Leading Scientists Say Airport Full Body Scanners Easily Duped

Posted Dec 16th 2010 03:44 PMUpdated Dec 16th 2010 05:06 PM


Two respected scientists say they have discovered a flaw in airport full body scanners that could potentially allow terrorists to outsmart the machines.

In research published in the Journal of Transportation Security, physicists Leon Kaufman and Joseph W. Carlson of the University of California San Francisco say body scanner machines can easily be duped.

While the purpose of the scanners is to find contraband hidden on the body, some weapons and explosives would not be visible to the devices say the researchers, who are known for their work in creating magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines used in hospitals.

That's because the human body and benign objects add "structured noise that interferes with signal averaging," the scientists say.

A "pancake" of explosives with beveled edges, taped to the abdomen, for instance, "would be invisible to this technology, ironically, because of its large volume, since it is easily confused with normal anatomy," the scientists report.

"It is also easy to see that an object such as a wire or a boxcutter blade, taped to the side of the body, or even a small gun in the same location, will be invisible," Kaufman and Carlson write.

Increasing radiation exposure to get a better image from the body scanning technology won't help, the scientists say. "Even if exposure were to be increased significantly, normal anatomy would make a dangerous amount of plastic explosive with tapered edges difficult if not impossible to detect."

In reaching their conclusions, the scientists used simulations (computational algorithms). They refer in their research to some photos of full body scanners not deployed in the U.S., but used at airports elsewhere.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) responds to the latest report with the same pat response it has given to other criticism about full body scanners, a spokesman telling AOL Travel News, "While there is no silver bullet, advanced imaging technology is a proven, highly-effective tool that safely detects both metallic and non-metallic items concealed on the body that could be used to threaten the security of airplanes."

The TSA adds that full body scanners are just one of the airport security methods it has in place.

Critics of full body scanners have raised privacy concerns about "naked" images and questioned whether radiation from the machines could potentially pose a cancer risk, among other things.

This week the TSA also took steps to debunk a rumor that airport body scanner images of "Baywatch" star Donna D'Errico -- who has criticized the TSA for singling out attractive celebrities to go through body scans – are in circulation. The TSA says it's impossible for anyone to capture scanner images given safeguards it has in place.

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Um....thanks a lot for airing our security flaws right before my Son & I will be flying home for Christmas!! I did feel safe knowing the security had been beefed up even though so many idiots fussed about it. Well I have this to say...if ANYONE acts the least bit suspicious or gets out of hand on our plane, WE WILL TAKE THEM DOWN!! This girl & her Son will NOT be pushed around by some loser terrorists!!!!!

December 18 2010 at 2:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I believe that all types of materials, even guns and knives, could make it through the body scanners due to the sexually graphic images the TSA agents are observing. No matter what Big Sis and the TSA agents try to tell us, or themselves, there is an innate part of the brain that is primarily looking at the genitals and breasts of people forced to submit to their gawking. Therefore it is entirely possible for foreign items to be missed. The brain sees what it wants to and blocks out the rest.

December 18 2010 at 12:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't understand why people feel the need to point out all the flaws in our security systems. Don't the terrorists have enough information and ideas in ways to sabotage our country and kill innocent people? Do we really need to give them more information? Haven't they killed enough people already? Why don't these "so-called" intelligent people keep their information to themselves? It just floors me that these people (or even the media that feels it's their "duty" to report everything) don't see the harm that they are doing. Unless of course creating another terrorist attack is what they really want so that it can sell more papers! Enough already! I want to feel safe when I travel! I want to feel safe in my home!

BTW, I think Claude91098 has a great idea. Let them blow themselves up. After all, isn't that what they want? This way they get their 77 virgins or whatever their reward is.

December 17 2010 at 9:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Terry, My thoughts exactly. This was the most irresponsible thing that anyone could have done.

Cherylhaas, just because they may have already known this, or have thought of ways to dupe it, does not mean that we should give the info to them... If you have a kid who drinks (going back to Terry's analogy) should you give them a key to the liquor cabinet since they already do it and know where it is?

December 17 2010 at 9:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Every time some new contraption is introduced to be the "Be All and End All" to prevent weapons and/or explosives smuggling aboard aircraft, the TSA runs to Congress for billions of appropriations dollars. It never ceases to amaze me how our neighbors who run the federal government think throwing money at problems solves them.

The least expensive and most effective method of preventing such activity is to adopt Israeli protocols. Looking someone in the eye and observing body language shows more than any radioactive photograph ever will.

Write your members of Congress to stop this madness!

December 17 2010 at 9:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Help is on the way! Because current TSA scanning machines cannot see packets of explosives or drugs that are hidden INSIDE a body, but their backscatter X-rays do penetrate clothing and clearly show the outer surface of a body, you should know that a U.S. company is getting ready to market an ultra-low-dose transmission X-ray scanner that can safely show what's INSIDE the body. Like in a regular X-ray, the outer surface of the body is vague and transparent (so it doesn't show any private parts), but the bones and teeth and any inside implants or concealed substances are clearly seen. The company is Valley Forge Composite Technologies, Inc.(VLYF). To see their machine in operation, go to their web site at www.vlyf.com and click on "ODIN FULL BODY SCANNER," then on "Demonstration Video" and click on the image. Watch the guy being scanned and notice he doesn't need to take off his shoes or his jacket. If TSA can approve the ODIN machine, it will really speed up security checks everywhere it's used.

December 17 2010 at 9:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have read some of the comments that were made in response to the story about the scanners which are currently in use. I can't believe that the Government is after Wekileaks or whatever its called when we have our own news media people giving the information to the terrorists. All they have to do is have someone monitoring the information on the net, write it down and send it to the terrorists. Isn't there anyone controlling what information goes out? Free Speech be damned, our security is going out the window. If they didn't know it before, they do by now. Good going guys.

December 17 2010 at 8:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What is wrong with the media? We should not be given detailed information about any flaws with our airport security. Let us know that there is a flaw but not the details. If we care enough about the flaw we should flood the phones or mail o the proper authorities demanding corrections. We are not giving into the terrorist by trying to protect ourselves. We are however very stupid in giving them detailed information about the flaws. I have no problem going thru a scanners if it will help protect my life. Each one of us needs to insist that security information be kept secured.

December 17 2010 at 8:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

WHAT!!! A zillion-dollar X-ray machine sold to our government by ex-Homeland-Security-Director-Turned-Sales-Ripoff-Master Michael Chertoff is DEFECTIVE???? Who didn't see THAT coming.....

December 17 2010 at 7:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with all of you. Why do we give the bad guys an inside tip on ways to attack us. Unbelievable!

December 17 2010 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply