SECURITY Technology

Scan tech for ancient paintings at may be the cure for the TSA junk shot

Imagine a world in which your naughty bits are treated with the same loving care by TSA as are the ancient works of the great masters of our species’ art. That world may be coming soon, if tetrahertz scanning technology becomes mainstream.

Tetrahertz spectroscopy uses energetic waves somewhere between the infrared waves your remote control uses and the microwaves you use to cook up your leftover garbage plates. It has the uncanny ability to discern the structures and shapes of materials below the visible surface in a non-destructive fashion.

X-rays, by contrast, would never be used to scan the subsurface of ancient works, because it would be too destructive. But no one at the TSA has any problem aiming a dose straight at the old John Thomas if they think you’ve got a literal rocket in your pocket. And broadcast the resulting nudie pics to some perv behind a desk, no less.

Newly published research, funded by the Department of Homeland Security, aims to eliminate this problem – and direct scanning of passengers, altogether – by using tetrahertz technology to scan the whole room at once:

Researchers now report in ACS’ The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters a more precise and direct method for using that “terahertz” (THz) technology to detect explosives from greater distances. The advance could ultimately lead to detectors that survey a wider area of an airport without the need for full-body scanners.

So instead of making you stand for a quick porn shot, of which they never have the decency of sending you a few glossies anyway, you can now walk unimpeded through the airport safe in the knowledge that a scanner is looking for bombs everywhere. Of course, that also means that instead of per-person dick pics, you’ve got a whole room full of naked people.

But there’s safety in numbers, right?


Pat Downs and Screening: Let the Talk-Downs Begin

There’s no reason to fear the TSA. There’s no reason you should be embarrassed about being seen naked, no reason why you shouldn’t get felt up at the airport. After all, it’s a small sacrifice for security when we’re in the middle of two terror-related wars.

So saeth Tim Macaluso and Josh Marshall in the same day, today.

I’ll agree its a sacrifice. And depending on your personal preference, it may indeed be small…. But never mind that. What I wonder is: what do we get in exchange? What are we sacrificing for?

For all the hyperbole about the underwear bomber, the fact is that they caught him. Does that mean we need more security measures? Would chemical testing for bombs would have been as effective at catching the hypothetical Taint Bomber as either a pat-down or a screening would be? Nobody particularly minds a crotch-sniffing dog, why not use them instead of crotch-grabbing TSA workers? Are there objective goals to the new procedures that can be met? Is the TSA the best body to handle any of this? What are their success and failure rates at catching terrorists? Is there evidence to support the conclusion that the screenings are necessary? And who, exactly, won the contract that supplies the machines the TSA insists must be used, on pain of ball-pinching justice?

I have no idea, but do you really expect a bored TSA worker to spend a lot of time down there where it matters with just anybody? Whatever the objective facts of the case are, I wouldn’t look for answers from the TSA chief who has just today admitted that he withheld information from the public in advance of the new screening procedures because he didn’t want to “compromise security.”

Or so he says. But I have little tolerance for the insistence that the big, hush-hush secrets our security apparatus have in place are what keep us from harm. We hear that one over and over again – from the Cold War to the present day. I think its generally just a cover for bad decisions.

No, we the American people are certainly not suffering or sacrificing in the name of our many anti-terror efforts. Yes, we could afford to do more for the cause, I do suppose. But to simply shrug your shoulders and insist that, without the slightest evidence one way or the other, the sacrifice is “worth it,” is just a silly abdication of your rights.