ABC: U.S. Airport Full Body Scanners Too Unreliable to Use, Germany Says

Discussion in 'Aviation Passenger Security in the USA' started by Mike, Sep 2, 2011.

  1. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Once you start exchanging freedom for convenience, it's a slippery slope.
    Lisa Simeone and barbell like this.
  2. Doober

    Doober Original Member

    If anybody is flying EWR to ORD today, beware: an acquaintance who has been without power for 6 days and has refused all offers of the ability to take a shower is also flying. :eek:
  3. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

  4. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach

    I appreciate that, and certainly respect your decision.

    I just think it's important that we continue to discuss that there exists no data on the long term effects of the MMW technology in the way it is being used today.
  5. N965VJ

    N965VJ Original Member

    We also have no information how the MMW is calibrated, how often, etc. so no one is harmed by burns.
  6. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    And remember that at higher levels the same energy becomes the "pain ray" deployed at the LA County Jail. The same technology was deployed to the middle east but as far is as known our military declined to use it.

    There have been believable reports of people feeling minor physical effects from the MMW so it's probably now as "low" powered as they would have us believe.
  7. Cartoon Peril

    Cartoon Peril Original Member

    Note the close resemblance of the MMW to the Agony Booth from Star Trek OS Mirror, Mirror. Good thing we're not in an alternative universe, or Chertoff would have a goatee.
    Lisa Simeone and FriendlySkies like this.
  8. RB

    RB Founding Member

    I think you can toss out the slippery slope concept. Our Congress has dislodged the snow pack starting a avalanche of epic proportions. We are like the tress down the mountain slope being ripped away from the weight of the snow sliding past.
    jtodd, Doober and Cartoon Peril like this.
  9. gojirasan

    gojirasan Original Member

    Didn't you guys read the relevant threads on Flyertalk? The issue of mmw safety has been discussed to death there. The consensus among those of us with a scientific background is that it is almost certainly safe and many orders of magnitude safer than the xray backscatter machines. The Active Denial System transmits at 95 Ghz. The L3 mmw machines transmit at around 27-30 Ghz or at about 1/3 the frequency of the ADS. So it's not just an issue of the ADS being more powerful.

    You know what else transmits at around that frequency? Police radar, automatic doors at supermarkets, and certain satellite TV systems. Every time you drive down the road and a cop aims a radar gun at your car you are getting hit with a much more powerful beam of RF radiation at the same frequency as the L3 NoS. A radar gun has to be powerful enough to bounce off a car as much as 1-3 miles away with a strong enough return beam after scattering and the inverse square law to be detected by the radar receiver in the gun. I've seen estimates of the average Ka band radar power at around 10 watts EIRP. I'd be surprised if the L3 Provision used transmitters stronger than 10 milliwatts (0.01 watts). That would make the radar gun about 1000 times more powerful than the mmw scanner. Now think about how many times a week you probably drive past a radar trap. I sometimes drive by as many as 4 or 5 in a single day. If you are concerned about the L3 NoS you should be far more concerned about police radar. At least from a safety POV.
  10. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    What's FlyerTalk?

    Dude, I work with radar devices in my cubicle, but thanks for the lecture.
  11. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach

    I will state, again, that the theory and modeling behind these types of arguments is correct, and I agree with it.

    What is at issue is this technology being used in this way.

    Do you not notice a difference between a human, with no barrier other than its clothing, standing in a semi-enclosed booth with the beams shot directly at its body in all directions over its entire surface at the exact same time, and the safe examples you cite?

    Police radar is primarily aimed at your car, and while some errant rays probably do wind up in the field of the human, there is still the car as barrier. Furthermore, at ranges of 1-3 miles, do the principles of diffusion not apply? In a MMW booth, there is no barrier between the human and the waves, the subject is in direct line of the waves, the subject is not in the diffuse field, but in the direct field, and is in much closer proximity of beams over the entire body simultaneously.

    Automatic supermarket doors are outside. The human in this field is not in a semi-enclosed space having the beams directed at it. Again, do the principles of diffusion not apply to these types of waves?

    Satellite TV systems are also outside. They are not in a semi-enclosed booth pointed directly at a human with no barrier.

    Do you see a pattern here. While some with scientific backgrounds all agree L3 MMW machines are safe for human consumption, this person with a scientific background says that we do not know what we do not know.

    What studies have shown the long term human health effects of putting a human in a semi-enclosed space and exposing that human to these waves over a human body while they are directed at the entire surface of said human simultaneously with no barrier whatsoever?

    To say that MMW=safe>backscatter is a logical fallacy. It is the exact same reasoning used to say, "We found no guns and therefore there are no guns on planes."
    Elizabeth Conley and Doober like this.
  12. nachtnebel

    nachtnebel Original Member

    Thou hast a point. Bend me over Elmo. On the one hand, undefined cumulative, resonant risk, maybe magnified. On the other hand, a blue glove lubing us up for the cavity search, at first metaphorically and then actually. Truth is, this whole program is a cavity search.
    Lisa Simeone likes this.
  13. Pesky Monkey

    Pesky Monkey Original Member

    Light bulbs emit radio waves too. That's not the point. A WTMD beeps or it doesn't. It avoids the judgement of untrained flunkies or a computer to see "anomolies", neither of which can discern a bomb from a boarding pass.
    Neither will be 100% effective in finding the mythical body bomber. One is considerably cheaper than the other and has an incredibly long and effective history.
    barbell likes this.
  14. Bungnoid

    Bungnoid Original Member

    I agree with everything you said, but my comment was in reply to Mike's post objecting to MMW w/ ATR in favor of passive MMW w/ ATR--possibly coupled with WTMD. In other words, his objection was specifically with the fact that MMW/ATR was not passive, given that there was a passive alternative. I felt it necessary in that context simply to point out that WTMD is not passive either.
  15. KrazyKat

    KrazyKat Original Member

    I feel it necessary to point out that whether the WTMD beeps or not, if they decide to cop a feel, they will.
  16. exbayern

    exbayern Original Member

    I have not had anyone put their hand or anything else up or down my skirt, nor been directed to a scanner, anywhere else in the world.

