Body Cavity Scanners

At least one company is touting its technology:

Nesch, a company based in Crown Point, Indiana, may have a solution. It’s called diffraction-enhanced X-ray imaging or DEXI, which employs proprietary diffraction enhanced imaging and multiple image radiography

Rather than simply shining X-rays through the subject and looking at the amount that passes through (like a conventional X-ray machine), DEXI analyzes the X-rays that are scattered or refracted by soft tissue or other low-density material. Conventional X-rays show little more than the skeleton, but the new technique can reveal far more, which makes it useful for both medical and security applications.

Posted on January 14, 2010 at 6:00 AM45 Comments


Mooman January 14, 2010 6:35 AM

Regardless of the privacy concerns (and I have many), nothing seems to be mentioned about the possible health implications associated with full body scanning.

Even a trip to the dentist involves the patient having to wear a protective apron to get an x-ray. If that’s what you have to do for a dental procedure confined to a very small area of a person, what potential damage could be inflicted by a full body scan if the machine is wrongly configured?

When I see the word ‘proprietary’, I would question such technology even more.

Clive Robinson January 14, 2010 6:36 AM

@ Bruce,

Not being funny I don’t care if it could find a stich in my butt or anywhere else if it cannot deal with every passenger in a timely fashion.

All these scaners and sensors and other gizmos sound great on paper and some actually work as advertised.

However they all fail the “time test”.

The first such failing is RFID passports, they slow down the line…

A body scanner that takes 10 seconds or more to check an individual is a waste of time, it won’t be cost effective to scan everybody.

And this is where all these gizmos always fail they take to long to be practical and thus can never be cost effective to run even if the unit price was zero….

Clive Robinson January 14, 2010 6:40 AM

@ Bruce,

Off topic but important.

The recent problems in Haiti are probably a National Security risk greater than Afganistan and Iraq combined and thus a timely Op Ed on the NatSec implications of natural disasters in other countries might well be in order.

And for those who are thinking WTF go look up Papa Doc / Drugs and what happened with the likes of Pol Pot and also the US issues with Cuba.

Valtteri Kokkoniemi January 14, 2010 6:42 AM

Great. If this would be fielded the underwear bomber would have managed to kill people after all, through increased cancer incidence.

Terrorists win.

BF Skinner January 14, 2010 7:02 AM

It seems to me that any security control has a basic principal that can be done manually, then more efficiently with automation.

The basic principal of the millimeter wave scanners is the strip search. The basic principal of the DEXI is what? a vaginal/rectal exam for contraband.

While both have been upheld for customs agents in limited scope we as a people have never been willing to accept that everyone of the millions who fly every day should be strip searched. Was our objection based on how much it would slow the screening lines? It’s impracticallity. No. It was fundamentally offensive to a free people.

As Bruce pointed out this morning on NPR there are methods that the scanners won’t find and airports where they can be bypassed for not being installed. ATC had the former security manager for Ben Gurion airport who followed Bruce’s interview observed
“The screeners are there to support their machines. It should be the other way around.”

This made sense. Do you know any crackberry addicts? If we don’t control our technology, it’ll control us and become the first battle in the rise of the machine.

Clive Robinson January 14, 2010 7:15 AM

@ mooman,

“nothing seems to be mentioned about the possible health implications associated with full body scanning”

Actually it is likley to be safer than you would expect.

Transmisson tomography relies on full “through-n-through” even of the densist parts of the body and thus usually requires significant levels of energy that get absorbed by the body tissues.

Reflection tomography relies on reflection usually of surface or near surface subsurface structures, it generaly requires very very small amounts of energy and at much lower frequency and thus (within reason) is considerably safer.

Diffraction tomography is a a half way house between reflection and transmission tomography. You trade raw power in the test subject (transmission tomography) with CPU power (reflection/difraction tomography)

The damage done by these systems is complex and when non ionizing involves nonlinear energy time equations due to the absorption and heat radiation profiles of the body parts concerned.

As a very very generality the damage done is related to W^2 to W^3 per cubic unit.

The energy required to work is again very roughly W^2 for reflection tomography and W^3 for transmission tomography.

Then there is the question of frequency. The human body has a very complex absorbtion/radiation charecteristic when related to frequency of the imaging energy.

Ionizing radiation as far as we can tell has no safe lower limit, just a level at which the human body on average can deal with the ionizing effects in RNA etc (this is about 4 times the Earths average background radiation level over a given time period, that is the damage is accumlative and the body has to repair it via the normal replication/repair processes).

Provided the energy involved is below the ionising frequency point and the power per unit of volume does not cause an instantanious heat rise of above 0.5 degree C in the most sensitive body parts it can be considerd (nearly) safe. Importantly non ionizing radiation damage is caused by the convertion of the energy into heat and damage only occurs once a thermal threshold has been crossed.

Now there are are further issues to do with structural resonance. The human body on mass is an aproximation to a bag of salty water. However internal organs have diferent water and mineral concentrations thus different conduction properties. However all objects be they conducting or non conducting have reonance issues. This is exacerbbated by how far away they are from the properties of free space.

If the frequency of the imaging energy is close to a natural resonant or anti resonant length then considerably more or less energy will be absorbed than the mean. However as the frequency increases into the low microwave frequencies these resonance issues tend towards the mean due to harmonic relationships.

And just to make it more fun there are near field and far field issues as well as if the wave front is considered plain or convex or concave.

All of which is usually way above ten ot fifteen good books on the various aspects of the subject…

If you and others are sufficiently interested in such things I can dig out NRPB et al refrences and those CENLEC and ISO standards (somebody else can didg out FCC and NIST advisories and standards).

Tangential January 14, 2010 8:27 AM

Some points that need to be considered:
– X-ray absorption, think one day round trip, connecting flights with long stopovers
– Quality control of the products, most of the “new” technologies are equivalent to alpha/unstable releases, consistent repeatable response is debatable
– No liability with the airport/scanner manufacturer on the product, hospitals and medical equipment manufacturers are regulated to an extent by HIPAA, who is providing oversight for airport scanners

jacob January 14, 2010 8:38 AM

Good grief I had been joking about this.
Can it check for polyps, might save me a trip to the doctor. Come to think about it, can they check my prostate? Throw in a walmart dentist and GP and i’m set. I’ll fly more often and perhaps even save money. It should make layovers less boring. Health care reform we can believe in. The government screws you literally and figuratively.

for females they now have seats with stirups. Serves three purposes, contraband, OB-gyn– and the mile high club.

vedaal January 14, 2010 8:54 AM


what if a woman refuses and says that she’s pregnant?

should pregnant women not be allowed to fly?

should pregnant terrorists be allowed to blow up planes?

there needs to be a safe imaging solution to address both of these

Clive Robinson January 14, 2010 9:03 AM

@ B.F.Skinner,

Howdy from the “old man” 8)

With regards,

“As Bruce pointed out this morning on NPR there are methods that the scanners won’t find”

Yup I posted one such method (a bone knife and pig skin and fat) oh shortly after the 9/11 and body scanner issue started many years ago.

And these basic issues have not been solved all the new scanners do is hope to spot that such things are out of accepted physical alignment with the average anatomy of a human…

Which admittadly makes the hidding issue considerably harder for “jo/joe Average” it does not make it much harder for some one with quite basic field trauma / surgury knowledge and a handfull of pain killers.

There is of course another issue of what do you do when the system fails what are the procedures.

That is can a terrorist inject themselves with fairly readily available tomographic dyes to game the system by making their body sufficiently different to fool the system or the operator or subsiquent procedures.

Then as you note there is the very thorny issue of

“… airports where they can be bypassed for not being installed.”

Recently a former senior in the DHS was interviewed by the UK’s BBC Radio 4 Today program. He sugested that it was OK to get other non US countries to bare the cost of installing such equipment in countries who could not afford it to protect US airspace…

Apart from the rather stupid attitude of “you pay for our mess because we say so” there is a much more important issue od “national security” does for instance the US populus want to have it’s close in airspace effectivly controled by the Communist Chinese?

And you then go on to the real pay dirt,

‘ “The screeners are there to support their machines”. It should be the other way around.’

Exactly the real issue.

Now to throw a spanner in the works of conventional thinking.

1) As humans are involved as both the screeners and the screened each side has human failings.

2) Human failing can be observed by others at all times.

3) If there are no penalties involved then you can go from observing to testing with little difficulty or risk.

4) testing allows ideas about human and system failings to be charecterised.

5) Once the charecteristics of the system are known if can be evaluated for weaknesses.

6) Any weaknesses found can then be tested and charecterised to alow the system to be successfully gamed.

So you can see how a reasonably insightfull and introspective thinker could in little time find out how to bypass the entire security system with little difficulty.

Infact we saw this with both Cptn Underpants and Cpl Hotfoot, both used methods found by others testing.

There are two solutions to this testing issue,

A) make the process too expensive “to enumerate” by having significant penalties.

B) Design the “flight screening” system such that an observer can never get sufficient information to get a probability high enough to make an attack effort worth while.

Why do A&B?

Well next time you go through an airport and see the bins and boxes full of “contraband” ask yourself how many of these are “failed enumaration” attempts by terrorists etc?

The most valubal resource to a terrorist or criminal organisation is “grey matter” in it’s planning operatives. And like common sense it is actually quite rare and thus very valuble to any organisation.

So with regards to (A) penalties for trying to “enumerate” the “flight screening” process,

If you had a very clear and open list of what is and is not a contraband item and made it clear that the penalty for a first offence regardless is “you don’t fly today and your bio-metrics and other details are recorded, your passport will be marked so that you will always go through full screening for a minimum of a year. And importantly you will go through a full background security check for which failing is a life time on the “no fly to/through the US list”.

It would have a significant impact on anybody who gets caucht in the “flight screening” process.

However it should have a “protect yourself against yourself” system (free or moderat cost of say 20USD in todays value).

That is you arive at the airport and put yourself through a self check screening process before joining the rest of the people for actual “flight screening”.

This “protect yourself screening” can be run by a simple question and self check / ask process and not require scanners of any kind just knowledgable friedly and helpfull screeners. Who if there is any doubt can quickly escalate an enquiry to a satisfactory conclusion with minimal issues (ie the item is put in hold lugage or other metod of transportation).

Also any enquires you have can be recorded so if you are told “that’s ok” by a screener there is no penalty if that is not the case.

Thus the cost of not self testing in advance is quite high, but low for those sensible enough to get assistance on the self check, and importantly takes the risk out of “flight screening” for honest people.

And because the system is Open if a person breaks the rules they have only themselves to blaim…

However the cost to those trying to enumerate the “flight screening” for whatever purpose (drugs / terrorisum / etc) is very high in that they become “known” and they know it will entail a detailed background check…

On a second offence you get an automatic jail sentance of 1 month and a criminal record and 1 year on the no fly to/through the US list.

Again you have no one to blaim but yourself, the self check process is there for all.

If however you are picked up and your bio-details are found in the DB and you now have different details and no legal reason to do so well “bang orange jumpsuit” and off you go to Cuba or where ever.

This might sound draconian but apart from the orange jumpsuit and open air Cuban accomadation is what you will find in various places world wide for Drink Driving.

So onto (B) making “flight screening” difficult if not impossible to enumerate.

If you think pack to point (1) about human and procedual failings, these are two of the three things those enumerating the system want to know. The third is will the system pick up my “contraband”.

Well the solution is belive it or not randomly failing people through the process.

That is you have a heiracical screening process from a simple walk through metal detector to a full internal scan like an MRI…

As you go through the quick tests some people will fail (for whatever reason) and some will pass.

Now if the system is such that your boarding card/badge is scaned at each point and the system (ie not the operator) provides a go / further check answer passengers either get through quickly or get further and further checking untill assumed clean or proven to be holding contraband.

Now at each of the early tests the system also randomly makes “false positives” those people then go on for further more detailed or time intensive scanning.

Nobody knows untill a finall full system if the person concerned has a contraband item or is just randomly being checked.

