U.S. Court Rules in favor of Body Scanners

The Court defied Fourth Amendment and told TSA to get public comments on body scanners.

Associated Press
July 16, 2011

The public should have had the chance to raise concerns about full body scanners before the government put them in airports around the country, a federal appeals court said Friday. But now that the machines are there, the government doesn’t have to stop using them.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the Transportation Security Administration to start soliciting comments about the machines, which show an image of a person’s naked body.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based civil liberties group, tried to force the TSA to stop using the machines, arguing that they violated privacy and religious freedom laws as well as the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches

The appeals court did not find that the machines violated the Fourth Amendment and said that, because the scanners have become an essential part of airport security, they can remain in use while the public comments. The government did not say whether it would appeal the ruling.

The TSA screeners who watch travelers as they pass through the machines do not see the naked images. The screeners who see the images work in separate locations and don’t see the passengers. Travelers may choose not to go through the scanner, but they then receive an invasive pat-down, which many feel also violates privacy.

EPIC said it doesn’t object to the scanners being used as a secondary way to screen passengers in some instances.

Mother arrested for Protecting their Children from TSA

by Erin Quinn
The Tennessean
July 13, 2011

A 41-year-old Clarksville woman was arrested after Nashville airport authorities say she was belligerent and verbally abusive to security officers, refusing for her daughter to be patted down at a security checkpoint.

Andrea Fornella Abbott yelled and swore at Transportation Security Administration agents Saturday afternoon at Nashville International Airport, saying she did not want her daughter to be “touched inappropriately or have her “crotch grabbed,” a police report states.

After the woman refused to calm down, airport police said, she was charged with disorderly conduct and taken to jail. She has been released on bond.

Attempts to reach Abbott on Tuesday were unsuccessful. The report does not list her daughter’s age. The mother and daughter were traveling from Nashville to Baltimore on Southwest Airlines.

“(She) told me in a very stern voice with quite a bit of attitude that they were not going through that X-ray,” Sabrina Birge, an airport security officer, told police.

“No, it’s not an X-ray,” she told Abbott. “It is 10,000 times safer than your cell phone and uses the same type of radio waves as a sonogram.”

“I still don’t want someone to see our bodies naked,” Abbott said, according to the police report.

At one point, Abbott tried unsuccessfully to take a video with her cellphone.

TSA policy revised

The arrest comes on the heels of public outrage over a video showing a pat-down of a 6-year-old girl at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. The April video prompted a new policy that took effect last month in which airport security screeners must try to avoid invasive pat-down searches of children.

TSA says it will instruct screeners how to make repeated attempts to screen young children without invasive pat-downs. The instructions should reduce the number of pat-downs on children, TSA says.

The Homeland Security Business

Note: Just as it happens with military conflict, the continuous imaginary scare of terrorism also bolsters the homeland security business with companies earning government contracts to provide security technology for monitoring infrastructure and citizens, even within their own houses.

By Constance Gustke
CNBC.com
May 30, 2011
A decade after the 9/11 terror attacks, homeland security is still a growth business.The niche—that includes James Bond-like tools such as infrared cameras, explosive detectors and body scanners—is expected to grow 12 percent annually through 2013, according to Morgan Keegan.“Homeland security is reactive,” says Tim Quillen, a senior equity analyst at investment banking firm Stephens Inc. “The stocks are hedges against bad things happening.”

One example: the underwear bomber, who was thwarted in late 2009. After that a bell weather homeland security stock OSI Systems [OSIS  39.11    0.04  (+0.1%)   ] rocketed 30 percent within a month. “The stock went on a tear,” says Brian Ruttenbur, a research analyst at Morgan Keegan. Why? OSI makes X-ray and metal detectors used to scan people, baggage and cargo that it sells worldwide. During the past 12 months ending yesterday, the stock has popped from $25 to $40, driven by border and port growth.

Much has changed, since the government spent over $20 billion beefing up airport baggage screening nationwide with X-ray devices.

Airline security is a small business: about $1 billion. There’s 2,100 airport security lanes in the U.S., and 90 percent use X-ray scanners.

“The scanners are ten plus years old now,” says Ruttenbur and “going through an upgrade cycle.” Recently, the government has ordered another 500 scanners though.

Screening cargo going on aircraft and boats at ports is also spiking. Now, only a small percentage of all cargo is scanned. Security screening will grow ten percent to 15 percent annually in coming years, says Ruttenbur in a recent report. This driver will help OSI Systems pump out strong security earnings.

Tiny Niche, Big Clout

There aren’t any pure plays within homeland security though—neither stocks or ETFs. Some players like OSI Systems sell their screening devices to healthcare companies too, so their homeland security earnings are diluted.

“You have to spread the net wide and separate reality from hype,” says Quillen

Both OSI Systems and Flir Systems [FLIR  35.52    0.28  (+0.79%)   ] are undervalued right now, says Quillen.

Flir Systems is a well-managed market leader in infrared cameras used to protect critical buildings, he says. This fast-growing market is slated to expand 20 percent annually, though only half of Flir Systems’ revenue come from government business. The  stock rose from $29 to $36 in the past year. And Quillen has a 12-month price target of $43 on it.

OSI Systems is another favorite. In the first quarter of the year, OSI’s security group revenues grew 27 percent over last year’s.

“The stock is a long-term play,” says Jonathan Richton, an analyst at Imperial Capital, citing OSI’s developing cargo scanning business. Analysts peg five-year earnings growth at 20 percent. Another plus driving earnings: OSI Systems is aggressively tightening operating margins.

A third player, American Science and Engineering [ASEI  86.07    -0.11  (-0.13%)   ] makes cargo and parcel search systems. But the stock is expensive right now, say analysts, since the company missed first-quarter revenue targets.

In the past year, the stock has risen from $77 to $88. Ruttenbur expects only 4-percent earnings growth this year but 10 percent to 15 percent in the next few years, as orders pick up. His 12-month price target: $94.

For investors casting a wide net, L-3 Communications [LLL  81.60    0.30  (+0.37%)   ] is a homeland security monolith. It’s also the sixth largest U.S. defense contractor.

The company makes surveillance equipment for airports and checkpoint scanners. “They’re playing a meaningful role,” says Quillen, “but security revenue is only about 5 percent.”

Its stock price has been flat over the last year.

These days, homeland security niche players are a safe bet though — even after the recent death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Airport Scanners: It’s all about submitting

It’s about giving away liberty for false security.  “Americans have yet to make any really major sacrifices for their security,” says professor.

AP

Inverted Body Scanner Image

An airport traveler who famously resisted a full-body scan and groin check with the words “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested” has become an Internet sensation, tapping into rising frustration over increasingly invasive searches.

John Tyner’s online account — complete with cell-phone video of the encounter — has helped fuel a campaign urging travelers to decline the body scans next week during the busiest travel day of the year.

It also raised questions about the complaints: Are Americans standing up to government overreach or simply whining about the inconvenience of air travel while insisting on full protection from terrorists?

“I think Americans, in their hearts, still feel airport security is just a big show — form over substance,” said Joseph Schwieterman, a Chicago-based transportation expert. “So they’re impatient with strategies they feel are just there to placate political demands rather the genuine security threats.”

Many of the people who have little tolerance for airport security are the same ones who want the government to work aggressively to prevent terrorist attacks, Schwieterman said.

Long-simmering annoyance among passengers and even plane crews has recently risen to new heights with wider use of full-body scanners, which show a traveler’s physical contours on a computer in a private room removed from security checkpoints. Faces are never shown, and the person’s identity is supposedly not known to the screener reviewing the images.

About 300 of the scanners are in use at 60 U.S. airports. The Transportation Security Administration hopes to deploy approximately 500 units by the end of the year.

