of the pictures in a VS catalog are of you or me or anyone else here taken against your (weak) will.

MelonCollie on January 18, 2013 at 1:54 PM

But save a thought for the poor TSA employees: how are they going to get their kicks now?

They’ll just go back to groping.

RebeccaH on January 18, 2013 at 2:06 PM

Bush and Chertoff hardest hit. America breaths sigh of relief.

Mr. Arrogant on January 18, 2013 at 2:07 PM

…it will be federal employees who have their genitals imaged, as opposed to the public.

That should be intersting as I am certain it will show that all federal employees have their genitals on top of their shoulders.

woodNfish on January 18, 2013 at 2:07 PM

My guess is the TSA employees would rather bypass the scanners anyway so that they can cop a feel…

zoyclem on January 18, 2013 at 2:13 PM

How many dollars did we p!ss away on this project?

Hill60 on January 18, 2013 at 2:15 PM

It’s a good news/bad news bit. The bad news – groping to increase at airports.

Steve Eggleston on January 18, 2013 at 12:37 PM

…it’s a marketing ploy silly!…they are trying to increase the number of proggresives who will want to fly!

KOOLAID2 on January 18, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Am I the only one who finds “pulling out” to be an unfortunate word choice in this context?

We are not pulling them out because they haven’t been effective, and we are not pulling them out for safety reasons,” Sanders said. “We’re pulling them out because there’s a congressional mandate.”

TexasDan on January 18, 2013 at 2:35 PM

Wow! Victorian political correctness run amuck.

However, I’m not buying the stated reasoning. The image, being digital, is generated by software. You will never convince me that the software programs couldn’t have been modified to blur the image a little.

EdmundBurke247 on January 18, 2013 at 2:42 PM

Just when I was getting so proud of my schlong showing!

Perverts liked the scanners, too….

Sherman1864 on January 18, 2013 at 2:44 PM

When I went off to England last summer I got the nekkid scan, when I went off to Norway for Christmas I didn’t. I got frisked by TSA leaving Manchester in July (olympics-related? All US passport holders were pulled aside and frisked from what I could see), nothing on the Christmas flights. Dunno what the diff is, but since I have to fly if I want to visit my kids who live abroad, I don’t have much choice to do it. Security theater.

Bob's Kid on January 18, 2013 at 3:03 PM

If you don’t want the scanners then don’t go through them opt out. The TSA HATES it when you opt out. And if enough people did it they would be forced to stop using them all together. The system could be easily brought to its knees. Unfortunately people simply bah all the way through the process and do what the government tells them. Choosing security over freedom has predictable results.

Theworldisnotenough on January 18, 2013 at 5:39 PM

However, the scanners aren’t on the way to the junk yard just yet. OSI has struck a deal with the TSA which will see the machines being used by multiple government agencies across the country. That does, at least, mean that it will be federal employees who have their genitals imaged, as opposed to the public.

Sweeeeeet.

A happy ending for all!

(karma)

Tim_CA on January 18, 2013 at 5:52 PM

TSA = DMV

‘cept DMV can’t fondle your junk (yet).

Tim_CA on January 18, 2013 at 5:54 PM

Still not flying any time soon, maybe never. We have a disabled daughter that we don’t care to have traumatized.

sherrimae on January 19, 2013 at 12:50 AM