The introduction of the Transportation Security Administration’s new full body scanners caused much of a stir in the United States for the invasive nature of the technology. Many criticized that a suicide/homicide- bound terrorist needed only to insert an explosive inside himself to get past the new security machine, but a new piece published from the Journal of Transportation Security reports a hell-bent terrorist would not even need to go that far to slip an explosive device past TSA officials at the airport. According to the study:
Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow points out how various explosive material and weaponry can easily compromise the machines:
It is very likely that a large (15-20 cm in diameter), irregularly-shaped, cm-thick pancake with beveled edges, taped to the abdomen, would be invisible to this technology, ironically, because of its large volume, since it is easily confused with normal anatomy. Thus, a third of a kilo of PETN, easily picked up in a competent pat down, would be missed by backscatter “high technology”. Forty grams of PETN, a purportedly dangerous amount, would fit in a 1.25 mm-thick pancake of the dimensions simulated here and be virtually invisible. Packed in a compact mode, say, a 1 cm×4 cm×5 cm brick, it would be detected.The images are very sensitive to the presence of large pieces of high Z material, e. g., iron, but unless the spatial resolution is good, thin wires will be missed because of partial volume effects. It is also easy to see that an object such as a wire or a box- cutter blade, taped to the side of the body, or even a small gun in the same location, will be invisible. While there are technical means to mildly increase the conspicuity of a thick object in air, they are ineffective for thin objects such as blades when they are aligned close to the beam direction.
The problem remains that the TSA continues to look for ‘things’ as opposed to people who may want to do us harm and machines can only detect objects not a person’s intention. Too bad our government has not figured this out yet.