Not all travelers are selected to go through the scanners, but the TSA requires people who decline to submit to pat-downs that include checks of the inside of their thighs and buttocks. Top federal officials insist the procedures are safe and necessary to ward off terror attacks.

“It’s all about security,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said. “It’s all about everybody recognizing their role.”

Tyner, a 31-year-old software engineer from Oceanside, Calif., insisted he was not looking for notoriety when he confronted TSA agents last weekend at the San Diego airport.

“I don’t think I did anything heroic,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I stood up for what I thought was right.”

After Tyner declined to go through the full-body scanner, he refused to submit to a groin check as part of a pat-down. He was thrown out of the airport Saturday after being threatened with a fine and lawsuit.

His confrontation spawned online sales of T-shirts, bumper stickers, hats and even underwear emblazoned with the words, “Don’t Touch My Junk!”

But he does not advocate travelers following his lead, saying he appreciates that most people cannot afford to put expensive trips at risk.

“But people ought to do what their consciences say they should do,” he said. “If civil disobedience is a way they think would work, I think they should do it.”

TSA Persecuting Opt-outs

Tyner’s one-man protest has inspired other efforts, including an online campaign urging air travelers to refuse body scans in a “National Opt-Out Day” the day before Thanksgiving, one of the year’s busiest travel days.

Brian Sodergren, 33, of Ashburn, Va., said he put up the site a week ago. Interest spiked after Tyner’s video went viral.

“This issue has picked up steam more than I ever would have imagined,” said Sodergren, who works in the health care industry. “The outpouring has been huge.”

Sodergren stops short of urging people to refuse both the scanner and pat-down.

“The proper reaction isn’t walking away and subjecting yourself to penalties,” he said Tuesday. “The proper response is to write to your lawmakers and get the law changed.”

But compared to security in some other countries, Schwieterman argued, procedures in the U.S. are far from intrusive.

In Israel, where Palestinians attacked planes in the 1970s, passengers face tough questioning and multiple inspections. Single women who are not Israeli citizens are sometimes inspected more intensely because militants have tried to use them as couriers.

“Americans have yet to make any really major sacrifices for their security,” said Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University in Chicago. “Pat-downs and scanners are minimally evasive — and there’s even resistance to this, just 15 seconds of awkwardness.”

TSA Hit with Lawsuits as resistance against scanners grows

A woman whose flight was targeted by a Nigerian man suspected of carrying explosives in his underwear said she believes all security measures, including full-body scanners, should be considered to curb threats.

“People shouldn’t be too much concerned about their privacy because this is a life-and-death matter,” said 55-year-old Shama Chopra of Montreal, who was traveling from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day of last year. “We should be discussing all security.”

But it’s not just passengers putting up resistance. Some airline pilots are pushing back, too.

“I would say that pilots are beyond fed up,” said Tom Walsh, a pilot and sometime aviation security consultant. “The TSA is wasting valuable time and money searching the crew, who are not a threat.”

One of the nation’s most celebrated pilots, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, has also detected the growing unease.

“The fundamental reason is that airline pilots are already the last line of defense for anyone who poses a threat to the airplane,” said the soft-spoken Sullenberger, who successfully ditched his US Airways plane in the Hudson River last year after it struck birds during takeoff. “We are — and would like to be considered — trusted partners in that important security mission.”

At least one pilots union, the U.S. Airline Pilots Association, has issued new instructions to members to call in sick and not board flights if, after a pat-down, they are too upset to fly.

“If the pilot feels the groping is too much and they are stressed out — they are obliged not to fly,” union spokesman James Ray said. He insisted the new instruction is not meant as a protest, saying it complies with rules that pilots don’t fly if they feel they are not fit.

Despite the concerns about pat-downs, Ray said, the union recommends pilots avoid going through scanners out of concern that cumulative effects of low radiation could be harmful.

But Ray agreed that if enough pilots and travelers opt out of body scans, delays could result, especially if there aren’t enough TSA screeners to conduct the more time-consuming pat-downs.

From now on, Tyner said, his protest of choice will be more straightforward: Whenever he can, he simply won’t fly. He said that should be practical option because most of the friends and relatives he visits are in the California area.

“I would suggest other people also take the train, bus or car instead of a plane,” he said. “Take a trip and enjoy the countryside.”

Related Articles:

Naked body scanner images leaked online

TSA harasses children

U.S. Feds: Airport Scanners DO Store Naked Body Images

TSA requires all airport body scanners it purchases to be able to store and transmit images for “testing, training, and evaluation purposes.”

CNET

For the last few years, federal agencies have defended body scanning by insisting that all images will be discarded as soon as they’re viewed. The Transportation Security Administration claimed last summer, for instance, that “scanned images cannot be stored or recorded.”

Now it turns out that some police agencies are storing the controversial images after all. 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.

This follows an earlier disclosure (PDF) by the TSA that it requires all airport body scanners it purchases to be able to store and transmit images for “testing, training, and evaluation purposes.” The agency says, however, that those capabilities are not normally activated when the devices are installed at airports.

Body scanners penetrate clothing to provide a highly detailed image so accurate that critics have likened it to a virtual strip search. Technologies vary, with millimeter wave systems capturing fuzzier images, and backscatter X-ray machines able to show precise anatomical detail. The U.S. government likes the idea because body scanners can detect concealed weapons better than traditional magnetometers.

This privacy debate, which has been simmering since the days of the Bush administration, came to a boil two weeks ago when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that scanners would soon appear at virtually every major airport. The updated list includes airports in New York City, Dallas, Washington, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, and Philadelphia.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, has filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to grant an immediate injunction pulling the plug on TSA’s body scanning program. In a separate lawsuit, EPIC obtained a letter (PDF) from the Marshals Service, part of the Justice Department, and released it on Tuesday afternoon.

These “devices are designed and deployed in a way that allows the images to be routinely stored and recorded, which is exactly what the Marshals Service is doing,” EPIC executive director Marc Rotenberg told CNET. “We think it’s significant.”

William Bordley, an associate general counsel with the Marshals Service, acknowledged in the letter that “approximately 35,314 images…have been stored on the Brijot Gen2 machine” used in the Orlando, Fla. federal courthouse. In addition, Bordley wrote, a Millivision machine was tested in the Washington, D.C. federal courthouse but it was sent back to the manufacturer, which now apparently possesses the image database.

The Gen 2 machine, manufactured by Brijot of Lake Mary, Fla., uses a millimeter wave radiometer and accompanying video camera to store up to 40,000 images and records. Brijot boasts that it can even be operated remotely: “The Gen 2 detection engine capability eliminates the need for constant user observation and local operation for effective monitoring. Using our APIs, instantly connect to your units from a remote location via the Brijot Client interface.”

This trickle of disclosures about the true capabilities of body scanners–and how they’re being used in practice–is probably what alarms privacy advocates more than anything else.

A 70-page document (PDF) showing the TSA’s procurement specifications, classified as “sensitive security information,” says that in some modes the scanner must “allow exporting of image data in real time” and provide a mechanism for “high-speed transfer of image data” over the network. (It also says that image filters will “protect the identity, modesty, and privacy of the passenger.”)

“TSA is not being straightforward with the public about the capabilities of these devices,” Rotenberg said. “This is the Department of Homeland Security subjecting every U.S. traveler to an intrusive search that can be recorded without any suspicion–I think it’s outrageous.” EPIC’s lawsuit says that the TSA should have announced formal regulations, and argues that the body scanners violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits “unreasonable” searches.

TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz told CNET on Wednesday that the agency’s scanners are delivered to airports with the image recording functions turned off. “We’re not recording them,” she said. “I’m reiterating that to the public. We are not ever activating those capabilities at the airport.”

The TSA maintains that body scanning is perfectly constitutional: “The program is designed to respect individual sensibilities regarding privacy, modesty and personal autonomy to the maximum extent possible, while still performing its crucial function of protecting all members of the public from potentially catastrophic events.”