A screening procedure that sort of makes sense, the hand ETD test

Discussion in 'Aviation Passenger Security in the USA' started by INK, Sep 11, 2011.

  1. INK

    INK Original Member

    I travel a lot, 80+ segments per year, and this is a first for me. I walked through the WTMD and was randomly chosen for a hand swab. A screener with and ETD wand rubbed the swab over the palms and fingertips of both hands and them did an ETD on the swab. I passed.

    This seems to be an efficient way to actually find people that have been handling explosives. The only negative of which I can think are that there are a significant number of people that handle ETD suspicious chemicals and would require a thorough scrubbing before the airport. If they have had the handle on their carry on to alarm, they probably already do this. And, maybe that it slows the line a bit.

    If I am wrong, this is the crowd that will let me know.
    Doober likes this.
  2. TravelnMedic

    TravelnMedic Original Member

    Yeah but the false positive rate is to high especially since lots of lotions and everyday chemicals that aren't dangerous will trigger a positive.
    Elizabeth Conley likes this.
  3. There's glycerin in every single one of my toiletries. My husband has had a glycerin triggered false positive before. I'm trying to figure out what to do about this in advance of an upcoming trip with my children, where we will be double opting out if any groping is required. Wash with only water for a few days? Moisturize with olive oil?

    If it wasn't for the false positive that leads, do not pass go, to a private room groping, I would be all for the ETD.
    Elizabeth Conley likes this.
  4. TravelnMedic

    TravelnMedic Original Member

    Natural aloe with vitamin E does the job and no positive hit.
    phoebepontiac likes this.
  5. nachtnebel

    nachtnebel Original Member

    You would be right IF not for the false positives and IF for the fact that it would be easy enough to have someone load up the explosives without you having to handle them. Getting your crotch massaged by a person NOT of your choice is a high price to pay for both these IFs.
  6. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    Seconding everyone here. False positives are off the charts. My Master List contains accounts of people who were treated like criminals because of false positives.
    Elizabeth Conley likes this.
  7. INK

    INK Original Member

    I too am concerned about false positives, but in all my travels I have been "positived" three times, and only once was a "false positive." The first two times was for toluene, a component of TNT, which I had handled in my work. Both of these were when the machines first came out. More recently, my bag got a "hit" and after everything was taken out and swabbed individually, they could not make make it alarm again, and I was sent on my way. That I would consider a false positive.

    I use industrial hand cleaners, probably ten to twenty times a day when working. I use the disinfectant wipes/sprays/lotions almost every time I walk by a dispenser. I use lotions because of my exposure to solvents. On Saturday, the day of my recent swabbing, I went straight to the airport from work, only changing clothes. Yet, I get no positive. I even wipe down my tools with industrial cleaners to remove the grime from a days work. No hits. I wipe down and clean the outside of my cases with industrial hand cleaners. No hits.

    My suspicion is that the false positives are generated by TSA negligence or cross contamination and they have successfully propagandized us that it is our fault for using certain commercially available products.

    In the interest of good communication, they should publish a list of commercial products known to alarm the ETD. What is the likelihood of that happening?
  8. Cartoon Peril

    Cartoon Peril Original Member

    Why couldn't a bomber take the same precautions?
    nachtnebel and Lisa Simeone like this.
  9. Doober

    Doober Original Member

    Over at that other place that we're not allowed to mention, there is a picture:


    FIDO is the ETD machine. Could it be the fact that these gadgets are not being store properly that causes false alarms?
    Cartoon Peril likes this.
  10. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    Good idea on the one hand, but on the other hand, if they did publish such a list, it's just one more instance of their circumscribing our lives, with petty sh*t no less. "Don't wear this," "Don't do that," "Don't use this lotion," "Don't garden," Don't Don't Don't. "But DO, of course, be compliant and obey us at all times." The whole thing is ridiculous.

    I wish everyone would use high-glycerine-content lotion before they fly. I wish everyone would slather themselves with fertilizer before they fly. I wish everyone would leave stuff in their pockets. I wish everyone would gum up the works so badly that our overlords would have to put a stop to their insane procedures.
    Sunny Goth likes this.
  11. Cartoon Peril

    Cartoon Peril Original Member

    Suspect the main problem is overdetection of trace amounts of common materials. Of course that ALSO is good for terrorism, because the machine is incapable of distinguishing between residue caused by hand lotion and residue caused by TNT.
  12. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    Dog and pony show, dog and pony show. (Apologies for offense to dogs and ponies.)
    FriendlySkies likes this.
  13. INK

    INK Original Member

    If there were a list that says "the following products have been known to "alarm" the ETD machines at the airport" the manufacturers of said products would likely get involved and apply pressure in areas that we can not. This would be good. It is also the reason it will not happen.

