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November 27th, 2010

Lab’s or Grabs? Fixing the Airline Security System in America

By Captain Dave Funk (Retired) NWA, Laird & Associates, Inc.

Among all the huffing and puffing by politicians, the travelling public and the media about the Transportation Security Agency’s (TSA) recent introduction of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) devices in our nation’s airports, one point remains unsaid and that is AIT systems do not detect explosives!

AIT systems do not measure the density of an object, the key to explosive detection.  They were designed to simply “see” through your clothes and allow the operator to resolve any alarms triggered by the walk through metal detectors and to “see” objects on the surface of the body.

The TSA has promised to protect your privacy. But by blurring your face and groin on the monitor the effectiveness of both the backscatter and millimeter wave systems currently deployed is greatly reduced limiting the usefulness of the technology. It is because of the limits of spatial resolution and penetration in the image train that blurring the image detracts from the unit’s ability to show the operator what he or she is looking for.   Despite congressionally-imposed mandates, the laws of physics still apply.

If we think back to the original threat – explosives hidden in a non-metallic container in the suicide bombers underwear there are several ways to detect the explosives. The TSA has deployed AIT and/or what has become known as an ‘intrusive’ pat down.  Another effective and deployable system that will work right now is properly trained bomb detection canine teams.

Without scientific training it is nearly impossible to build a concealable bomb “clean” enough to evade detection by a trained dog. The cost-to-date of the AIT systems tops $4 billion compared to contracting with private firms to provide the 3,000 or so required dog teams nationwide of roughly $300 million annually.

Over fifteen years ago, the team at Laird and Associates started talking about what a disaster it would be if the government ever took over the airline passenger screening process knowing full well that most countries of the world, including Israel use private sector screeners with strict government oversight. Following 9/11 the TSA was formed and our worst fears are happening daily in every airport in America.

Let’s stop throwing money down the black hole that is the TSA and let the airports again take back the screening process using proven and effective methods and technologies, meeting federal standards and serving the customer while protecting the skies over America.

Effective security is good customer service and anything that does not contribute to that goal is a waste of the taxpayers’ money.

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About the Author

The Iowa Republican

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