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Boston Airport Replacing X-ray Body Scanners 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the we-have-all-kinds-of-light-waves-to-blast-you-with dept.
OverTheGeicoE writes "Boston's Logan International Airport is in the process of replacing its X-ray body scanners with millimeter-wave ones. According to the article, nine of the new scanners have been installed already, and ultimately 27 of these scanners will replace the 17 X-ray backscatter scanners that were installed in March of 2010. The new devices are 'being installed come with software that replaces "passenger-specific images" — or nearly naked views of travelers — with generic outlines that highlight only anomalies such as belts, jewelry, wallets — or guns or bombs.' Perhaps this will help TSA workers avoid being part of a cancer cluster. Some speculate that TSA will ultimately eliminate all of its X-ray body scanners."
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Boston Airport Replacing X-ray Body Scanners

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  • Who makes them? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kenja (541830) on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:26PM (#41560597)
    Is it the same company profiting by replacing their old useless hardware with the new?
  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tool462 (677306) on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:29PM (#41560635)

    I wonder if ..um... shall we say "abnormally endowed" men will have their endowments highlighted as a generic outline?
    If not, countdown until we hear about the "dildo-bomber" on the news...

  • by Dan667 (564390) on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:32PM (#41560673)
    if these scanners are so important why is rapiscan allowed to make a profit on them?
    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:36PM (#41560717) Homepage

      Waddaya mean, no benefit? I'm sure the shareholders of Rapiscan are benefiting greatly!

      Oh, you meant benefit to the public. Nah, the TSA isn't interested in that.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Food is essential but farmers are allowed to make a profit on it. The scanners are offensive because of the loss of freedom they represent, not because someone is making a profit on them.

      • by Dan667 (564390) on Friday October 05, 2012 @02:11PM (#41561137)
        my contention is there would be no scanners if no one could make a profit on them.
        • my contention is there would be no scanners if no one could make a profit on them.

          There would be no airlines if no one could make a profit... oh wait.

        • by Mitreya (579078) <mitreya&gmail,com> on Friday October 05, 2012 @03:18PM (#41561917)

          my contention is there would be no scanners if no one could make a profit on them.

          Yeah - Free market rules!

          Oh, wait, these are government mandated devices (pushed through with Chertoff's help who also consults with the contractor). And no one does any quality control - they are proven to be ineffective at actually detecting dangerous items, but more are bought anyway

          It's like saying that if the speeding ticket/toll booth collection wasn't profitable it wouldn't exist.

      • by Mitreya (579078) <mitreya&gmail,com> on Friday October 05, 2012 @02:38PM (#41561521)

        Food is essential but farmers are allowed to make a profit on it. The scanners are offensive because of the loss of freedom they represent, not because someone is making a profit on them.

        People _need_ food.
        The scanner are _mandated_ by law.

        Profiting from something that had been decreed necessary and made a monopoly by the government is the problem. Where are my non-TSA airports so that I could vote with my wallet? They would probably be cheaper, but I'd pay more to make my point.

        • by Jazari (2006634)
          Rightly or wrongly, many things are mandated by the government and sometimes even made monopolistic (seatbelts, vaccines, safety testing, etc.). There is nothing wrong with companies profiting from filling such needs.
          What is wrong is the loss of freedom that comes from the naked scanners (and the fact that they're ineffective, possibly dangerous, and were awarded to a government insider).
    • by Jeng (926980) on Friday October 05, 2012 @02:29PM (#41561391)

      What is your objection to them making money on a specialized product like that?

      Now, I can understand being upset if lets say the person majorly involved in getting them instituted turns out to own a very large part of that company.

      The politicians shouldn't profit from it, but the manufacturer should.

      • by Mitreya (579078)

        What is your objection to them making money on a specialized product like that?

        They make money even after devices have been shown unsafe (I believe the old xray machines have been banned in Europe for some time due to health concerns) and even after the devices have been shown ineffective.

        They should be making zero profit (maybe just cover the costs) from a device that has not delivered on the specifications. Without stringent quality control, that's literally just money being shuffled to contractors.