    The fertilizer one is a farce. The specific fertilizer is ammonium nitrate, and it is no longer sold as fertilizer in a form that will explode. It must be further processed. It is part of the evidence in the McVeigh case that they had the processing equipment. It also requires mixing with a second agent such as diesel fuel. Even then, a detonator is required. So, you would need the reprocessed fertilizer and diesel fuel. And quite a bit of it. Furthermore, anyone that buys a large amount of ammonium nitrate goes in a federal data base. But none of this stops the machine from generating an alarm because you used some 10-10-10 on your garden yesterday. (Most general purpose fertilizers use ammonium nitrate as the nitrogen component of the mix. It is cheap and it works. When you buy your fertilizer for the yard or garden, check the ingredients. There are substitutes.)

    One more tidbit: the chemical composition is NH4NO3. Nitrogen, Hydrogen and Oxygen. The machine must be set to alarm on either the NH4 , ammonia is NH3 or the NO3 Nitrate. It may explain why certain common cleaners set it off.

    The glycerin one is also a farce and the compound glycerol is used in so many things that it is almost impossible to avoid. Read here to understand the folly of alarming on glycerin.
    nachtnebel and Cartoon Peril like this.
  14. Caradoc

    Caradoc Original Member

    Secondary problem would be the TSA clerks who do not understand basic concepts like "cross-contamination" from when they don't change their gloves...
  15. Cartoon Peril

    Cartoon Peril Original Member

    Also, what about alarming on the TSOs, how do we know what they've been doing off-duty that could cause a false positive. Of course there are no metrics, TSA simply has no idea who is testing who, what sort of results are being obtained, etc.
    Lisa Simeone likes this.
  16. nachtnebel

    nachtnebel Original Member

    Bottom line, if someone is getting their testicles examined in detail like they are from false positives, they should be under arrest, period. That is aprisoner intake move.
    phoebepontiac and Lisa Simeone like this.
  17. Remember the thread on the other site about the guy who alarmed for PETN? He demanded a copy of the printout and it actually said "PETN". Then an astute poster pointed out that the chemical make up of PETN is very similar to diesel (I think it was) and the guy had fueled up his diesel lawnmower the day before. What struck me as horribly wrong was that the machine said "PETN". It didn't say "chemical construct similar to PETN" or something to indicate that this was just an indicator, not a direct hit. So then, combine that with a screener using the machine who doesn't know anything about chemistry and the shortcomings of the machine, plus an SOP that apparently requires, without exception, a private room crotch rub if you alarm and you're suddenly (as the PETN guy noted) suspected of a serious crime and treated accordingly. Not cool.

    So, if they would have well trained techs running the machine and analyzing the results, there were strict procedures in place to avoid cross-contamination, and if the screeners could remained calm and work through the positive results without going all Kafka's The Trial on folks, I think the ETD could be a benefit to airport security. Also, if they would upgrade the machines to ones that were smart enough to distinguish common benign substances from explosives.
    AngryMiller likes this.
  18. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    That guy's name is probably on a watch list somewhere. Then again, the various agencies can't keep their lists straight, so who knows.
  19. AngryMiller

    AngryMiller Original Member

    The machines alarm on component chemicals, not the actual explosive. I've gotten dinged for glycerine contamination (component of nitro-glycerine and many cosmetics/soaps). IMHO the machine needs to alarm on more than just one chemical so as to get a better snapshot of what alarmed. Also the TSA employees attempt to handle this themselves without leo involvement.
  20. Elizabeth Conley

    Elizabeth Conley Original Member

    I don't think it's good for TSA employees to be encouraged to imagine that so many citizens are actually running around playing with explosives. These employees don't seem to be very well educated. They're given "training" that seems to consist of hysterical hype and mind-numbing procedures, and they're not being given enough real education to understand what is causing their "magic machine" to "alarm" incessantly.

    The overwrought imaginations coupled with the bat-stuff crazy procedures is just too bizarre for words.

    The TSA encourages their employees to believe the travelers have actually had contact with explosives?(Pulease!) But wait, there's more: the proper response is to go off with the traveler to a private room and coerce him into threesome?

    Who's writing these scripts? Oops I meant SOPs? Has the TSA been tapping the porn industry's talent?

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