TSA Pulls Plug on Airport Nude Body Scanners
by David Kravets
The Transportation Security Administration is pulling the plug on its nude body scanner program, a decision announced Friday that closes the door to a tumultuous privacy battle with the public scoring a rare victory.
Travelers will continue to go through one of two types of scanners already deployed, but images of naked bodies will no longer be produced. Instead, software will instead show a generic outline of a person.
First tested in 2007, the advanced imaging technology scanners became the object of intense media and public scrutiny around Thanksgiving in 2010. In addition to privacy concerns, some experts maintained the scanners' safety was unproven, and that the technology was ineffective in detecting smuggled weapons and explosives. Travelers are permitted to opt-out of the scan, but are then subjected to an aggressive pat-down procedure.
The government said Friday it is abandoning its deployment of so-called backscatter technology machines produced by Rapiscan because the company could not meet deadlines to switch to generic imaging with so-called Automated Target Recognition software, the TSA said. Instead, the TSA will continue to use and deploy more millimeter wave technology scanners produced by L-3 Communications, which has adopted the generic-outline standard.
“Due to its inability to deploy non-imaging Automated Target Recognition (ATR) software by the Congressionally-mandated June 2013 deadline, TSA has terminated part of its contract with Rapiscan,” the TSA said in a statement to Wired. “By June 2013 travelers will only see machines which have ATR that allow for faster throughput.”
The announcement comes three months after Rapiscan came under suspicion for possibly manipulating tests on the privacy software designed to prevent the machines from producing graphic body images. The TSA sent a letter in November to the parent company of Rapiscan, the maker of the so-called backscatter machines, requesting information about the testing of the software to determine if there was malfeasance.
The government has spent about $90 million replacing traditional magnetometers with the controversial body-scanning machines at airports nationwide.
Rapiscan had a contract to produce 500 machines for the TSA at a cost of about $180,000 each. The company could be fined and barred from participating in government contracts, or employees could face prison terms if it is found to have defrauded the government. In all, the 250 Rapiscan machines already deployed are to be phased out of airports nationwide and will be replaced with machines produced by L-3 Communications.
The move away from Rapiscan machines is more than a boost to privacy.
Unlike the competing millimeter-wave technology produced by L-3 Communications that employ radio waves to detect metallic and non-metallic substances, the Rapiscan machines expose travelers to a small X-ray dose. The TSA and Rapiscan maintained the machines are safe, despite some academics telling the White House (pdf) that the government did not adequately study the backscatter X-ray devices.
The TSA's announcement ironically comes after its December decision to commission the National Academy of Sciences — a private non-profit filled with engineering and science scholars — ”to estimate radiation exposure resulting from backscatter X-ray advanced imaging technology.”
Both companies' machines were the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which charged that the machines were ineffective, unsafe and were an unconstitutional privacy breach. A federal appeals court said the TSA breached federal law in 2009 when it formally adopted the airport scanners as the “primary” method of screening. The judges said the TSA violated the Administrative Procedures Act for failing to have a 90-day public comment period, and ordered the agency to undertake one, which is scheduled for this spring.
But a week after the July 2011 decision, which said the machines were not an unconstitutional privacy breach, the TSA announced its move to the generic-imaging style.
“We won,” Marc Rotenberg, EPIC's executive director, said in an e-mail.
GRPD Explains Community Policing on Southeast Side
by Darren Cunningham
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Officer Adam Baylis works in what's been one of the city's most troubled areas, the southeast side.
He's been a community officer for 15 years, which is considered one of the proactive roles in local law enforcement.
“We're each assigned a beat. My beat is Inkster, Madison, Wealthy and Cottage Grove,” Baylis explained.
“Well, a lot of people have perceptions on police. There's distrust in some neighborhoods on police,” he said.
“And once they see us every day, they talk to us every day, even some of the people that are up to no good in the neighborhoods develop some trust because they see us every day because we're talking with them, and it's not always in a confrontational situation,” Baylis explained.
That communication with citizens hopefully deters crime and leads to key information for unsolved crimes.
In the just over a month, nine people have died from gun violence on the city's southeast side. One of the victims, Gregory Woods Jr. was shot to death on Neland Avenue.
That's right around the corner from the Baxter Neighborhood Association, which is an organization officer Baylis works with constantly.
“Some of the communities that have dropped their community policing, have more problems than they ever expected,” Marian Barrera-Young said.
In his coverage area on the southeast side, Sergeant Michael Maycroft says his team recovered 17 handguns in 2012.
“Anytime you can take those guns off the street you might be preventing another shooting or another homicide,” Maycroft said.
The Baxter Neighborhood Association is located right around the corner from Neland Avenue, where Gregory Woods Jr. was shot to death.
“We need cooperation from the community, police cannot do this alone. No question about it,” Maycroft said.
“It makes it much tougher and takes us much longer to get these criminals off the street, who are acting quite violent, and when you start seeing this homicides go at such a quick rate in such a short amount of time it's very concerning for us as well, for officer safety and for citizen safety,” he explained.
Judge ends most oversight of Ohio youth prisons
by ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge on Friday ended most of his court-ordered monitoring of Ohio's youth prison system while ruling that oversight of mental health services and units for students with behavioral issues must continue.
The decision by Judge Algenon Marbley brings to an end the ongoing court review of numerous issues such as general education, use of force and dental services. It also means many of the problems identified first in a 2004 lawsuit and later in a 2008 court settlement have been addressed successfully.
The ruling is a measure of how much progress has been made over the years, said Alphonse Gerhardstein, a Cincinnati lawyer representing juvenile inmates.
"The overriding message is that a lot has gone right and we'll finish the work up in a cooperative fashion and the kids will be well-served," Gerhardstein said.
Helping the juvenile inmates change their lives is the agency's most important work as it builds a safer Ohio, said Harvey Reed, director of the Department of Youth Services.
"That's why we've worked hard to reform juvenile justice in Ohio to serve the right youth in the right place with the right treatment," he said in a statement.
The system has changed dramatically since the 2004 lawsuit that alleged a culture of violence permeated the state's detention system for juvenile inmates. The Department of Youth Services has shrunk to four facilities, and its population dropped from more than 2,000 to about 600 today. Most youth convicted in the state's juvenile justice system now serve their time in local centers close to family and community support networks.
Those changes have also brought an ongoing challenge for the state: Most of the remaining inmates under state control are older, have been convicted of more serious and violent crimes, and can be harder to rehabilitate.
Marbley's ruling said the state will continue quality assurance monitoring of several areas, including safe living conditions, medical services, special education and investigations of incidents in the juvenile detention centers. Those quality assurance checks are a step down from court-ordered monitoring.
That leaves continued court oversight of mental health services, including the use of psychotropic medications, whether blacks are less likely than whites to be placed in mental health units, suicide prevention and discipline for youth receiving mental health services.
The second area staying under supervision involves units holding youth who demonstrate a persistent inability to safely reside in the general population because of violence against youth or staff.Some changes to the youth prison system are a model for the nation, an annual report on the system concluded in December, while highlighting continuing problems with gang violence, education classes and medical care.
Youth Services administrators have done commendable work reducing the number of offenders in secure confinement and spreading services for youthful offenders around Ohio, according to the report by the court-appointed monitor.