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The DHS's Latest Investment: Terahertz Laser Scanners

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the can-we-shoot-you-with-this-laser-to-uhhhh-scan-you? dept.

Government 169

MrSeb writes "It seems like every time I set foot in an airport, there is some new machine I need to stand in, walk through, or put my shoes on. The argument can be made that much of this is security theater — an effort to just make things look safe. However, if a new kind of laser-based molecular scanner lives up to its promise and finds its way into airports as planned, it could actually make a difference. A company called Genia Photonics has developed a programmable picosecond laser that is capable of spotting trace amounts of a variety of substances. Genia claims that the system can detect explosives, chemical agents, and hazardous biological substances at up to 50 meters. This device relies on classic spectroscopy; just a very advanced form of it. In the case of Genia's scanner, it is using far-infrared radiation in the terahertz band. This is why the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is so keen on getting it into airports. Understandably, some are calling foul on the possible privacy concerns, but this technology is halfway to a Star Trek tricorder."

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169 comments

Oops (4, Funny)

war4peace (1628283) | about 2 years ago | (#40619261)

I should then quit smoking doobies prior to traveling. Bummer.

Re:Oops (5, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 2 years ago | (#40619407)

Invasive scanning without detection at 50 meters?
"Backscatter" vans are already roaming the streets of Amereica's cities. So I don't suppose that many months will pass before DHS has this equipment deployed into the hands of "local jurisdiction associates" sooner than later. Hell, they'll probably deploy this on drones, if they can manage the power-supply.

Then? They'll have your arse scanned and tanned before you are in earshot of the announcement: "papers, please!"

Good to know that there are Americans volunteering to die overseas, in the defense of such Liberty as this!

Re:Oops (2)

pwnyxpress (2597273) | about 2 years ago | (#40620243)

Invasive scanning without detection at 50 meters?

they'll probably deploy this on drones, if they can manage the power-supply.

Holy shit, look at that drone skimming the tree tops!

Re:Oops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40621629)

Oh please, spare us the police state rhetoric. We hear it often enough without you reciting it for us.

Blah blah blah Nazis blah blah blah soldiers dying. We know. What's the last thing you've actually done about it? Are you hosting any rallies near me? Done any investigative journalism? Or are you like every other whining fool, spouting off conspiracy theories, propping up straw men, and taking every bad possibility to its illogical extreme? Tell me: how does that help?

I don't care if you're right. I don't care if you're wrong. I just don't want to listen to people like you when you can't offer me anything concrete or constructive.

Re:Oops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40621781)

And where's YOUR protest? You know, the one you clearly started since doing nothing doesn't help?

Oh right, you, like the rest of us, don't feel like being a martyr and be thrown in prison to be 'made an example of' when you're disrupting the peace or whatever BS reason the police haul your ass away. The media would just smear campaign the shit out of you anyway, and the retarded public would be decrying your imprisonment the best thing since sliced bread, glad to get you off the streets.

But no, you keep on yelling at people anonymously on a forum. That's most certainly the best way to help.

Brought to you via NASA to a drone near you! (1)

Decker-Mage (782424) | about 2 years ago | (#40621705)

If you follow NASA's Tech Briefs, in Vol. 36 No. 7, there are a numerous of articles in there about Terahertz lasers to doing neat things in much reduced package sizes and at a reduced price, all things considered though this is NASA I am talking about. Many prior assumptions about range, size, power, and cost are going out the window so drone mounting is not just conceivable, I'd rate it extremely likely. A random thought about capabilities is that the spectroscopy device, which sure as hell doesn't need a god-awful large power-supply, in the TechBrief could also be more than capable of tracking down the source of pollutants, not just identifying a passenger carrying/having worked with, explosives, chemical weapons, ad nauseum.

Gee, the TSA/DHS and EPA could end up financing NASA. Is that a good thing?

Dubai has this.. it's awesome. (5, Informative)

tempest69 (572798) | about 2 years ago | (#40619493)

Re:Dubai has this.. it's awesome. (5, Funny)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#40619827)

So he walked over some?

I think the potheads would love this. They will start dumping shake at the entrence of the airport.

Re:Dubai has this.. it's awesome. (1)

lightknight (213164) | about 2 years ago | (#40620337)

Hmm. Terahertz-triggers for explosives.

