Monday, December 28, 2009

Ways to make flying more secure cost time, money, private investigator Bill Warner quoted in the Kansas City Star and

1 hour, 20 minutes ago

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- We have Richard Reid and his bungled attempt to down a jet with exploding footwear in 2001 to thank for making us remove our shoes at the airport. Now that a Nigerian allegedly stashed the same chemical explosive in his underwear to sabotage a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, must we remove our shorts as well?

"Let's hope it doesn't come to that," said Mayer Nudell, a security consultant formerly of the Institute on Counter-Terrorism. "The key is finding methods that are effective and not just cosmetic, which is what we've been doing too much of lately." The most obvious fix is already in the pipeline. The Transportation Security Administration has been deploying millimeter-wave sensors that perform virtual strip searches to produce something imagined in those X-ray glasses advertisements that once appeared in the back of comic books.

The full-body scanners reveal an image akin to a photo negative and can reveal what metal detectors can't -- most anything under your clothing. Some 40 of the $170,000 machines have already been deployed at 19 airports. Six of the airports have such a machine for each main passenger screening. The remaining 34 machines are set aside for follow-up checks at 13 airports.

In October, the government ordered another 30 full-body scanners. Analysts said the Christmas scare, when fellow passengers stopped Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from fully igniting the explosive material sewn into his underwear on a flight from Amsterdam, could accelerate the use of such technology.

Because they are regarded as more thorough, experts say, the full-body scanners likely will replace "puffer" machines that blow air over a passenger and look for traces of the nitrogen found in most explosives. They also could replace handheld sniffers and swab collectors used to look for evidence of bomb-making material. Still, the body scanners have also been derided as an invasion of privacy because they give strangers working in security a way to peer through travelers' garments.

Bill Warner, a private investigator in Florida with expertise on terrorism and explosives detection, said Americans may have to suck it up to protect against terrorists. "The technology is available," Bill Warner said. "It's just getting people to cooperate with it."

See also TATP, PETN, and Semtex Terrorist Playdough Used by Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab on Flight NORTHWEST FLIGHT 253, Search all Muslim MalesRichard Reid the failed shoe-bomber had TATP and PETN in his shoes, PETN, or “pentarythritoltetranitrate”, is a high-grade military plastic explosive. However the “sniffers” at the airport only detect certain types of explosives

Even as the federal government took new steps Monday to study gaps in the system, some initial steps to more tightly control airline passengers after the incident on the Delta/Northwest flight appeared to be in retreat.

PETN (and TATP) is a chemical explosive that is not detected by the magnetometers -- metal detectors -- common at most airline security checkpoints. But there are other methods of detection.  (the white powder in the video is TATP)

One is a puffer machine that blows air onto passengers and then analyzes the residues. The TSA reportedly spent about $30 million on 207 of the machines in 2004 but only deployed 94 of them. The TSA announced this fall it was scrapping the program because the machines were prone to breaking down, too easily foiled by dirt and humidity, and had cost $6 million to maintain since 2005, more from this source...............