The United States Transportation Security Administration recently invested $1 billion in body scanner technology it claimed would make air travel safer, but the scanners have come under fire since the agency first revealed its intentions. Some people argued that the nude scanners were an invasion of privacy while others were concerned with radiation emitted by the machines. Now, however, it appears as though past arguments pale in comparison to recent information brought to light by scientist and blogger Jonathan Corbett.
According to Corbett, who was the first person to sue the TSA when it introduced the scanners in early 2010, people can bypass the devices by simply fixing items they want to hide to their sides. The scanners bounce electromagnetic waves off of a subject to create an image that shows metallic items in black against the human body, which appears in bright white on the TSA’s equipment. The background of the scans is also black, however, so objects held in clothing on a person’s side will not appear over the dark background in the TSA’s scans.
“While America was testing these devices, Rafi Sela, who ran security for Ben Gurion airport in Israel, which is known for being one of the most secure airports in the world, was quoted saying he could ‘overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to take down a Boeing 747,’ and Ben Gurion therefore refused to buy scanners,” Corbett said in a video posted to his blog.
The blogger demonstrated his methods on video, successfully sneaking a metal object through the TSA’s screening process at both Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport. While capturing as much of his experiment as he could on camera, Corbett slipped a palm-sized metal case into a pocket he sewed on the side of a shirt. He then passed through the TSA’s body scanners at both airports without his metal case being detected.
While speaking with Digital Trends, a TSA spokeswoman called the video “a crude attempt to allegedly show how to circumvent TSA screening procedures.” She continued, “TSA conducts extensive testing of all screening technologies in the laboratory and at airports prior to rolling them out the field. Imaging technology has caught many items large and small, and is one of the most effective tools available to detect metallic and non-metallic items, such as the greatest threat to aviation, explosives.”
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