Re:Dubai has this.. it's awesome. (1)

GodInHell (258915) | about 2 years ago | (#40621183)

Better down there than on the plane.

Too bad the Bomb Box concept is just a fantasy -- that would be the best method, a twisting path that has one or more areas which are reinforced and designed to direct a blast upward and out of an airport building while restricting access to minimize the number of passengers that could enter the chamber at one time -- in there you run some fantasy machine that automagically explodes explosive material. Warning: do not carry nitroglycerin pills onto airplanes anymore :D. Stupid physics and the lack of automagical solutions to our problems.

If you had not posted the link then (1)

bdwoolman (561635) | about 2 years ago | (#40621077)

I would not have believed the story. That is outrageous. Even more incredible was the guy serving hard time for having a poppy seed (well, three poppy seeds) stuck to his shirt. This, after consuming a bread roll at Heathrow. It defies all common sense. What a bunch of totally random bullies. Where is Franz Kafka [wikipedia.org] when you need him.

I once went to Dubai. It was a pleasant enough hotel-land experience -- expensive. But after reading that piece in The Daily Mail I will never return. I was put off the place anyway by another article I read. Hmmm. Bet it is still around... Found it! They have a serious environmental problem and the beaches are befouled. [bbc.co.uk] More like Doo Bye.

Anyway, your link just goes to show you what these kinds of technologies can lead to, especially in the wrong hands. But law enforcement everywhere tends to get pushier and pushier. I hate all the creepy useless stuff in our airports, too. It's no good. And it will come to more no good. But I don't have to tell that to this crowd. Old Franz would understand, as well.

Re:Oops (2)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 2 years ago | (#40619517)

If you eat enough Doritos before traveling, the laser will only detect cool ranch flavor.

Re:Oops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619835)

See, then you'd just get arrested for possession of paraphernalia.

Re:Oops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40620111)

Easy solution, take a little coke with you an hour early, and wipe it on the handrail on the escalator.
There should be residue on every single person in the airport, and they'll simply shut the machine down when it starts reading positive for EVERYONE.
Seriously - it's simple to foil the machines for so many substances - the same would work with a little gunpowder from a firecracker.

The fucking TSA is nothing but a Chertoff Charity - ditch it, and put that fucking thief in prison where he belongs.

Re:Oops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40620703)

Firecrackers tend to use flash powder, not gun powder.

Marijuana resin on the handrail would probably contaminate more people than coke would.

Re:Oops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40621223)

Flash powder will register the same to a "trained" TSA agent as gun powder would so it really doesn't matter. The point is this machine will most likely give more false positives over the course of its use. and coast the tax payers hundreds of millions to implement with all the other failed tech they keep insisting is there to keep us safe.

Sounds good. (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#40619335)

This sounds good. A device that can detect explosive compounds at a distance. That addresses the real problem. No more need to examine laptops, check documents, or pat people down.

Re:Sounds good. (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#40619593)

You're not naive enough to think that they'll stop, just because the original justification is no longer valid, are you?

Re:Sounds good. (1)

JohnFen (1641097) | about 2 years ago | (#40619601)

That enhances the real problem.

FTFY.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about 2 years ago | (#40619945)

No, I think he was right... if they have a way to check for that kind of thing without letting a high-school dropout look at naked pictures of me, then I'm good with it.

The problem is, they've had a way to do that for decades... drug/bomb dogs have a *much* higher success rate than any technological innovation that's been introduced since, with the possible exception of the metal detector. Couple the two together, and you have a solution that's much cheaper than the current theatre, and much more effective. Sadly, low tech options don't usually increase their share price.

Re:Sounds good. (2)

barlevg (2111272) | about 2 years ago | (#40619603)

But will they really stop patting people down?

First the legitimate: these things don't exactly have any mechanism by which to detect box cutters.

Now the bureaucratic: as the summary states, much of airport security is pure theater. People aren't as likely to feel safe if they're only being screened by "magic laser scanners."

Re:Sounds good. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619663)

First point is not actually legitimate, as the security loophole that allowed 9/11 to happen was closed before 9/11 was even completed.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#40620069)

Not to mention US passengers will take down and hog tie anybody who even mutters the word box cutter.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

Iniamyen (2440798) | about 2 years ago | (#40621363)

Yeah, it's a good thing that the serious terrorists go around muttering under their breath at the airport about how they're planning on hijacking the airplane, before they actually hijack the airplane.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

Znork (31774) | about 2 years ago | (#40619893)

Of course not. But most likely they will mainly be used to detect what taxpayers carry any residue of money, at which point they'll get a 'pat down' to remove any excess cash burdening the traveller.

Time to cut out the middle man; these machines are expensive and the producers have to be paid.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 2 years ago | (#40621855)

Of course not. But most likely they will mainly be used to detect what taxpayers carry any residue of money, at which point they'll get a 'pat down' to remove any excess cash burdening the traveller.

Time to cut out the middle man; these machines are expensive and the producers have to be paid.

This isn't too far off... if this thing is used to detect narcotics, given that 90% of US bills have detectable traces of cocaine on them [nationalgeographic.com] , leave any money exposed while being scanned, and you're likely to get a much more thorough examination and possible confiscation of your money.

Re:Sounds good. (3, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#40619717)

The paranoid part of me would point out that it can also detect various medical conditions at a distance. That's not necessarily a bad thing to find out about if you don't know you have cancer or whatever, but it has all sorts of ramifications, and falls under HIPAA....

That said, as long as it is not physically capable of producing a coherent image, it is significantly less invasive than the pedo porno scanners they use today, and really isn't that much different from the magnetometers except in the number of materials it can detect. I would view these as a significant improvement if these are physically incapable (because of hardware limitations, not software policies) of producing anything approaching an image.

If they can produce anything remotely approaching an image, then they are far worse than the porno scanners and should be banned. There's no valid reason for the device to be able to determine distance or even determine which direction the laser is pointing at any given moment if your only goal is to detect dangerous substances by their chemical signature.

I'm cautiously optimistic, yet very pessimistic all at once. On the one hand, this might be a significant improvement in privacy when going through an airport checkpoint. On the other hand this might significantly reduce privacy all the time, and knowing the DHS, if there is a way for them to screw things up so that they invade privacy more than necessary, they will find a way to do so. So the cynic in me says that this will probably turn out to be another few billion dollars of our money pissed down the toilet that should be spent on something more useful, like education, intelligence gathering, actual useful security changes, providing universal healthcare, feeding and clothing the poor, building highways, updating rail beds for high speed trains, or even just burning the cash for warmth....

Re:Sounds good. (4, Informative)

jimbrooking (1909170) | about 2 years ago | (#40619927)

HIPAA rules only apply to "covered entities": payers, providers and clearinghouses. DHS is none of these, so HIPAA doe not apply here.

Re:Sounds good. (4, Informative)

whitedsepdivine (1491991) | about 2 years ago | (#40619747)

The real problem is the false positives of explosives. Laundry detergent and makeup can actually give a false positive.

Additionally, explosive residue shouldn't signify guilt. If I have gun powder residue on my shirt, does that make me a terrorist? No. I could have gone hunting, or even brushed against a police officer.

Explosives Molecules != Terrorist

But with the TSA it means you will be getting advanced grope down, and will miss your flight. Even if you pass your groping procedure, they may still contact the airlines and see if the airline will deny you.

Re:Sounds good. (4, Insightful)

what2123 (1116571) | about 2 years ago | (#40619957)

Glad someone was thinking the same thing. I shoot guns, and play with model rockets quite a bit (don't tell the DHS though). If it has the ability to detect at the level they are stating, then there will be many false positives. How will they know what the "zero" is on the scale?

Re:Sounds good. (1)

MikeMo (521697) | about 2 years ago | (#40620799)

You have no idea if this laser backscatter machine gives false positives.

Re:Sounds good. (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 2 years ago | (#40621917)

You have no idea if this laser backscatter machine gives false positives.

No idea? I'd say that given standard statistical distributions, the machine is GUARANTEED to give false positives, unless it doesn't give any positives at all. Given that we live in a universe filled with entropy and this is a fairly advanced device, a 0 FP rate indicates an unacceptably high FN rate.

So the real question is to do with process and granularity of information provided, not FP rate.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

MikeMo (521697) | about 2 years ago | (#40622107)

I say again, you are purely assuming, with no actual FACTS, that the machine will give false positives on "laundry detergent and makeup". While I agree that it is likely to give false positives, the rate at which it does so and the substances which cause it are unknown to those of us on slashdot. My point is that one should not be all upset about false positives until such time that real FACTS about them are available. Once can be concerned that there may be false positives, but one should not state categorically that "Laundry detergent and makeup can actually give a false positive" without those actual FACTS.

