Thursday, Aug 5th, 2010
Feds admit they lied over storing images, why trust them over safety, functionality and efficiency of radiation-firing machines?
At the height of the furor over airport body scanners earlier this year, the TSA publicly stated that it was not possible to store, record, transmit or print out the images that show in detail the naked bodies of men, women and children that have passed through them. At the time we presented evidence to the contrary. Now it has been conclusively proven that the TSA and other federal agencies using the scanners flat out lied to an unwitting public.
Declan McCullagh of CNET reports that “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.”
The proof comes in the form of a letter (PDF), obtained by The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), in which William Bordley, an associate general counsel with the Marshals Service, admits that “approximately 35,314 images…have been stored on the Brijot Gen2 machine” used in the Orlando, Fla. federal courthouse.
EPIC says it has also obtained more than 100 images of electronically stripped individuals from the scanning devices used at federal courthouses. The disclosures come as part of a settlement of an EPIC Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals Service.
Brijot, the manufacturer of the body scanning equipment in question, also admits that its machine can store up to 40,000 images and records.
EPIC, has filed two further lawsuits against the Department of Homeland Security over the scanners, claiming that the DHS has refused to release at least 2,000 images it has stored from scanners currently in use in U.S. airports.
EPIC’s lawsuit argues that the body scanners violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits “unreasonable” searches, as well as the Privacy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, referencing religious laws about modesty.
The group points to a further document (PDF) it has obtained from DHS showing that the machines used by the department’s TSA are not only able to record and store naked body images, but that they are mandated to do so.
The TSA has now admitted that this is the case, but claims that it is for training and testing purposes only, maintaining that the body scanners used at airports cannot “store, print or transmit images”.
“In complying with our Freedom of Information Act request, the Marshals Service has helped the public more fully understand the capabilities of these devices,” EPIC President Marc Rotenberg said in a statement. “But the DHS continues to conceal the truth from American air travelers who could be subject to similar intrusive recorded searches in U.S. airports.”
The TSA and the DHS have consistently lied about all aspects of the body scanners, from their very inception.
As we have previously documented, the plan to implement the scanners on a mass scale was in the works well before the Christmas day attempted bombing incident. In October last year the TSA announced plans to expand the passenger electronic strip search program. In November, EPIC filed its first FOIA lawsuit challenging the DHS’s failure to make public details about the agency’s Whole Body Imaging program. On December 17, just one week before the failed bombing, EPIC filed its second lawsuit against the Department of Justice concerning the use of the screening devices.
In an effort to downplay the intrusion of privacy they really represent, the TSA has routinely claimed that the images produced by the scanners are “ghostly” or “skeletal”.
The passenger’s face is blurred and the image as a whole “resembles a fuzzy negative,” the TSA spokeswoman Kristin Lee told the media last year, prior to the underwear bombing attempt.
“It covers up the dirty bits,” James Carafano, a homeland security expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation told the Washington Post in January.
Former Department of Homeland Security official Stewart Verdery also dismissed the notion that the machines produce detailed naked images, describing them as not “the type of image that is going to make a thirteen year old boy very excited”.
Manchester Airport in the UK has also rejected claims that the scanners invade privacy, claiming that because they use X-rays “they do not make an image”.
These consistent claims are clearly contradicted by readily available examples of the body scanning images that show high quality detail of naked male and female bodies.
Furthermore, if there is no capability for the devices to save, distribute and print images, then how on earth have news organizations obtained print outs of such images like the one above?
Journalists who researched trials of the technology reported that the images made genitals “eerily visible”.
German Security advisor Hans-Detlef Dau, a representative for a company that sells the scanners, admits that the machines, “show intimate piercings, catheters and the form of breasts and penises”.
Images on the TSA’s own website produced by backscatter devices also show that genitals are visible.
The claims that sensitive body parts will be blurred out is also bunkem. When they were first being installed, Australian authorities admitted that the machines don’t work properly if sensitive areas of the body are blurred out – a fact that the British government later also admitted:
Cheryl Johnson, general manager of the Office of Transport Security, said:’ It will show the private parts of people, but what we’ve decided is that we’re not going to blur those out, because it severely limits the detection capabilities. ‘
The level of intimate detail captured by the scanners prompted the passage in the House last year of an amendment brought by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to ban “strip-search” imaging at airports, a proposal he has reiterated his support for since the failed bombing attempt.