        • by Jeng (926980)

          Ok, I can understand that point, but lets just say for the sake of argument that it does actually work.

          Any objections then?

          • by Dan667 (564390)
            the US was founded on freedom. People that are willing to give up their freedom to "feel" safer should move to somewhere they can be watched 24/7.
            • by Jeng (926980)

              What in the fuck does that have to do with the point you were trying to make.

              You were making the argument that the company making these machines is making a profit and for some reason you think that is wrong. I was asking what your objection is to them making a profit, not whether or not they were needed in the first place.

              Why should a private company be asked to forsake all profits just because the government is mandating that their product be used? That is the question I would like to see you answer.

        • by blueg3 (192743)

          They make money even after devices have been shown unsafe (I believe the old xray machines have been banned in Europe for some time due to health concerns)

          The latter is true: X-ray backscatter machines were banned in Europe because of health concerns. The former is not true: they have not been shown to be unsafe. (It's probably most accurate to say that they've been shown to be safe, but that the level of evidence is unconvincing to many.)

          It shouldn't surprise you that the Europeans, too, sometimes make decisions based on the feelings of their politicians and populace and not on hard evidence.

      • by chrismcb (983081)

        What is your objection to them making money on a specialized product like that?

        My main problem is it seems like a government official created a mandate, so a particular company could profit.
        Were there bids for the devices?
        Was there any study done to indicate the devices would solve the problem (which isn't a problem, but that is a separate issue)
        Was there a study done to indicate the devices would be safe?
        Or were they built, knowing they would be replaced in just a few years?

      • by Dan667 (564390)
        the scanners are a money making scheme with no practical benefit. If there was no profit to be made I bet they would magically not be needed any more.
    • by chrismcb (983081)
      You've pretty much just indicated just what the benefit is.
  • just to be clear (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nimbius (983462) on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:33PM (#41560687) Homepage
    1. its still an invasion of privacy as the outline concept or any other concept related to the technology cannot be verified
    2. its still a health risk [technologyreview.com]
    tin foil bonus round: it would also be much easier considering the entirety of the TSA revolves around security theater to simply remove the existing units, replace the chassis, and reinstall them with livery to suggest millimeter wave scanning is in progress.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I absolutely should not have to pose nude for an audience and a camera in order to fly. The same goes for entering a courthouse.

      I hate my fellow citizens for being so willing to give up their personal sovereignty so willingly. THEY make the world a worse place for ME.

       

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:34PM (#41560697) Homepage

    The key problems with the X-ray machines were:
    1. They were invasive searches without anything remotely similar to probable cause.
    2. They don't actually stop people from carrying bombs onto aircraft (as has been tested several times).

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:46PM (#41560865)

      The potentially cancer-causing radiation is not a key problem? I think the standards for security screening need to start with "First, do no harm."

      Waste and ineffectiveness is a problem, but it comes second to directly harming innocent people.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2012 @02:14PM (#41561179)

      I think the fact that they were unregulated x-ray equipment operated by un-certified amateur radiologists hired through ads on pizza boxes might qualify as a problem.

      • by slimak (593319) on Friday October 05, 2012 @03:16PM (#41561899)

        In the US virtually all x-ray machines (including medical) are operated by un-certified radiologists. Radiologists interpret the images, they do not (typically) run the imaging devices. Radiographer or radiologic technologist (or just "tech" as they are typically called in the field) run the devices. Fortunately, the techs in medicine are typically well trained and certified. I'm not sure about the TSA team, but probably not so much. So your overall point is probably still accurate.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:37PM (#41560727)

    We're going to look back at this era in disbelief. It will be like us looking back at early medicine where people took elixirs full of Mercury.

  • I always thought the problem was calibration, and more specifically that the company responsible for building and selling these was also responsible for ongoing testing, calibration and certification -- a clear conflict of interest. After that series of articles in the NYTimes a couple years ago about people getting fried to death in misconfigured x-ray machines, fear of ending up like Spock (before re-genesis of course, but I digress) was my main reason for taking the pat-down every time.

    Secondary reas
    • Secondary reason was European airports banning them, but that has since been reversed. UK doesn't let you opt for pat-downs, not sure about the rest of Europe.

      Correct me if I'm wrong (and I'm about to cite the Daily Mail), but it looks like [dailymail.co.uk] they're no longer in use in the EU -- the Manchester use was a temporary extension [metro.co.uk], an exception to the general ban last year.

      According to this [metro.co.uk] the Manchester machines will be replaced by the end of October.

  • by jasno (124830) on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:48PM (#41560891) Journal

    As my upper-middle-class, female, New Yorker friend just found out, the problem with the sanitized images is that forgetting a dime in your pocket will cause it to trigger a general alert and you'll be whisked aside for gate-rape.

    And let's not forget that a butt-bomb, like that used by terrorists in Saudi Arabia in 2009, is still undetectable by gropers and scanners.

    • Butt-bombs are relatively small. Instead imagine a skinny guy who is turned into an explosive hambeast through surgery.

    • by Jeng (926980)

      Butt bombs tend to shape the charge in such a way that they usually end up blowing it out their ass, the rest of their body shields those not behind him.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That sounds like the aftermath of a trip to the local curry house.

      • Re:Big whoop... (Score:4, Informative)

        by jasno (124830) on Friday October 05, 2012 @03:56PM (#41562219) Journal

        Yeah, but some of us have rectums capable of allowing objects to exit as well as enter. So it may be possible that a terrorist has this capability as well, along with, say, a few of his friends, who could then assemble the device outside their anal cavity.

        • by Jeng (926980)

          Wow, and I figured someone would have replied with "Well then they just stick their ass to the window of the plane and kiss it goodbye."

          But yes, it is possible for a few people to get on a plane, go to the bathroom, pull bomb parts out of their ass, and then assemble them on the plane. There are simpler ways of going about it, but it is possible.

    • That happened to me recently. Actually it was two dimes in one pocket that set off the machine. The process went a little like this: I got asked a few times what I had in my right pocket, waited for a male TSA employee to come over, waited for the TSA agents to stop bickering, got a quick patdown (including a few squeezes of my pockets), turned my pocket inside out, discovered two dimes, went on my way. All the while I was staring at an outline of my body with a couple of red squares highlighting the ar

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      Dime? That's high-density metal, of course they can detect it! I was more surprised when I failed the backscatter scan because of a folded-over receipt in my shirt pocket.

      • by green1 (322787)

        My first (and only, so far) experience with these machines had the machine highlight 3 areas, the button on the front of my pants (no belt, just the plastic button) and both my cargo pockets, 1 of which contained my wallet, the other contained a single piece of paper folded over.
        If these machines don't like things in your pockets, you should be told to empty your pockets first!
        Though the person running the machine did admit that the machine doesn't like cargo pockets, even empty. I think the biggest surpris

        • by blueg3 (192743)

          This actually happened in my case too -- they identified the piece of paper that caused the error and that was it. Most places I've been to, though, they make it abundantly clear that you need to remove *everything* from your pockets. As you point out, it's a pretty useless system if they don't.

          • by green1 (322787)

            I had just finished going through the metal detector, and while I was about to collect my tray load of stuff, a person came up to me and asked me to come with him. he carried my tray of stuff and asked if I had heard about the new scanners, I said that I knew of them, but had never experienced one. The entire instructions I got were "stand here, hold your arms up, turn around" then he pointed out the yellow squares on the screen showing the "suspicious" areas. Had I been asked to remove things from my pocke

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      As my upper-middle-class, female, New Yorker friend just found out, the problem with the sanitized images is that forgetting a dime in your pocket will cause it to trigger a general alert and you'll be whisked aside for gate-rape.

      And let's not forget that a butt-bomb, like that used by terrorists in Saudi Arabia in 2009, is still undetectable by gropers and scanners.

      Wouldn't the wire show?

