The Transportation Security Administration and an Internet blogger are sparing about the accuracy of a video claiming prohibited items can easily be hidden from the agency's X-ray body scanners.
Blogger Jonathan Corbett, who runs the website tsaoutofourpants.wordpress.com, posted a video on YouTube last week titled "How To Get Anything Through TSA Nude Body Scanners." The controversial agency dismissed the video in a blog post of its own as "a crude attempt to allegedly show how to circumvent TSA screening procedures," but Corbett has defended the veracity of his claims.
"Remember, the machines have very frequent false positives, so in order to increase my likelihood of success, I wore a plain shirt (no fancy patterns, smallest buttons possible) and used thin fabric and single-stitched sewing for the pocket, and made sure the test item was 100% metal on the outside — no plastic, rubber, or glass," he continued.
In his original video, Corbett argued that because the outline that is shown when passengers pass through a TSA body scanner is drawn in light colors and placed on a dark black background, the machine will miss a metallic object that is placed on a passengers side that is the same color.
"Yes that’s right, if you have a metallic object on your side, it will be the same color as the background and therefore completely invisible to both visual and automated inspection," he says in the original video. "It can’t possibly be that easy to beat the TSA’s billion dollar fleet of nude body scanners, right? The TSA can’t be that stupid, can they? Unfortunately, they can, and they are."
Corbett said in his video that he tested his theory by going through traditional X-ray machines at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and one of TSA's new millimeter wave scanners at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport.
He noted in his follow-up blog post that he was "not advocating or inciting anyone to try this — I’m just saying it would be possible."
TSA has expressed doubts about Corbett's claim in a post on its own blog site.
"For obvious security reasons, we can’t discuss our technology's detection capability in detail, however TSA conducts extensive testing of all screening technologies in the laboratory and at airports prior to rolling them out to the entire field," TSA blogger Bob Burns wrote in a post last week. "Imaging technology has been extremely effective in the field and has found things artfully concealed on passengers as large as a gun or nonmetallic weapons, on down to a tiny pill or tiny baggies of drugs. It’s one of the best tools available to detect metallic and non-metallic items, such as ... you know ... things that go boom."
Corbett acknowledged he has sued the TSA over its inspection techniques and supports privatizing airport security. He predicted that his video would place TSA on the defensive about its controversial body scanners, which Corbett and other critics have said invade airport passengers' privacy.
"They can’t ignore this," he wrote. "They can’t ignore this — the mainstream media coverage is just beginning! I’ve been in touch with some of the larger MSM outlets yesterday, and additionally, I’ve been in touch with the offices of several members of Congress."
While TSA disputed Corbett's techniques for "beating" its body scanners, the agency noted in its blog post that the X-ray machines are "one layer of our 20 layers of security.
"We’ve never claimed it’s the end all be all," Burns wrote. "However, our nation's aviation system is much safer now with the deployment of 600 imaging technology units at 140 airports.
"It is completely safe and the vast majority use a generic image that completely addresses privacy concerns," he continued. "Also, keep in mind that is optional. Anybody can opt out of the body scanner for a pat-down."
View Corbett's video below: