TSA Chief John Pistole releases a stament signaling their eventual climbdown on their latest staging of security theater:
"We welcome feedback and comments on the screening procedures from the traveling public, and we will work to make them as minimally invasive as possible while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve. We are constantly evaluating and adapting our security measures, and as we have said from the beginning, we are seeking to strike the right balance between privacy and security...".
Finally, there is a simple technological fix to the privacy issue raised by the new scanners; it is already patented and implementation would reportedly be EZ:
A cheap and simple fix in the computer software of new airport scanners could silence the uproar from travelers who object to the so-called virtual strip search, according to a scientist who helped develop the program at one of the federal government's most prestigious institutes.
The researcher, associated with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, said he was rebuffed when he offered the concept to Department of Homeland Security officials four years ago.
The fix would distort the images captured on full-body scanners so they look like reflections in a fun-house mirror, but any potentially dangerous objects would be clearly revealed, said Willard "Bill" Wattenburg, a former nuclear weapons designer at the Livermore lab.
Wattenburg said that when news reached Livermore in 2006 that the TSA planned to buy the new generation of "backscatter" full-body scanners, the problem seemed clear. "We knew what was going to happen," he said. "People are immediately going to scream like hell because they're taking the clothes off everybody."
Livermore engineers have been deeply involved in enhancing airport security.
Wattenburg said a Livermore colleague, Ed Moses, turned to him and said, "There must be some way to modify the scanner images so that they do not reveal embarrassing things about a person's body profile."
Wattenburg, whose long resume includes designing anti-terrorist devices, sketched out a possible solution and delivered it to Moses, whose computer experts refined the concept.
"Materials you were looking for would still be there, but body shapes wouldn't be apparent," Moses, the principal assistant director of the Livermore lab said on Saturday. "From the point of view of imaging it's very straightforward. Someone should do a quick study of it in an operational setting."
The Livermore laboratory sent off a final application to the U.S. Patent Office on Nov. 23, 2006, and about three weeks later Wattenburg said he called the Department of Homeland Security to share the good news. The patent application is on appeal, according to government records, but the federal government owns the rights to the idea.
"These guys usually come to us when they have a huge problem," Wattenburg said on Thursday. "If it's something simple, we tell them and they don't listen."
Wattenburg says the program is so simple that "a 6-year-old could do the same thing with Photoshop."
Well, six year olds don't vote. And this wouldn't offer relief to those worried about excessive x-ray exposure, or people with prosthetic devices that trip the alarms and prompt a pat-down.