Re:Sounds good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40622113)

Yes he does. Given that it can detect very small amounts of chemicals, and those chemicals are found ANYWHERE outside it's nefarious use, there will be false positives.

Critical thought is as simple as labeling everyone a terrorist.

Re:Sounds good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40621713)

Oh, you won't be getting the grope down...it'll be MUCH more invasive than that if you flunk this little test they're fielding "for our benefit"...

Re:Sounds good. (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | about 2 years ago | (#40622043)

If you brushed against a police officer you may need to be taken in for questioning for "resisting arrest"

Re:Sounds good. (0)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#40620015)

If you can detect it at a distance, why not detonate it at a distance, in a blast proof, single passenger at a time hallway.

Problem would be self-solving.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 2 years ago | (#40621963)

Nah; just need to automate this by putting it in said hallway, and have the detector trigger the microwave radiation unit that causes your skin to feel uncomfortably hot. The individual hit by this will do the rest, as they struggle out of any clothing that is triggering the heat wave.

Total Recall on the way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619355)

Someday soon, we will have Total Recall(original) type scanners, which show nothing but your skeleton and any hidden object you may have.

Re:Total Recall on the way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619491)

What if my terror weapons of choice are elite karate chops?

YOUR MOVE DHS /do you think you can challenge the master?/

Re:Total Recall on the way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40621367)

What if my terror weapons of choice are elite JUDO chops?

YOUR MOVE DHS /do you think you can challenge the master?/

There FTFY

Because nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Additional features (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619367)

Can it whistle when it detects traces of love juice on the terrorist's err customer's clothing?

Except for... (5, Insightful)

strangeattraction (1058568) | about 2 years ago | (#40619369)

Go and work in your garden with fertilizer and get some on your shoes or hat. Maybe your person. Next take a trip to your lovely TSA scanner and see if they let you on the plane:) The problem is the molecules they scan for are all over the place. There would be far more false positives than they would be willing to handle. If I remember correctly they where testing for nitriles by wiping with a cloth. So many people tested positive they finally gave up. Of course they have probably forgotten about that.

Re:Except for... (2)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 2 years ago | (#40619421)

How is this a problem? If the device detects explosives then you are taken to a secondary more "personal" search. I doubt that the false positive rate would be that high that it would be undoable... after all, the TSA is basically doing a 100% search rate as is.

Re:Except for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619477)

Yes, but it will also put you directly onto the "No Fly List" or "Extra Screening List" even if they don't find anything with the secondary search.

Re:Except for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619847)

They might just haul you in anyway and waterboard you. What are you going to do about it, civilian? Any resistance beyond hesitating when singing the national anthem makes you a terrorist and the green light to kill you by unarmed drone will be lit.

Re:Except for... (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#40621613)

Good. Then you'll all get to deal with some of what I have to put up with when going into (or near) the US, and hopefully will vote for someone who will stop it.

Re:Except for... (4, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | about 2 years ago | (#40619853)

> How is this a problem? If the device detects explosives then
> you are taken to a secondary more "personal" search.

How is that not a problem?

Re:Except for... (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#40619885)

It will be when some jerk/terrorist/bored teenagers decide to just mix fertilizer/gun powder with water and dump some on the floor at the airport.

Talk about impact per dollar spent. If you had to search every passenger many flights would be canceled or delayed and doing that at one major airport would impact the whole country, do it at Heathrow or O'Hare and you might be able to delay flights and disrupt travel for the people all over the world.

Re:Except for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619485)

Or you could step on someone else's joint on the way in to the airport like this poor chap:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-512815/Briton-jailed-years-Dubai-customs-cannabis-weighing-grain-sugar-shoe.html

And remember, all american money has traces of drugs on them (namely cocaine), so now they can always have proof of some crime to detain you. While I see this as a good thing, I'm simultaneously worried too...

Re:Except for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40621563)

Why not go tanning without suntan lotion and get accused for handling radioactive materials?
Oh, I know, you broke a lightbulb and a little mercury vapour got on your clothing.
Even better one, eat a lot of beans for a good methane buildup.