      --

      Ok guys, quit whisking the passengers.

  • by Applekid (993327) on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:57PM (#41561001)

    When the multimeter wave scanners were installed, it was a lot of "don't worry, only a subset of travelers will be subjected to it" and "you can choose to be sexually molested instead". Fast forward a few years and now they're replacing regular X-ray machines with them.

    How soon before you have to pass through one to go into a government building? A grocery store? Outside your own home?

    • How soon before you have to pass through one to go into a government building?

      This is already required at some courthouses in the US, they were there before they were in airports IIRC.

      • by Applekid (993327)

        How soon before you have to pass through one to go into a government building?

        This is already required at some courthouses in the US, they were there before they were in airports IIRC.

        I guess it's been that long since I've been to the courthouse... last I recall there were metal detectors but that's about it.

  • Except.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Luthair (847766) on Friday October 05, 2012 @02:03PM (#41561057)
    millimeter wave scanners may unzip dna strands and no studies have been done about the long term effects of human exposure, hurray!
  • by fulldecent (598482) on Friday October 05, 2012 @02:04PM (#41561069) Homepage

    When anonymous gets a hold of the image data and tags it to passenger's facebook wall... that will be the day public has had enough. It is hard to get people off the theater. When anonymous puts a hold of the image data and publishes senator's likenesses, that will be the day they outlaw it.

  • Boston airport sucks great big dirty donkey dicks with a side order of shit.

    If you have to go to any other terminal in the building you have to go though security again, and again. It can take well over half an hour to move from one part of the airport to another. It is fucking stupid and frustrating, the wife and I will do our best to avoid that airport from here on out considering the fun we had last time going though.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Boston isn't really all that bad. Occasionally, you do get stuck in a security line behind 19 guys trying to bring box cutters on a flight. But other than that, its OK.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Now we've gone from x-raying people to microwaving them.

    • by Jeng (926980)

      Yes, now that we can see all these wonderful tasty organs it's time to cook them.

  • by tgibbs (83782) on Friday October 05, 2012 @03:07PM (#41561829)

    Good, I can stop requesting on a hand search when I fly out of Boston. It's not that I consider the exposure particularly hazardous--I don't; I've voluntarily exposed myself to far more radiation over the years--I just saw no point in additional exposure to ionizing radiation when I can avoid it, and I don't really mind the hand search.

  • They tried it on Mayor Menino's skull and found nothing. He was shocked at the results, saying "bwafa nogga rifl plart." Strong words, indeed.

  • New and Improved (Score:5, Insightful)

    by edibobb (113989) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:09PM (#41562359) Homepage
    mm wavelength scanners will prevent Logan Airport from being blown up by LED T-Shirts [boingboing.net].
    We need more scanners.
    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      mm wavelength scanners will prevent Logan Airport from being blown up by LED T-Shirts [boingboing.net].
      We need more scanners.

      That's when Moononites invade.

  • Or did they lie to us?

    • by chrismcb (983081)

      Or did they lie to us?

      Yes.
      Of course they claimed they weren't storing the images... but that was a lie too.

  • At the risk of beating a dead horse... I'd like to share my experience with beating these systems. I'm personally much more interested in Boston's integration of Israeli style interview tactics. I lived in the Middle East for a couple years and went through the borders on an almost daily basis, and several times through the Tel Aviv airport (Israel's only international airport). Israel doesn't use anything resembling our body scanners, and instead relies on brief interviews of every person flying to determi

    • by chrismcb (983081)
      Why? Why this constant comparison to Israel?
      Why not just get rid of it completely?
      What does the "security" do? Here, in Israel, or anywhere else?
      Interviews are mostly pointless. Any good person will breeze right through it. And only a TRAINED interviewer will have a chance of catching something.
      But really, what is the point? To catch some mythical bombers? IF someone wanted to bomb a plane, they will figure out a way (and wait, they HAVE) whether we have professional interviewers, or radiation scann

Truly simple systems... require infinite testing. -- Norman Augustine

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