SFO Airport Security Notes

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Passed through SFO yesterday. A few notes:
  • They're still asking you to take your shoes off, but at least when you tell them you don't want to they directly tell you that they'll give secondary screening if you don't. Well, actually, they first tell you that they're "screening for stuff other than metal" and then if you still refuse to take your shoes off, they tell you that they'll have to screen you.
  • If you still refuse to take your shoes off, however, they don't give you the full secondary search---they just explosive screen your shoes, which goes pretty quick. This seems pretty sensible, since it's not like refusing to take your shoes off makes your carry-on any more dangerous. Sort of surprising, really, though, since I'd always assumed that part of the purpose of the secondary screening in this case was to incentivize you to take your shoes off.
  • SFO now has one of those GE entryscan machines. Kim Cameron hates them (link via Adam Shostack) but I've got to say that it's a pretty cool-looking piece of technology. I almost went through security again in order to get screened using it. Screw the indignity, it's full of science!

Update: Fixed the link in the above. Thanks to Bram Cohen for pointing this out.

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6 Comments

I think the "shoe wipe" is now standard procedure. I don't like taking off my shoes (true, its EASY for me to do so, I wear metal-free low cut, thin soled slipons throguh airport security, but there is the principle) unless I'm in a hurry.

Last airport I was in (forget which), they JUST did the shoes as well.

Any idea if the machines work at all? Your link gives a 404 by the way.

Any idea why TSA materials always say they're looking for 'narcotics' when they mean illicit drugs? That one's very odd, since they are in fact looking for amphetamines, psychedelics, and depressants as well as narcotics.

No, I don't know for sure, but it seems like a plausible technology.

My understanding is that "narcotics" is the generic law enforcement term for all illegal drugs. Actually, this raises an interesting question: do they search for controlled but legal narcotics, esp., opioids like morphine or oxycodone?

Intuitively it looks to me as if there would be fairly easy countermeasures. Specifically: have different people make (package) and carry the bombs (narcotics); do dry runs without the illicit materials to test sensitivity for potential contaminants; and, if you have enough material, scatter small quantities of the stuff about the place to drive up the false-positive rate until the guards turn the machine off. Oh, and send your suicide bombers to blow up the queue, rather than the 'plane or train it leads to.

How many seconds per person scanned does this gadget take, then?

"SFO now has one of those GE entryscan machines. Kim Cameron hates them (link via Adam Shostack) but I've got to say that it's a pretty cool-looking piece of technology. I almost went through security again in order to get screened using it. Screw the indignity, it's full of science!"

YIKES! Wow! NWO is so fun! Bio Metric Eye scans, RFID chips, COMPLETE data magnetic strips in your passport, BIG BROTHER LOVES YOU!

TSA doesn't notify passengers on their websites that they even HAVE to remove shoes. They do mention a "shoe profile" which is, 1" thick soled shoes, for some reason.

TSA doesn't however, scrutinize cargo luggage even remotely as close they do your flip flops, and dignity.

My biggest beef with security at SFO is the fact that at 2:00-2:15ish every Friday when I'm trying to catch my flight the entire security staff changes shifts. If you happen to catch them in the act they shut down all but one line, workers coming on duty work their way to the front of the line, a "staff meeting" is held then they slowly come on duty and open up the rest of lines. You certainly can't be in a hurry while all this is going on.

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