I don't live in the USA and never traveled there, so this whole thing strikes me as incredibly hillarious. But I'm curious, all the news are about the airport security and the Canada-USA border. Do people traveling from Mexic get the same treatment? What about people on cruise ships? What about people on private aircraft or private vessels? Do they go through the same checkpoints as the others? I have a hard time thinking of Paris Hilton or anyone of her set patiently standing in line with the others.

Ridiculous (5, Interesting)

Mathias616 (2612957) | about 2 years ago | (#40619417)

Good luck getting through an airport if your job has you work with chemicals, explosives, etc. I hear a lot of EOD tech's in the military often complain about the difficulty they have getting through an airport because of residual traces of explosives being detected by dogs. If this technology is as accurate as it is made out to be then nobody could travel the week of July 4th because they are all terrorists hiding explosives in their rectum's. Break out the gloves and strip search that 11 year old in front of their parents! Seriously, the TSA and DHS need to be abolished, this sensationalist security crap is not doing anything but harassing everyday people and systematically making our country into a police state.

Re:Ridiculous (2, Interesting)

sabri (584428) | about 2 years ago | (#40619481)

In that case, you can/should be able to be pre-screened by the TSA. They already have something in place for people with names that are similar to names on the no-fly list

If you work with explosives/chemicals, all you (would) need is a redress number and perhaps a pre-screen and you're done.

I agree with you that the current TSA system is not the best, but it beats the alternative (i.e., letting everyone on an airplane without any checks).

Re:Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619573)

"In that case, you can/should be able to be pre-screened by the TSA."

Every July 4th? What a wonderful day for a reminder about liberty.

"If you work with explosives/chemicals, all you (would) need is a redress number and perhaps a pre-screen and you're done."

What an easy way for terrorists bent on doing something with explosives to get a "free pass".

Screen everyone -- no free passes because you're in the military, the political class, or whatever other excuse. Either everyone is a risk, and thus everyone should get searched, or nobody should be.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

whitedsepdivine (1491991) | about 2 years ago | (#40619825)

Equality, everyone should be {insert bad thing here}, no free passes. Great logic man!

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety (Benjamin Franklin)."

Re:Ridiculous (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619583)

>it beats the alternative (i.e., letting everyone on an airplane without any checks).
[citation needed]

Never mind our entirely sufficient airline security pre 9/11 did only minimal checks. Every now and then a bunch of wackos blow up a plane. Big deal. Heart disease and traffic accidents do far, far worse.

So sometimes they get one through. No reason to live in constant fear and surrender all freedoms in a *futile* attempt to stop terrorists. I'm not saying don't put people through a metal detector or x-ray baggage or anything but this current crap is ridiculous.

Re:Ridiculous (3, Insightful)

nschubach (922175) | about 2 years ago | (#40619773)

Not to mention, if a terrorist really wanted to fly a plane into something else... they could just do it on a private jet which has no TSA screening. Heck, even a small craft (unmanned anymore) loaded with explosives could take off from any number of airports in the US and cause a tremendous amount of damage.

Re:Ridiculous (3, Funny)

hoggoth (414195) | about 2 years ago | (#40621491)

For fuck's sake, anyone who's read Make magazine could make an unmanned explosive drone by buying a quadropter from Brookstone and duct taping a bomb to it.
Take off from a backyard.

Technology will not be getting any harder in the future, folks.

The TSA: Keeping us safe from yesterday's threat, today.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about 2 years ago | (#40621987)

Not to mention the fact that if a terrorist really wanted to do something bad, all they need to do is bribe or hold someone with adequate clearance's family hostage.

The reality is that a significantly motivated person/organization can easily defeat any obstacles placed in front of them. It becomes an economic issue. If security costs $1MM, and can be defeated for $1k (including risk, human cost, etc), the security doesn't work. If the security costs $1k and requires $1MM to be defeated, it works. It is the orders of magnitude difference that is significant.

Right now we have an airport security apparatus that costs well over $1B more than the pre-9/11 costs. It is not statistically/demonstrably safer than the pre 9/11 security. 9/11 total cost was under $1MM to orchestrate... likely under $100k!

There is no such thing as perfect safety, perfect security, or perfect intelligence. Understand what acceptable risk is and we avoid wasting all this obscene money.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

JohnFen (1641097) | about 2 years ago | (#40619681)

That's a false dichotomy -- there are other options. But even if our choice is between doing nothing and doing what they do now, I would argue that doing nothing is the better alternative. By a long shot.