    On a side note, I have a new pair of shoes. :eek: I have been wearing a pair of Aerosoles I purchased in the US for $29 when my beloved GEOX ballet flats finally died. These shoes have set off the WTMD all over western Europe and Canada in the last month. (It is a good excuse for me to splurge over the new shoes I have been eyeing so that I can go back to non-alarming, comfortable and cute GEOX)

    What I am told to do when my shoes alarm the WTMD? Remove my shoes, walk back through the WTMD, and come back through. If I don't beep a second time, I am waved on.

    Why can it not be this easy in the US? Why is everything such a drama? What are 'normal' items of clothing such as skirts, and Aerosoles (or Rockports) considered to be evil and dangerous? When can we go back to not treating normal things as dangeous weapons?
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  17. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

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  18. Bungnoid

    Bungnoid Original Member

    Regarding the reports from Germany, this one, which I found through a link from the EPIC website, was disappointing:

    I infer from it that as soon as ATR v2 is rolled out with fixes for the pleats and sweat stains, body scanning in Germany will be good to go. This seems like just a temporary reprieve, not a victory.
  19. gojirasan

    gojirasan Original Member

    To me that difference doesn't seem significant. The fact is the overall RF exposure is much less than being shot in the head with the much more powerful Ka band radar gun.

    A car windshield is transparent to Ka band radar. Your legs and torso will be protected by the partial faraday cage of of a metal car body, but your head will get slammed by the full whack of microwaves.

    It is true that the the RF beam will spread and weaken somewhat at long ranges according to the square of the distance, but even accounting for the propagation losses at longer distances it is still going to be more powerful than the mmw NoS in most practical circumstances. You have to consider the actual behavior of the cop with the device. Even if he manages to get you with it at a mile or more distance he is going to continue to aim it at you right up until you reach him.

    By 'diffusion' you are referring to beam spread? Spread may or may not be an issue at typical police radar distances. I would have to do the math, but I think at typical distances it is going to be negligible at around 30 Ghz.

    We walk right past these doors. So we are putting ourselves in close proximity to the microwave emitter every time we do that. Of course, Ka band radar is (mostly) directional like a flashlight beam. If the beam doesn't actually hit you then the only RF radiation to strike your body would be leakage from the emitter. I'm not familiar with the design of these automatic doors so I don't know if the beam would hit you as you walk through the door or not. As far as satellite TV is concerned it is true that the emitter is not being intentionally pointed directly at a person and that you are most likely to be hit by small amounts of isotropic leakage from the transmitter itself which is not being amplified by any antenna and is likely to be very low in power. Of RF shielding is used then the amount of leakage radiation is likely to be practically undetectable. Metal is quite opaque at 30 Ghz.

    Perhaps the door openers and satellite TV weren't such good examples, but I think my point about police radar remains. The full strength beam hits you right in the head either through the windshield or through the side or rear windows of the car and in many cases from very short distances. Every time a cop or an automated photo radar device hits you with its beam you are being exposed to a much higher field strength than from the L3 NoS. I would guess one typical shot of police radar is probably the equivalent of 1000 NoS scans. I haven't done the math, and I don't think the EIRP of the L3 emitters has been publicly released, but I think that's a pretty safe assumption based on the differing design characteristics of the devices. The L3 emitters are designed to be only centimeters away from their target compared to as much as several miles for the radar gun. Of course, to be fair, the L3 emitter is reflecting off of human skin and the police radar is reflecting off of metal. What I think we need are actual power output numbers for the L3 NoS.

    None of course, but the elephant in the room here is that non-ionizing RF radiation has never been shown to cause any health effects whatsoever other than related to heating at very high powers at certain specific frequencies (2.4 Ghz and 95 Ghz) and it isn't for lack of trying. The L3 NoS is neither high in power nor at a known frequency for efficient heating. Based on that alone it is highly unlikely that it would cause any health effects, and even if it did, Ka band police radar would be far more dangerous. So it would make sense to campaign to eliminate that first.

    I haven't said that mmw is safe because it is orders of magnitude safer than an xray imager. My point was simply that, from a safety perspective, xrays are known to cause cancer and exposure is cumulative. Since you used a gun analogy, let me use one as well. The difference between a mmw NoS and an xray NoS is like the difference between a squirt gun and a .45-70 hunting rifle. You might shoot someone in the eye with a high powered squirt gun, but the .45-70 rounds are definitely going to do some damage. If you continue the analogy, if the mmw NoS is like a Super Soaker squirt gun then the mmw doppler radar gun is like a weak pressure washer.
    nachtnebel likes this.
  20. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach

    Regardless, there are no known studies on the long term human health effects of this equipment. Period.

    Anyone is welcome to stand in them. Until such studies from independent 3rd parties exist, I will not. It is therefore responsible to point such a fact out.

    And in the end, the bigger issue is that it is, IMO, a Constitutional violation anyway.
    FriendlySkies likes this.

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