Media piles on to TSA problems

SUBHEAD: Nation's leading federal policy newspaper reports on calls for revamping of airport checkpoint system.
Nine years after the Sept. 11 attacks and decades after hijackers first began to target passenger airliners, the United States has invested billions of dollars in an airport system that makes technology the last line of defense to intercept terrorists.

It has yet to catch one.

In every known recent attempt, terrorists have used a different tactic to evade the latest technology at airport checkpoints, only to be thwarted by information unearthed through intelligence work - or by alert passengers in flight.

The result is an emerging consensus among experts and lawmakers that the checkpoint-heavy approach - searching nearly every passenger - may not be the most effective.

Instead, many of them say, the system should focus more urgently on individuals, gathering a greater range of information about people to identify those most likely to present a real danger.

Scanners, pat-downs and bomb-sniffing dogs are all vital parts of the process but should be integrated into a multilayered system that includes far-reaching, computer-filtered data about people, along with face-to-face monitoring by the modern equivalent of a beat cop, several officials and experts said. Technology matters, they said, but it is akin to putting up a series of picket fences for terrorists to evade.

U.S. officials and lawmakers acknowledge that broader revisions may be necessary, saying it is only a matter of time before the airport security apparatus fails.

"Let's be honest: We've been lucky the last few times," said Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.). "With the Christmas Day bomber over Detroit and the Times Square bomber and

As a result of those attempts, passengers must surrender sharp objects (a response to the Sept. 11 attacks) and slip off their shoes (a response to the 2001 would-be shoe bomber). They must remove liquids from their bags (a result of a 2006 plot to blow up planes), and, as of a few weeks ago, they must submit to body scans or pat-downs (a process accelerated by the attempted airline bombing last Christmas Day).

Yet lawmakers and government reports question the capability of some specific measures. Year after year, undercover testers manage to sneak loaded weapons past screeners... [rest of article]

SUBHEAD: Peer-reviewed industry journal, "evaluation of airport x-ray backscatter units" reveals flaws with full body scanners.

By Leon Kaufman & Joseph Carlson on 26 November 2010 for Journal of Transportation Security - (
Video above: "TSA Airport Scanners Radiation Cancer X-Ray..." from ( Abstract Little information exists on the performance of x-ray backscatter machines now being deployed through UK, US and other airports. We implement a Monte Carlo simulation using as input what is known about the x-ray spectra used for imaging, device specifications and available images to estimate penetration and exposure to the body from the x-ray beam, and sensitivity to dangerous contraband materials. We show that the body is exposed throughout to the incident x-rays, and that although images can be made at the exposure levels claimed (under 100 nanoGrey per view), detection of contraband can be foiled in these systems. Because front and back views are obtained, low Z materials can only be reliable detected if they are packed outside the sides of the body or with hard edges, while high Z materials are well seen when placed in front or back of the body, but not to the sides. 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. [full article]

SUBHEAD: Analysis reveals legal flaws in TSA searches. Significantly, judicial decisions have found actions must be 'minimally intrusive' and proven 'effective.'
By Bob Unruh on 12 December 2010 for -
Video above: "93 year old Involved in Shake Down over Applesauce by TSA". From (

An attorney who teaches college courses on constitutional law, has a radio program to address those issues and still is engaged in several campaigns on behalf of the United States Justice Foundation has concluded that the Transportation Security Administration's new invasive screening procedures likely will be struck down by the courts.

"Cases on the 4th Amendment seem to set a clear pattern that airport screening is permissible and will be upheld," wrote Michael Connelly, a retired attorney and U.S. Army veteran who practiced law for decades in Baton Rouge, La., specializing in cases involving the Bill of Rights.

He currently teaches four law courses including one on constitutional law, has a radio program called "Our Constitution" and is an author.

"However, all of the cases made two other very important points," he continued. "First, any searches must be minimally intrusive on the individual being searched and second, the searches must be effective in screening out weapons and terrorists.

"I believe it can be effectively argued that neither of these criteria is met by the TSA system of full body scans and pat-downs," he said...

<>"There is no doubt that the use of the full body scanners and alternate pat-downs has raised the bar when it comes to intrusive warrantless searches of individuals at airports and other locations," he said.

On its face, the 4th Amendment protects Americans from warrantless searches, stating, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

He explains that in the past few decades several exemptions have been created by the courts that would allow warrantless searches – called mostly "administrative searches."

"These searches fall under several limited categories and suspicionless checkpoints is one of these. Under this doctrine a person can be searched even though there is no probable cause for a search and he or she is not directly suspected of having committed or intending to commit a crime," he said.

Courts have found in the past that such circumstances arise when "the gravity of the public concerns served by the seizure, the degree to which the seizure advances the public interests, and the severity of the interference with individual liberty."

In fact, one of the cases, United States v. Hartwell from 2006, that finds long-standing airport security screening procedures acceptable was written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito while he was on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Other cases have found, for example, that sobriety checkpoints on state roads are reasonable because of the state's interest in preventing drunken driving and the degree of intrusion on individual motorists "who are briefly stopped."

Connelly explained that past cases have dealt with the constitutionality of metal detectors, the use of hand-held scanners and in rare circumstances, pat-downs that do not involve contact with a person's private parts.

"There is no question that the full body scanners amount to a strip-search and that has not been upheld as permissible in the general airport security plan. In fact, the Supreme Court has recently given a definite thumbs down to strip-searches that are warrantless and do not meet the probable cause test. Safford Unified School District #1 v. Redding [a 2009 case] held that a strip-search of a high school girl was excessively intrusive and violated her rights. This was despite the fact that the school officials had reason to believe that she might have prescription drugs on her person," he found.

"There is no such suspicion to justify these searches at airports. They are very intrusive because in effect passengers must submit their nude bodies to visual examination by complete strangers. The alternative is not much better since it allows TSA agents to pat down a person including the most intimate parts of a person’s anatomy," he suggested.

Secondly, there is the "serious question of effectiveness."

"TSA officials are quick to defend these techniques by pointing to the so-called 'underwear bomber.' Since a terrorist may not be carrying a weapon or explosive device that is made of metal it is true that it will not be picked up by the standard metal detector. The explosive powder being carried by the underwear bomber would probably have been found by a thorough pat-down, but according to experts not by the body scanner. Since the pat-down is an alternative to the body scanner it may never have occurred in that situation."

In fact, a peer-reviewed scientific study reveals that the TSA's full-body imaging machines could be fooled by terrorists who simply would mold explosives to conform to their bodies.

"There is scant evidence that many non-metal explosive devices will be detected by the body scanner. Plastic explosives are a prime example of this since they can be molded to look like part of the body. These deficiencies have been recognized by many experts in Europe," Connelly said.

Third, he cited the "potential health risk" from the scanners.

"There are … concerns being raised about the effects of intense radiation on people with immune system deficiencies, as well as possible altering of DNA in individuals, and sperm counts in men. In addition, there has been no determination about the possible health risks to young children, seniors, or pregnant women and their unborn children.

<>"Members of the scientific community and medical profession who are talking about these issues have not been reassured by the broad and unsubstantiated assurances by the TSA that there is nothing for people to worry about," he said... [rest of article]

Video above: "TSA Thugs Lose Case Against Woman with Applesauce". From (


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