Now providing there is sufficient capacity and the checking is done sufficiently in advance of gate closure time the system will be fully occupided without risk of falling into “que issues”

The upside of such a system is it is not the operators who make the choice of people to more fully screen or not but the system. So that should remove any bias they might have. Further seeing people get pulled for more detailed screening will actually build confidence in the system (false positives to extra screening are only minorly anoying to those it happens to provided the process is clear and open). That is an overly responsive system is seen as better than an under responsive system.

The important point is that for a person trying to test enumerate the system they do not know what the triger points are for the early or intermediate screening procedures are, thus they do not know the sensitivity of the systems, and thus cannot enumerate the system without significant risk of being caught.

Being caught is a night mare for them due to the full background check and recording of bio-metrics etc. The chance that a reliable agent will get caught is high which as they are generaly a scarce resource a significant attrition. Likewise using low grade people will with the background checking cause their recruiting process to be enumerated by the authorities.

Lastly get rid of the need for “carry on”. However don’t do it in a way that is seen as “profitering” that is alow people to buy food and drinks to take onto the aircraft after “flight screening” at sensible low rates, thus they have little incentive to take bottles of water snakes sweets etc etc through as carry on.

There are other asspects to do with business travelers and their laptops etc but this post is to long already.

jgreco January 14, 2010 9:09 AM

@Valtteri Kokkoniemi

“Great. If this would be fielded the underwear bomber would have managed to kill people after all, through increased cancer incidence.”

I really like where this train of thought could go.

While I personally don’t have the technical training in this field to say if this is actually a harmful procedure (I doubt it is), I would be willing to bet that if some bumbling terrorist dreamt up a plan that involved irradiating everyone on board a plane to the same degree as this, the media would go absolutely bananas!

Robert January 14, 2010 9:09 AM

I’m not sure safety is such a big concern.

It would be pretty hard to prove that this scan, even in frequent fliers is the cause of YOUR illness later in life.

Unlike lung cancer and asbestos exposure which cause specific cancers with a moderately close correlation.

Not to mention you would have to sue the US government, in US court, something that historically hasn’t been very easy.

I’m sure that’s taken into account here.

BF Skinner January 14, 2010 9:20 AM

@Clive “…” well everything

My god man have you no bottom? A brain should/will explode if you stuff it so much.

A xray scanner wouldn’t find it either we’d have to post Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Michael Ironside at every airport for that.

Clive Robinson January 14, 2010 9:35 AM

@ vedaal,

“should pregnant… …there needs to be a safe imaging solution to address both of these”

There are several issues here,

1, Should pregnant women fly.
2, Can pregnant women be safely scaned.
3, Can a pregnant woman be detected if they are a terrorist.

The first issue is fairly easy to deal with “ask the medical insurance industry” they have fairly good advice for pregnant women. Thus that issue is covered.

The second issue about scanning pregnant women safely. Is already a question the medical industry has answered. And within reason the answer is yes. Both millimetric audio (ultrasound) and millimetric EM are thought to be safe within quite large safety margins.

However this is a somewhat difficult issue at the moment interms of deep scanning and other issues. For instance if the scan was to be done by say medical personel, then what if they noticed something medicaly important… So I’m going to doge those issues.

Thirdly is the issue of if a screening scanner can safely be used to detect if a pregnant woman is actually carrying other items within her body.

This is currently an unknown due to insufficient medical research on foetal scanning in general.

I’d like to be more positive but sorry the questions you are asking are actually still open in the medical field.

As an asside women in their third trimester realy should consider very carefully before flying anyway there are many many issues over and above the basic health ones (Nationality / Emergancy landing fees / being “left in a country with no access to medical facilities at a level you would have at home etc etc).

Likewise women in their first month may not know they are pregnant or have reason to belive they are so. It is likley that the nearer to conception a scan takes place then potentialy the more harmfull it will be.

However for the average woman they are probably at a similr life time risk point as for being X-Rayed after a minor accident (that is how many times have you been A&E/ER X-rayed as you have taken flights?)

uk visa January 14, 2010 9:37 AM

X-ray based security… not ideal for pregnant women and their unborn children. Imagine the queues that would result from women taking pregnancy tests before going through security and the human rights issues of a women to travel with a business colleague without having to disclose whether she may or not be pregnant.
Whilst less radiation may be better than more; a woman’s right to have no radiation without disclosure of the state of her womb is better.

DayOwl January 14, 2010 9:58 AM

Every time we “beef up” security, we get minuscule returns in relation to our input. Spending billions to buy whole body scanners will benefit body scanner manufacturers far more than the flying public. All the difficulties we create for passengers aren’t going to improve the holes in other portions of the airport.

It is true, the current method of selection and training for screeners focuses on serving the technology. The security industry long ago reduced security officers to props for the uniform. Any manager would recoil in horror at the idea of training officers in the methods used by El Al and –gasp–actually letting them do it! The best guard is the one who does absolutely nothing.

dob January 14, 2010 10:13 AM

Clive Robinson: ‘The first issue is fairly easy to deal with “ask the medical insurance industry” they have fairly good advice for pregnant women. Thus that issue is covered.’

You’re assuming the interests of the health insurer and the insured are in agreement. A cynic would note that the health insurer would prefer an early termination to a successful delivery.

IntelVet January 14, 2010 10:32 AM

‘ “The screeners are there to support their machines”. It should be the other way around.’


HJohn January 14, 2010 10:34 AM

@dob: “You’re assuming the interests of the health insurer and the insured are in agreement. A cynic would note that the health insurer would prefer an early termination to a successful delivery.”

That’s a pretty nefarious intent you ascribe to an entire class of people. Leaving the moral aspect aside and focusing on the financial, that terminated child would likely be another member that is paid for on its mother’s plan.

In any case, I have privacy, health, and fiscal concerns with such scanners, but I want more facts before I have a strong opinion on the matter.

Nobody January 14, 2010 10:50 AM

El Al also goes slightly further in not having their planes cleaned, restocked and generally climbed over by whichever air service company put in the lowest bid by employing the most illegal immigrants.

It’s rather silly to do microscopic examination of every passenger if you let entire trucks airside with only a casual glance at an employee pass.

Clive Robinson January 14, 2010 10:55 AM

@ dob,

“You’re assuming the interests of the health insurer and the insured are in agreement. A cynic would note that the health insurer would prefer an early termination to a successful delivery.”

Ahghh yes…

I’m from the UK where the National Health Service (NHS) picks up the tab for “births” but only a few “terminations” (and I think UK health insurance does not cover them either).

That being said I’m not sure terminations are les costly than births. In the UK there is genneraly no requirment for an attending doctor just one or two midwives who have close access to an on call doctor / surgeon if required.

At one time (hav’nt seen the figures for several years) the US had one of the highest rates of induced births nearl all of which require a doctor to be present.

I’ve been told that one of the reasons the US has such bad mortality rates during birth is the acual doctors being present.

That is to supposadly keep “insurance” costs down in the US a doctor is required at the birth as their $/hour rate is so high they keep their costs down by “birthing to order” that is the mother gets taken in induced delivered and pushed out again in just a few hours.

When a doctor/surgeon is present the chances of surgical intervention goes up however the mortality rate does as well.

I wish I could remember where all the figures are in one place on the web it used to be held at the Melissa Gates Foundation (yup Bill’s wife takes a serious interest in such things not just in the US but world wide).

The upshot is the aims of an isurance company might not be what you would think at first sight.

I know that a lot of French women where at one time comming over to the UK, not because the French doctors where worse (arguably they where better in some respects) but health insurers where behaving in a way that the doctors where increasingly refusing to do births…

derf January 14, 2010 10:58 AM

That’s one way to guarantee that there will be no suicide bombers – irradiate everyone so that every single human is sterile.

HJohn January 14, 2010 11:11 AM

@Clive: “I’ve been told that one of the reasons the US has such bad mortality rates during birth is the acual doctors being present”

Part of it is we calculate differently than many other countries. We include premature births in mortality statistics, whereas some countries don’t.