Re:Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619723)

Your thinking is flawed and unfortunately too many sheeple think like you do.

"All you have to do is spread your cheeks and let them in", no big deal, right?

"All you have to do is show them your papers." "All you have to do is not act weird." "All you have to do is not be <insert 'evil' race here>." "All you have to do is stay in your house." "All you have to do is not be born genetically defective."

"All you have to do is die."

Re:Ridiculous (1)

G00F (241765) | about 2 years ago | (#40620005)

<quote>I agree with you that the current TSA system is not the best, but it beats the alternative (i.e., letting everyone on an airplane without any checks).</quote>

The alternative was the screening in place pre 911, which was not "letting everyone on an airplane without any checks". They checked for explosives on random people, they had everyone go through metal detectors and might esculate to the wand. They allowed secure private checked in bags, and they looked through carry ons. But I strongly disagree with you, in that I would rather have no screening than what we have now.

However, I am ok with non invasive screening that do not get personal, can cause health issues, or collect data. This sounds like one, just like the metal detectors (unlike the naked body scanners, or the xrays)

Sure, I foresee false positives, and if they have a proper path of escalation to cause the least discomfort to the travelers all will be fine. But this is the Government, it will involve what can only be called punishment.

Re:Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40621585)

I dont know if you remember the system we had before the Thousands Standing Around (my name for the TSA), but it worked fairly well. all we need to do is go back to that (x-ray for bags and metal detectors) maybe add random drug/bomb sniffing dogs here and there and make sure that lessons from 9/11 are never forgotten and we will be golden, especially with the reinforced cockpit door.

The fact that the cockpit door was never reinforced after that Iran hostage crisis is ridiculous this should have been taken care of long before 9/11.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 2 years ago | (#40622047)

If this technology is as accurate as it is made out to be ....

Accuracy and sensitivity aren't the same thing. Maybe the detector isn't a binary detector (bad stuff detected vs clean) but instead gives a level reading for a number of compounds? If the level reading hits a certain level of a certain combination of chemicals, it gets flagged?

That's how I'd set such a thing up. Of course, this doesn't stop security from detecting at the lowest level, but since this is theatre in the first place, they'd most likely calibrate the device to a level that gives them precisely the number of people to detain as they can comfortably handle. It just changes who gets selected slightly.

The false positives will be the problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619445)

Once they finally deploy something like this that's invasive enough to spot all the dangerous molecules, they're going to be overwhelmed with false positives. The scanner will be right, but no terrorism or risk will be in play. Do these people have any idea how much trace levels of "dangerous" molecules you'd actually find if you did a broad long distance sweep of a whole airport terminal and everyone in it? Chem traces from cleaning your kitchen or working on car/garage products can look the same as traces from building chemical weapons and bombs. Same basic molecules involved. Take a perfectly legal trip to a handgun firing range and powder residue will be on your hands for a couple of weeks no matter how many shower you take, etc....

Re:The false positives will be the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40621843)

Take a perfectly legal trip to a handgun firing range and powder residue will be on your hands for a couple of weeks no matter how many shower you take, etc....

[citation needed]

General consensus is 3-5 hours. GSR stays on the hands until washed off. now clothing is a different matter.

Can you say false positive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619469)

What a gawd-awful idea. Most people don't have any idea of some of things they can walk through just by stepping in a puddle (gasoline or diesel) or walking across a lawn (nitrates). Do both and suddenly you're suspected of being around an ANFO mixture...

IMO this will produce so many false positives that it's primary use will be to provide a bogus justification for profiling harassment of our more olive complected brothers and sisters.

Make a difference? (4, Interesting)

digitallife (805599) | about 2 years ago | (#40619495)

"it could actually make a difference"
I'm sorry, what? What kind of difference do you expect it to make?
Terrorist attacks on planes are EXTREMELY rare. I do not lose sleep over them. You and I are far, far more likely to die from a plane malfunction or pilot error than a terrorist. The only 'difference' I can see is yet another hoop to jump through at airports.

Re:Make a difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619547)

Don't forget the massive taxes that support the red-state pork barrel that is this security theatre. Big government coming at you from the right too.

Re:Make a difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619861)

Besides, when was the last time security to non-civilian areas was upgraded? Oh yeah, never.

And so what if they detect gun shot residue on me? I like to shoot guns. Does that make me a terrorist?

