Friday, August 06, 2010


Lawsuit seeks to end TSA use of full body scanners such as the one installed at Lihue Airport

by Larry Geller

A lawsuit has been filed to block the use of full-body scan machines such as the one installed at the airport on Kauai. Details are on the Electronic Privacy Information Center website: EPIC v. DHS (Suspension of Body Scanner Program).

The Garden Island reported the installation of a TSA body scanner at Lihue  after gulping a big pitcher of TSA kool-aid.

Lihu‘e Airport marked a major milestone in secure air travel Thursday.

“It is a great achievement of the state of Hawai‘i and the County of Kaua‘i to have this technology installed with the first deployment of 32 major airports across the nation.”   [The Garden Island, Lihu‘e Airport first in state with all-body security scanner, 6/17/2010]

Apparently the scanner arrived on Kauai because there is only one checkout line at the tiny airport, so it’s easy to install it there, not because the state of Hawaii or the County of Kauai achieved anything in particular. And astute web readers may be aware of articles claiming that the scanners have overlooked potentially dangerous material.

The EPIC lawsuit would resolve many of the issues surrounding the use of these intrusive devices. Perhaps the most obvious is violation of privacy.

The privacy of the passenger is supposed to be protected by TSA, as explained in this snip from an NPR story:

At airports where similar scanners are in use, the people who view the images are in a separate room, away from the passengers, so they don't know who they're looking at.   [NPR, TSA To Expand Use Of Full-Body Scanners, 1/8/2010]

Well, according to this blog report from Burt Lum, the people viewing the image at Lihue Airport are right there in your face. If you live on Kauai, they are your neighbors, remember.

As I approached the scanner the thought did run through my mind to opt out but I did not want to risk the alternative full-body pat down. Curiously as I exited the scanner, the TSA agent gave me a pat down anyway. Not a full-body version but just down the legs. The news articles I read referred to walled off areas where the naked scans were viewed but at the Lihue Airport I could clearly see the women behind the viewing monitor adjacent to the scanner. She looked at me, then looked back at the monitor. Another TSA agent was standing next to her and could view the images quite easily. I will admit that I did not make a visual confirmation of images since it was out of my line of sight. But I did not see any other walled off area for viewing.

The TSA claims that passenger privacy is maintained and scanned images are not stored, copied or transferred….   [Bytemarks, Lihue Airport Full-Body Scanner, 6/23/2010]

The Garden Island article repeats the “no storage” claim as fact:

Additionally, the image cannot be stored, transmitted or printed, and is deleted immediately once viewed. There is also a privacy algorithm applied to the image.

In fact, the images can and have been stored. The feds have lied about that already:

For the last few years, federal agencies have defended body scanning by insisting that all images will be discarded as soon as they're viewed. The Transportation Security Administration claimed last summer, for instance, that "scanned images cannot be stored or recorded."

Now it turns out that some police agencies are storing the controversial images after all. The U.S. Marshals Service admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse.   [CNET, Feds admit storing checkpoint body scan images, 8/4/2010]

That’s tens of thousands of images stored just by one agency.

The CNET article pulls no punches about the lie:

A 70-page document (PDF) showing the TSA's procurement specifications, classified as "sensitive security information," says that in some modes the scanner must "allow exporting of image data in real time" and provide a mechanism for "high-speed transfer of image data" over the network. (It also says that image filters will "protect the identity, modesty, and privacy of the passenger.")

"TSA is not being straightforward with the public about the capabilities of these devices," Rotenberg said. "This is the Department of Homeland Security subjecting every U.S. traveler to an intrusive search that can be recorded without any suspicion--I think it's outrageous."

The machine is supposed to blur the face and show only an outline image. Some images posted to the web are more detailed than just an outline. It’s not certain what level of detail stored images may retain.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center lawsuit asks a federal court to grant an immediate injunction halting TSA's body scanning program. See the link for details. Separately, they have received confirmation that the machines used by the US Marshals Service store images. Worse, when the service sent a machine back to the manufacturer, it appears that its database was not erased first.

From CNET again:

EPIC's lawsuit says that the TSA should have announced formal regulations, and argues that the body scanners violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable" searches.

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The Scanners are not able to store images is what I have read- but then explain the guy who is sitting next to me at the bar last night who "had an App for that!!!" Showing screen shots with his cell phone bragging about getting paid to look at porn. Why are they allowing TSA in the seperate room to go in with their cell phones that have cameras? Why do TSA people working that distant room away from the scannign machines looking at the images- swapping pic's from their shift with each other? This can be easily verified just by looking at TSA employees cell phones leaving that room or email records to one another usin their cell providers.

If these machines were for our safety- perhaps they should be used at all federal buildings too instead of just the metal detectors they have today. I am sure once that happens, they too will say- oh no this is not right!!!

I would like to thank that TSA guy at the bar for showing me what my tax dollars pay for, and I hope he keeps takign pictures so he can get caught. Maybe you should think about this TSA guy- before sending your kids thru the airport bdy scan.

Good grief.

I snipped your comment and sent it to EPIC. Maybe it will help with their lawsuit.

Most of the information you all have isn't correct. How do you know that the guy at the bar really worked for tsa? Wish we could have the pilots and passengers who are complaining fly together, no screening required. When you realized a bad person is on the plane...have them fly into your familys neighbor!! Visit the manufacturers web sites, you can see the images that the tsa view. It's not those images that people are loading on the internet.

Its nice to have image scanner on airports for security reason.But some personnel would have personal intention which can cause crime and offense to the clients.It could have lawsuit which they have commit a crime.

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