“You don’t have to look at my wife and 8-year-old daughter naked to secure an airplane,” Chaffetz said at the time.
“You can actually see the sweat on somebody’s back. You can tell the difference between a dime and a nickel. If they can do that, they can see things that quite frankly I don’t think they should be looking at in order to secure a plane,” Chaffetz told the House.
Across the pond in Great Britain, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) wrote a letter to the UK government recently warning that the use of the scanners constitutes a breach of privacy laws.
Multiple incidents over the past months have proven that the TSA and other airport security authorities worldwide have been engaging in a monumental public relations cover-up by suggesting the machine do not show crisp images of naked bodies.
In May it was reported that a TSA worker in Miami attacked a colleague who had made fun of his small penis after he passed through a scanner device. A similar controversy unfolded in March when an airport worker at Heathrow was caught ogling a a female colleague’s breasts after she passed through one of the devices, commenting, “I love those gigantic tits”.
Perhaps the most significant factor here, the smoking gun that proves the authorities have lied about the degree to which the scanners invade personal privacy, is their contradictory stated need for new “privacy sensitive” machines.
“With full body searches becoming the norm at airports amid terror threats, a Canadian engineer has invented a three-dimensional scanner that doesn’t violate passengers’ privacy.” reported IBN Live in Toronto back in February.
“The new 3D scanner developed by Montreal-based William Awad highlights metal or organic material on a human body without showing the body outline under clothing, according to reports.” the article continues.
“But the current scanners at airports produce a three-dimensional outline of the human body, raising a hue and cry over privacy violations.”
The Canadian inventor of the new machine, currently seeking certification from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the US, expects sales to balloon. But if we are to believe our governments’ statements on the original scanning machines, there should be no need for any new privacy sensitive machine at all.
An article in yesterday’s Boston Globe again highlights this point:
The TSA is working with technology companies to develop software that would show a generic paper-doll-like figure instead of an actual image of a passenger’s body — and transmit images only when a threat is detected.
The TSA plans to keep the current scanners in place until less invasive software is available.
This serves as an admission that, despite previous claims to the contrary, the scanners currently in place do indeed reveal detailed images of genitalia, they are in breach of child pornography laws and the images produced by them are tantamount to criminal evidence.
It highlights the fact that the public was once again grossly misled over the capabilities of the scanners now in place in airports the world over.
Furthermore, any “privacy sensitive” versions of the technology will not change a thing, as Marc Rotenberg, executive director of EPIC notes:
“This will not solve the privacy issues,” Rotenberg said “because the images of travelers’ naked bodies are still being captured by the machine.”
Despite the fact that the machines would not have prevented the Christmas Day bomber from boarding Flight 253, according to their designers, and other security experts who have dismissed the devices as “useless”, the mainstream media for the most part has lauded their introduction.
In an editorial in February, titled “There’s nothing to fear from the use of full-body scanners at airports”, The Washington Post poo-pooed privacy concerns and stated that the images produced by the scanners are fuzzy and blurred.
The Post joined scores of other corporate media sources in it’s unreserved praise of the body scanners. In a Globe and Mail article, University of Ottawa professor Mark Salter gushed over the virtual strip searches, concocting a bizarre twist of logic argument that the machines actually increase privacy. This viewpoint flies in the face of that of surveillance experts who note that the scanners will do nothing to make air travel safer.
Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised given that the vast majority of the corporate media is owned wholesale by the very military industrial complex defense contractors set to land huge profits from the sale of thousands of the naked imaging scanners.
Another area where the government has consistently misled the public over the scanners is regarding their questionable safety.
The TSA has stated that going through the machines is equal to the radiation encountered during just two minutes of a flight. However, this does not take into account that the scanning machines specifically target only the skin and the muscle tissue immediately beneath.
The scanners are similar to C-Scans and fire ionizing radiation at those inside which penetrates a few centimeters into the flesh and reflects off the skin to form a naked body image.
The firing of ionizing radiation at the body effectively “unzips” DNA, according to scientific research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The research shows that even very low doses of X-ray can delay or prevent cellular repair of damaged DNA, yet pregnant women and children will be subjected to the process as new guidelines including scanners are adopted.
The Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety concluded in their report on the matter that governments must justify the use of the scanners and that a more accurate assessment of the health risks is needed.
Pregnant women and children should not be subject to scanning, according to the report, adding that governments should consider “other techniques to achieve the same end without the use of ionizing radiation.”
“The Committee cited the IAEA’s 1996 Basic Safety Standards agreement, drafted over three decades, that protects people from radiation. Frequent exposure to low doses of radiation can lead to cancer and birth defects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” reported Bloomberg.
Scientists at Columbia University also entered the debate recently, warning that the dose emitted by the naked x-ray devices could be up to 20 times higher than originally estimated, likely contributing to an increase in a common type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma which affects the head and neck.
“If all 800 million people who use airports every year were screened with X-rays then the very small individual risk multiplied by the large number of screened people might imply a potential public health or societal risk. The population risk has the potential to be significant,” said Dr David Brenner, head of Columbia University’s centre for radiological research.
Despite these fears, and the blatant violation of privacy laws, and the consistent lies that the authorities have engaged in over the machines, Janet Napolitano, head of the DHS, recently announced plans to expand the full-body scanner program even further.
Currently, 157 full-body scanners are in use at 43 airports in the United States; by the end of the year nearly 500 are planned to be in place. Next year, 500 more machines are scheduled to be installed.
In the U.S., people can refuse the body scanner and opt for an aggressive and intrusive hand-search, but people traveling out of the UK and other areas of Europe don’t even get the choice – they are forced to go through the scanner if asked and cannot refuse or they are banned from traveling. This policy seems to be slowly extending into the U.S., however, given recent reports from airport workers in El Paso, Texas who say that everyone is now being put through the machines.
Despite all the spin that the expansion of the naked body scanner program is being meekly accepted by a compliant public, more documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that there have been more than 600 formal complaints about the devices in the last year.
Furthermore, the documents reveal anger at TSA officials for refusing to offer passengers a pat-down alternative, as well as forcing children to go through the machines.
More people in the United States need to follow this example and lobby for states to pass laws nullifying use of the body scanners as a threat to privacy, health, and a total violation of human dignity, a virtual strip search.
The will of the people is being systematically eroded and incrementally broken down. Airports are serving as reservations where the fundamental right to privacy must be left at the door.
A culture of extreme fear has been engendered where the only way to stay safe is to cozy up to big brother, a psychological response akin to that of Stockholm syndrome.
This is where the technological control grid plays such a key role. Imagine if TSA agents were made to take women and children and physically strip search them while they held their hands aloft, the public would balk at such an abuse. However, with the body scanning machines there is a divide that clouds the process in futuristic technology.
If the public willingly accepts naked imaging x-ray machines in the name of security, what comes next?
The former EU justice Commissioner says that scanning inside people’s bodies is an acceptable proposal. The TSA is considering taser bracelets that can deliver electric shocks to anyone who steps out of line inside an airport or on a plane.
Passport control officers at airports are to be phased out as new biometric face scanning cameras are set to replace them under UK border control measures that came into force last year. A global biometric facial scan database is the end goal of security authorities the world over.
Other proposals include placing the cameras in every seat on aircraft and installing software to try and automatically detect terrorists or other dangers caused by passengers.
Passive brain scanners that pick up brain waves in order to sense the behaviour of travelers have already been trialed in airports. The technology known as “MALINTENT” has been developed by the Department of Homeland Security under a project lovingly called “Project Hostile Intent”. The following image is a DHS Impression of the mindreader technology in action.
We are also being incrementally taught that what goes on in the airports will be transferred to the streets, schools, shopping malls, rail stations and bus terminals.
The very body scanners we see being implemented within airports now have already been extensively trialed in railway stations in major cities.
The same technology is being considered by governments for general use in cameras on the street. Once accepted as part of everyday life in airports, it becomes much easier to sell for use in all public places.
X-ray specs were once considered a pervert’s fantasy science fiction invention, now they have become a reality.
The development of all of this nightmare technology only emphasizes the need for immediate outright rejection of the mass implementation of body screeners. If we continue to allow such gross attacks on our liberties to succeed the onslaught will never end.