My twin daughters were 2 months premature and were in neonatal units for their first 19 days (the first part in incubators). Had they not made it, they would have been counted, whereas some other nations wouldn’t have included them. It isn’t good or bad, it’s just a choice on calculating, and clearly when one group includes higher risk populations and another excludes them, it will skew the stats.

Clive Robinson January 14, 2010 11:30 AM

@ HJohn,

“Part of it is we calculate differently than many other countries.”

Yes it is an issue that makes comparison difficult at the best of times (hence the problem with trying to find good figures on the Internet).

Even the WHO figures are wide open to interpretaion. And in the UK we have a group call Dr. Foster providing stats on UK hospitals the present the figures to five decimal places but…

They don’t give the raw data and when you look at a hospital where the mortality rate changes by 30% or more in one year for a particular procedure you could be lead to think “Oh my god”. Turns out in most cases it’s actually due not to competance in any way but low numbers of patients undergoing the procedure, and from wildly different age ranges…

Stat’s don’t yer just love’m…

Wilst on the subject how are your two little bundles of joy comming along and how much sleep are you getting these days 😉

Just remember girls dote on their dads and vic-versa. Oh and just remember to say to yourself every night “I know cute smiles open the flap on dadies wallet, but I must not orbit their little fingers” 😉

Shane January 14, 2010 11:45 AM

Speaking of body cavities… you ever been to Crown Point, IN?

It’s a fitting town for the research to say the least.

HJohn January 14, 2010 11:52 AM

@Clive Robinson: Wilst on the subject how are your two little bundles of joy comming along and how much sleep are you getting these days 😉

Those two little bundles of joy are doing awesome and are now sleeping from 7 30pm to 7 am. 7 months old now. They were even more of a blessing to us because we didn’t think we’d have them. My wife spent most of our marriage fighting ovarian cancer (which is fully eliminated now), meanwhile I have younger sisters with teenagers, so I was beginning to feel WAYYYY behind! lol. So to not only be able to have kids after everything, but to get 2 for 1 was perhaps my best moment. 🙂

I remember you mentioning you were having medical problems recently, I hope you have recovered fully.

Ditto your comment about statistics. They are pretty easy to skew when one controls the equation and the variables and targets a single factor.

HJohn January 14, 2010 11:54 AM

@Shane at January 14, 2010 11:45 AM

So, you are saying that if the country needed an enima, that’s where the hose would go? 😉

RH January 14, 2010 11:56 AM

I wonder what’ll happen when the terrorists break into one of these xray machines and turn it up to cancer causing levels.

jacob January 14, 2010 12:04 PM

You are someone I would love to corresponde with. I enjoy discussion and problem solving per definition. If you are open, let me know.

I have a newbie question. Can a plaintext? attack against the crypto work?
You could use various windows configurations. i figure that would yield something along a 2 21 attack. I have not seen anything in the literature. any opinion? thanks, you are one of the foremost “experts” that I look to. Thanks.

IntelVet January 14, 2010 1:27 PM

“I wonder what’ll happen when the terrorists break into one of these xray machines and turn it up to cancer causing levels.”

Good one. I bet radiation levels, are, in part, controlled by software and if the units are connected to the internet (storing info), they should be eminently hackable.

If we outsource construction to, say, China, I bet there would be at least one back door.

George January 14, 2010 2:11 PM

I’m surprised that TSA critics haven’t made more of the TSA’s plan to expose all passengers to ionizing radiation, which carries known risks to health. The low dosage of radiation means that the actual risk is probably nonexistent to minimal (assuming they’re telling the truth, and assuming they monitor and maintain the machines properly, both of which are large assumptions). But it is a risk that can’t just be ignored or spun away as the TSA will undoubtedly try to do.

If they are going to expose passengers to ionizing radiation, we need to ask whether the benefits of doing so are worth the risks. Given the TSA’s well-known inconsistency and ineffectiveness at using the technology they currently have, there’s every reason to doubt that the “officers” who view the images will reliably and consistently make use of the scanner’s limited capabilities. The TSA needs to convince us that they’ll actually be able to use the scanners to provide a real security benefit that justifies “nuking” anyone who wants to fly.