Re:Make a difference? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40620681)

> Terrorist attacks on planes are EXTREMELY rare.

See, the system works!

Is this the same tech from the cat detector van? (1)

DeDmeTe (678464) | about 2 years ago | (#40619549)

from the Ministry of Housinge? It could pin point a purr from 400 yards away!

Re:Is this the same tech from the cat detector van (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40620713)

Loony detector van, you mean.

Besides, you don't need a bloody fish license.

Freakin' Sharks (1)

uzd4ce (1916592) | about 2 years ago | (#40619619)

And of course each laser will come packaged with a shark on which to mount it, thus further enhancing the airport security!

Weaponization (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619651)

Look. Here's the problem. You can weaponize anything. I can bring a coat on the plane and choke someone out. At the same time I can bring guns, ammunition, fertilizer, chainsaws, etc onto a plane and do no harm. At the same time I can weaponize my voice, become threatening and psychologically take over a plane or put other people in danger which will always remain undetectable.

It is up to the owner of the object, whether tangible or intangible, to have intent with the thing they're using. Until we can predict *what* people will do with something (also impossible) then searching for items is a useless quest bound to be snagged by outliers, different cases, etc.

So, knowing this -- know that you're never safe no matter what DHS does. It's all theater. The question is how far will you permit people to go in the name of "security".

This won't be used as intended (2)

DL117 (2138600) | about 2 years ago | (#40619699)

This will just be another drug hunting gadget that won't even encounter a terrorist

Re:This won't be used as intended (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40620105)

Its intended to enrich the manufacturers so it'll probably be very successful.

Will this detect cancer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619701)

Will this device be able to detect cancer and other chronic diseases?

Will TSA be obligated to tell you that you have prostate cancer as you go through their checkpoint?

Laser? (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 2 years ago | (#40619709)

Um... Aren't you suppose to wear safety goggles around lasers? Geesh... Take off your coat and shoes, put on these goggles, stand over there with arms and legs spread, turn and cough. Hmm... Something beeped; must pat you down too... Just frelling strip-search me already. If the TSA/DHS could throw in a breast / prostate exam during the search, perhaps it could help with the health care budget too... Preventative care works you know!

Re:Laser? (1)

cnettel (836611) | about 2 years ago | (#40619943)

It's all dependent on the power. As the beam is concentrated, a direct beam into the eye can relatively quickly cause permanent damage. However, you can also easily enough disperse the beam a little, or use very low power. I would suppose that the beam is dispersed in an application like this, as you wouldn't want to identify explosives just within a narrow line of sight.

if it is so important then nationalize the company (2)

Dan667 (564390) | about 2 years ago | (#40619929)

I bet if there is no profit to be made the tsa would quickly be dissolved.

I don't care about privacy, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40620347)

...I'll never walk through the airport scanners and request a pat down for one reason and one reason alone: health issues.
My mother's side of the family has a history of various illnesses, cancer being one of them.
Unless you can assure me that these things won't cause health issues as well, I'll go for TSA feeling me up.

Load of bollocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40620399)

Could someone with a background in spectroscopy explain how unlikely this is to actually work? Someone who isnt a conspiracy nut?

Follow the money (2)

melted (227442) | about 2 years ago | (#40621575)

FBI should look into who got the contracts and how decisions to award these contracts were made. Personally, I think this stinks from a mile away, and large bags of money had to change hands to make this happen.

Doesn't this just change a terrorist's objective? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40621813)

What if the terrorists goal is only to blow up everyone in the security line? I think we need to do pre-security line checks which will lead to pre-pre-security line checks which will lead to...

nausea (1)

Mr_Nitro (1174707) | about 2 years ago | (#40621885)

I have a complete and absolute disgust for the idea and persons behind the idea that somehow this planet substances be them minerals or byproducts of other biological processes should be banned and/or restricted in some specific point in space and time. We are born equals, we have the right to live and experiment with anything that is available, within the limits of not directly and immediately damaging anyone (no precrime bs). Also it's scaring how these news are scarcely debated and how often the discussion shifts to the more trivial and mundane side. Maybe the system is not 100% effective, maybe it will be dismissed in a while or never start at all but the very idea that something like that was put in place for 'security' (against ourselves....) purposes rather than base research or advanced space programs (dreams now... waiting for the rough awakening by some near extinction event) it's sickening. The truth is we are still under the fist of a very small minority of people.
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