Engineer who exposed flaws with viral video will testify before Congress
A secret Department of Homeland Security report says that federal investigators have “identified vulnerabilities in the screening process” involving TSA full body scanners.
The secret document from the office of The Inspector General admits that there are flaws with the TSA’s use of the $1 Billion Dollar X-ray scanner system, and makes eight different recommendations on how to improve screening.
Full details of the findings remain classified. However, an unclassified summary of the November 2011 Inspector General report, was obtained by the Electronic Information Privacy Center (EPIC).
The report summary notes that the federal government has invested $87 million in the scanners, including $10 million for “installation and maintenance.” $7 million has also been spent on installing software to mask the naked body images produced by the machines and replace them with a generic avatar.
“We identified vulnerabilities in the screening process at the passenger screening checkpoint at the domestic airports where we conducted testing. As a result of our testing, we made eight recommendations and TSA concurred with all the recommendations,” the report states.
“When fully implemented, these recommendations should strengthen the overall effectiveness of the screening process at the passenger screening checkpoint,” it continues, adding that “quantitative and qualitative results of our testing are classified.”
“The agency acknowledged that improvements can be made in the operation of new passenger screening technologies to prevent individuals with threat objects from entering airport sterile areas undetected,” the summary concludes.
The report provides a basis for renewed investigation of claims made in March by Engineer Jon Corbett who posted a video of himself demonstrating how the TSA’s radiation firing body scanners can easily be bypassed.
The TSA initially responded to the revelations, describing Corbett as “some guy” who had launched a “crude attempt to allegedly show how to circumvent TSA screening procedures.”
The agency failed to even address the fact that Corbett had proven the body scanners could be easily defeated, and then it threatened journalists not to cover the story.
Corbett has continued his efforts to expose flaws in the body scanner program by interviewing TSA whistleblowers who have admitted that the scanners routinely fail to pick up prohibited items such as knives, guns and powder designed to resemble explosive material.
While the TSA has dismissed Corbett as a crank, he has not gone ignored by members of Congress, who have invited him to present his findings in a hearing on May 22nd. Corbett will appear in conjunction with Freedom to Travel USA, a traveler’s rights advocacy group.
Corbett will also file a petition to the US Supreme Court on the same day, asking the court to review whether he has the right to a full trial in US District Court to challenge the constitutionality of the TSA body scanner program.
It remains to be seen whether the TSA or the DHS will step in to block Corbett from testifying, as they did to internationally renowned security technologist Bruce Schneier, who has also exposed critical flaws in the body scanning equipment.
EPIC, which has ongoing lawsuits aimed at forcing the DHS to scrap the body scanner program entirely, says it will file a Freedom of Information Act claim for access to the full classified Inspector General’s report on the TSA scanners.
“This involves a program that is important to the public,” noted EPIC attorney Amie Stepanovich.
In February, The Inspector General released a further report claiming that it had found the body scanners to be no danger to the health of commuters or operators. Despite being cited as newly authoritative by TSA head John Pistole, we exposed the fact that it merely repeats old and questionable information that has been available on the TSA’s website for two years.
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