It might be helpful to highlight the situation as “The TSA wants to strip search all passengers with radiation that causes CANCER!” Yes, that’s probably an irrational fear. But the TSA owes its very existence to irrationality, particularly the irrational assessment of risk. Indeed, irrational fear is the TSA’s most powerful weapon to terrorize a skeptical public into quietly accepting– and even supporting and defending– whatever they choose to inflict on us.

I’d say that most people fear cancer even more than terrorism. So perhaps it’s appropriate to use the TSA’s favorite tool to encourage the outrage that’s necessary to finally bring their rogue agency under proper control and accountability. So shout it to the rooftops: “The TSA wants to strip search us with radiation that causes CANCER!” That’s so simple, direct, and frightening that I think the TSA’s propaganda department will have their work cut out for them manufacturing enough lies to spin it away.

Peter E Retep January 15, 2010 2:32 AM

You have almost defined the TSA golden advantage for us!
The TSA trans-body imaging will be callibrated so finely that it can DETECT cancer.

Fly for an early cost-free cancer and tumor screening!
Frequent flyers can convert gains to radiation treatments!
Lower the cost of health care while improving tourism!
Free to all travelers, paid for by Uncle Sam!

What a PR bombshell that would be!

Also, early Pregancy Detection tests.

Portal hypertension detected, too.

Many parasites detected, as well.

Flights should be paid for by insurers,
changing the meaning of Health Tourism.

Would you rather fly to a resort or have a mammagram?

Do both with twice the fun and none of the pain!

They could have Mister Trans America
and Ms Trans America contests,
and books of babelicious and dudelicious study images.

Give Playboy Flights a whole new lease on media life.

Audition for free!

Receive compiled rosters of all your passengers images while in flight!

Radiologists fly free, for courtesy.

We need a new positive spirit about all this!

Advertising revenue for targeting passengers to Medical Clinics.

It’s a bravely imaged new world!

Terror, phah! It’s about health!

Does anyone recall RALafferty’s
Ride a Tin Can Hoy Hoy story?

There’s PR and money to be made here, folks!

Phil Hancock January 15, 2010 7:41 AM

As the Dutch MP said in English (not realising that his question provided the answer) “But how can we tell if these are healthy tools?”
They won’t stay that way for long in frequent fliers.

Jan January 15, 2010 8:00 AM

after 20 scans you are considered Nuclear Waste and if you don’t stop to travel by plane you will be indicted for ‘Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Distruction’…yeah

cdmiller January 15, 2010 9:30 AM

Movie plot threat:

Terrorists design a bomb triggered by airport full body scanners and plant them on unsuspecting travelers all over the country…

John Campbell January 15, 2010 1:55 PM

Someone commented that we’re getting smaller and smaller increments of “security” for larger and larger outlays (in money and time) which will have people who have no intention of causing trouble to WANT to bypass the bullsh!t.

I think we are well into the “diminishing returns” margins…

“The first 90% is cheap and easy… but, for each percent after that, the price goes up by at least a factor of ten.”

I seem to recall a Yogism that should fit here but too little of it comes to mind.

Nick P January 18, 2010 2:52 AM

@ cdmiller

I hate to say it, but I’d almost like to see that. Only if you add a shoe bomb that only goes off if shoes are removed. I figure they will just use a bomb sniffer or something on shoes, so maybe a shoe transmitter that activates a bomb elsewhere when shoes are removed. Yeah, then I won’t have to take off my shoes. Progress!

Jonas January 18, 2010 4:53 AM

what potential damage could be inflicted by a full body scan if the machine is wrongly configured?

A friend of mine works for a manufacturer of medical x-ray apparatuses. He did audit the user interface and control software, and found that in some (not so rare!) situations it would suddenly make the device emit a hundred times as much radiation as intended.

He reported this bug to the management, but they showed no interest and took no steps to discuss or fix it.

The people who entrust their health to these apparatuses, maybe hundreds a day, do not feel or know what deadly radiation they are subjected to.

Regarding how hastily backscatter and other security scanners are developed and deployed these days, and what level of reliability and security we find in today’s software – even in the most scrutinized like voting machines, open source operating systems and others – I am pretty sure that shit will happen.

Personally I have decided not to fly anymore, because I am not willing to put my health, privacy and dignity at risk.

Adam February 9, 2010 10:03 AM

I greatly agree that an intelligent determined attacker will find a way to break a static defense, but I disagree that this technology is some special intrusion of privacy.

Fact: “Terror groups” have already placed bombs surgically inside their bodies, hence the case for the body scanners

Health concerns: As I understand bombs are bad for your health

Clive Robinson February 9, 2010 12:17 PM

@ Adam,

“Fact: “Terror groups” have already placed bombs surgically inside their bodies, hence the case for the body scanners”

I’m not sure if they where “surgically” inserted but yes of recent times there have been a couple of body cavity bombers. Apparently one went off like a firework (rocket) the other killed a number of CIA operatives.

“Health concerns: As I understand bombs are bad for your health”

In more ways than one.

Most nitro compounds in explosives have medicinal uses to do with the heart (TNG spray etc). If you ingest or absorb them through the skin you can end up with a racing heart and a NG Headache that makes a migran look like a minor anoyance.

Most other chemicals used in explosives have other medical problems thus implanting surgicaly or otherwise into a body cavity is going to require other skills over and above weilding a knife or rubber glove.

Oh and of course there are the two minor issues of,

A) Partial disembodiment should the explosives actualy work.


B) Depending on where the explosives are this may not prove to be immediatly life or conciousness terminating.

These issues arise simply because there is the trade off between detectability and quantity of explosive.

It would be quite possible for instance to put a “thread” of explosive between the bones in the lower leg or forearm and have some kind of non metalic detonator.

However as many bomb and land mine victims can testify having your arm or leg ripped off by explosives is quite likley to leave you alive disabled and badly disffigured.

The question then arises just how much or how little explosive needs to be in a person to have a terror aspect whilst escaping detection on a body scaner.

It might for instance be possible to deposit a large amount of explosives as surgical implants etc (as noted by others). If however it is put in the abdominal cavity just how much could be put in that would then reliably explode.

However it might only be a small amount just tens of grams that say just blows of the terrorists hand. Certainly not enough to be life threataning to more than one or two people. But certainlt enough to cause mas hysterian in the press etc which appears to be the terrorists current aim.

Michelle December 24, 2010 11:03 AM

Please correct me if I am wrong but don’t these scanners give of doses of ionizing radiation? If the images are giving off photos that I have read about, showing more of a persons curves than the average non medical professional really needs to be looking at. Then would that not mean that the person is getting low dose radiation for more time than it takes to make a typical chest X-ray? I thought that if you do not know you are pregnant then even radiation in small doses would be harmful for the fetus while in the embryonic stage causing cells to divide that are unable to heal or reunite causing birth defects and or leading to miscarriage? Why does people with out a medical degree to administer this type of radiation to the public run the machines? I do not agree at all to this type of photography. I read it is possible for the images to be stored so then how would I know if the person who takes the image of my ten year old who already has the grocery store clerk hitting on her (since I don’t believe he has a clue how young she is) IOW…then I suppose it is possible for the creep running the machine to look more than once and much more than necessary at the image displayed of my minor age daughter?? This is really creeping me out….I have not followed this political money scam very close since we find it rare to have time to stare at the television and as a working mom I am surprised that I actually had time to read the paper over breakfast but after reading what’s going on in airports, I am just dying to know ….are the machine being ran by same sex people or are there really non educated men looking at these photos?? PLEASE LET ME KNOW~ We might think twice prior to jumping on a plane…. if we could afford to vacation in this economy that is….

zorg December 24, 2010 11:53 AM

“…then I suppose it is possible for the creep running the machine to look more than once and much more than necessary at the image displayed of my minor age daughter?? ”

yeah, isn’t it supposedly illegal to have nude photos of minors on any computer-like device?

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