Security: Airport: January 2011 Archives


January 3, 2011

Over the past few weeks I've flown three times through airports with the new whole body scanners (SFO terminal 3, SFO international, JFK terminal 2). JFK has the Rapiscan but they didn't seem to be using them at all—they were only in the priority line and a TSA agent was just standing in front of them. At both SFO security checkpoints, they had scanners (ProVisions at international, I don't remember in domestic) and they were using them. I'd been planning to actually decline the scan, but I didn't have to because in both cases they were only in some lines, so it was relatively easy to avoid them by picking which line you went into. At the international checkpoint, I actually had to cut across lines but nobody seemed to care.

If you actually want to get value from a security measure you need to ensure that people can't just bypass it. Consider the case of a terrorist carrying some device which won't show up on the magnetometer but will show up on the whole body imager; you just choose the line with the magnetometer.

Now, most likely the TSA is just getting started up here and eventually they will actually have scanners in every line and make everyone use them. After all, presumably they're not planning to have a bunch of scanners whose only purpose is be something for TSA screeners to lean against. What I'm curious about is whether at SFO TSA will give you the enhanced pat down if you refuse the body scan, since you could have evaded it easily without coming to their attention just by picking the right line.