Body imager fails to detect firearm

Is Twitter to be blamed for the failure of screeners to detect a gun, five times through a TSA checkpoint?

A TSA employee testing the Advanced Imaging Technology (i.e. body scanner) at DFW was able to smuggle a firearm through the AIT’s on five separate occasions without being detected.

Click here for NBC story.

It’s still too early to tell what went wrong. It has not been made public just what element of the system failed. Did the technology fail to present the image properly? Did the technology fail to identify the threat item and highlight it, or did the screener miss it? We don’t know but these are all valid questions that must be asked and answered.

Possibly, the TSA tester wanted to try a new method of concealment – a method that was not previously attempted during the initial testing the imager went through at the TSA’s System Integration Facility (TSIF), before being deployed. Again, another important question to answer.

One issue is that individuals who go through the body imager do not usually go through the metal detector, which would have likely been triggered by the gun. It’s ironical that the technology that is supposed to replace the old school metal detector failed to detect the very thing it’s predecessor was designed to detect.

It’s too early to say that technology failed us. And it’s too early to say that screener training failed us. What it’s not to early to say is that aviation security needs to remain a system of layers, that is not 100% reliant upon a single point of failure. The TSA tester should have been identified through behavior detection, travel document check, pre-screening or some other mechanism before getting to the checkpoint.

Unfortunately, as noted (oddly enough) in a book title Brain Rules for Baby, author John Medina notes that social networking is making the human race less capable of detecting the non-visual cues that have been our baseline survival tool for the past several thousand years. So maybe this was a human failure. Blame Twitter.

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