I can't keep up
Posted by aogFriday, 08 January 2010 at 19:41 TrackBack Ping URL

According to Prison Planet the new airport scanners make good images of people naked. All I could think of is the old joke about “we might as well just have everyone fly naked”. One step closer apparently.

P.S. Prison Planet is not exactly a reliable source but I feel like living on the edge today.

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Bret Friday, 08 January 2010 at 22:58

Airplanes are too cold to fly naked.

Hey Skipper Saturday, 09 January 2010 at 13:56

I heard an NPR report on the latest version of these things. According to the story, the scanner image has about the same detail as a charcoal drawing: sufficient to ascertain a test object wrapped around the reporter’s ankle, but nowhere near enough for prurience.

Annoying Old Guy Saturday, 09 January 2010 at 15:10

This story is being reported at more reliable websites and if the accompanying pictures are accurate, NPR is once again just making things up.

Hey Skipper Sunday, 10 January 2010 at 06:44

The report specifically said the scanners had been, in effect, detuned because the level of detail required to determine if someone is carrying contraband is met well short of anatomical detail.

Using the Prison Planet example, those body images could be much less detailed and still make it apparent that something was there that shouldn’t be.

I am typically not willing to cut NPR slack, but in this case I think they got it right. (Also, it was a company engineer who was making the assertion, which the NPR reporter corroborated after a demonstration.)

Bret Sunday, 10 January 2010 at 09:57

In the prison planet pic, isn’t it surprising that the scanner doesn’t see through hair? What’s the difference between hair and clothes fabric?

If that’s actually the case that it can’t see through hair, it seems like a security issue, since one could just hide whatever in one’s hair.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 10 January 2010 at 12:22


Yet I have seen other reports which claim that detuning would cause false negatives. For instance Aviation Record makes that claim. I have no idea how reliable that is, though. It’s hard to netsearch for information because the leading pages are full of either sources like Prison Planet or InfoWars or just quick posts with no links or information.

The Guardian claims that the scanners are detailed enough to “violate child pornography laws” in the UK. A Dutch newspaper claims that blurring will require a new generation of scanner machines.

Really, I just did the post for a quick joke, I haven’t spent much time looking in to this. I’ll give NPR a break for once, though.

P.S. Bret, this article via the Daily Mail indicates that the scan penetrates hair. Is this a different technology (X-ray backscatter) vs. millimeter radar? That also seems to affect the level of detail in the scans.

Harry Eagar Sunday, 10 January 2010 at 14:10

No question the scanners can see you pretty much as you were born, if that’s what you want. And, as RtO observed, that would be helpful: Close shaves.

But we are all too polite to say so. We’d rather die.

Link fixed. The problem seems to be that you are using fancy quotes instead of plain double quotes.

erp Sunday, 10 January 2010 at 14:49

Harry, I’d rather not die and more importantly, I’d rather not have any of my or anyone else’s kids or grandkids die because political correctness precludes profiling.

Furthermore, I’d rather that the gazillions of dollars being spent on security be actually spent keeping potential terrorists locked up in secure locations like Gitmo instead of invasive scanning of regular folk traveling to see grandma.

If need be, let there be millions of names on the no-fly list. If that keeps out some innocent people, well, as the lefties like to say, you have to break eggs to make an omelet.

Harry Eagar Sunday, 10 January 2010 at 19:04

erp, the link is busted (dunno what’s up with Blogger, it used to take links), but you can find my comment at Restating the Obvious, labeled ‘Close shave in Detroit.’

It has nothing whatever to do with political correctness but with puritanism. I was coy about it at RtO, but the reason you want the scan that shows the hair is that your run-of-the-mine Muslim suicider is careful to shave his pubes for the benefit of the 72 ever-renewing virgins that he is shortly to meet.

As RtO noted, scanning that way would also make it tough for male porn actors to get on planes.

The innocent suffer.

erp Sunday, 10 January 2010 at 19:37

Harry, you are again making my point for me.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 12 January 2010 at 10:35

Hey, it turns out the scanners can in fact store and transmit the images despite previous claims by the TSA that they could not. Once again I am impressed by our ability as a society to fail to get an accurate set of basic facts on an issue.

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