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Threat image projection system fails; causes evacuations at MDW, IAD and MIA

Threat image projection system fails; causes evacuations at MDW, IAD and MIA

Old Nov 17, 04, 3:58 pm
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Threat image projection system fails; causes evacuations at MDW, IAD and MIA

The whizz-bang computer system designed to help keep the haystack searchers on their toes (when there aren't enough actual needles to keep them focused) failed last week at MIA and IAD, causing evacuations, and failed Monday at MDW, also causing yet another evacuation.

http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/...-midway17.html

http://www.chicagotribune.com/techno...technology-hed

Nice to see Mayor Daley protesting the agency (quotes in both stories).
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Old Nov 17, 04, 4:11 pm
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Software trouble with the Threat Image Projection system -- a computer program that displays "test images" in luggage scans to keep baggage screeners on their toes -- was the catalyst for evacuating all three airports.

Monday night, the outline of a grenade was visible in a traveler's carry-on bag, sources said. But by the time screeners went for a second look, the passenger, Minnesota trucker Ed Skime, and his black tote were gone.
Hang on a sec: Does this software project "test images" onto actual real pax's bags as implied above? Does this mean during normal non-buggy operation, a screener could think he sees a gun in my bag, and call for a LEO/detention/etc. until they clear the bag? If so,

Or does it project images of fake bags with weapons in them? (which makes some sense)

BTW, the poor guy in MDW who was chased down because they thought he had a grenade didn't even get an apology from TSA, which is in itself an atrocity.

Skime said he was alarmed authorities didn't stop him at the gate and he was able to finish supper while they looked for him.

But the worst of it was being badgered during his weekly Chicago layover, Skime said.

"They didn't do so much as say, 'Sorry,' " he said.
I hold Mark Hatfield and his "lie, deceive, and evade" PR policy personally responsible for that issue.
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Old Nov 17, 04, 4:21 pm
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From my understanding, the system projects an image of a weapon into real bags on the screen. Hence, screeners thought the guy at Midway on Monday had a hand grenade in his bag, whom they finally found at the food court.

I agree on the
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Old Nov 17, 04, 4:27 pm
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Exclamation

Originally Posted by FWAAA
From my understanding, the system projects an image of a weapon into real bags on the screen.
Please someone tell me this just isn't so
I have enough of a problem dealing with being searched in the absence of probable cause. If they are inventing probable cause with false projections well, words fail....
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Old Nov 17, 04, 4:32 pm
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let me get this straight - they evacuated customers from terminals at three busy aiports because of a failed 'test'?? Was there not a TSA person at the checkpoint who could have called off the evacuations because they knew a screener was being tested? Are these people all nuts? Does anyone in charge have a brain or a shred of common sense?

I think a good response to this is a class action lawsuit filed against the TSA (whether it goes anywhere or not, at least it will attract public attention) on behalf of every passenger who was evacuated from these airports. Some of these actions are so stupid you have to wonder if it's real or we're living in some kind of bad television show.
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Old Nov 17, 04, 5:02 pm
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Originally Posted by FWAAA
From my understanding, the system projects an image of a weapon into real bags on the screen. Hence, screeners thought the guy at Midway on Monday had a hand grenade in his bag, whom they finally found at the food court.
Such a system would be extremely frustrating to screeners doing bag searches and be counterproductive toward effective screening too. Triggering false hand searches dulls the senses. If one see's a gun on the image, one should expect to find a gun in the bag. What do you do, keep searching and searching looking for something that's not there?

Such a system also could very well explain the vast majority of terminal evacuations, not just these last three. Many many evacuations are premised under "we thought we saw a suspicious item, dumped/searched the airport, and never found anything."

These tests should be done on false images that give some sort of green thumbs-up to the screener once they recognize the image but immediately make it clear that the bag/item doesn't exist before a hand search or any off-xray action occurs.

And I agree with Wally Bird. Inventing probable cause and creating an enviornment that promotes accusations like this? What a horrible idea. There's got to be a legal issue here. What if TSA "accidentally" files a report based on the test image and someone gets fined/charged?
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Old Nov 17, 04, 5:14 pm
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Originally Posted by bocastephen
let me get this straight - they evacuated customers from terminals at three busy aiports because of a failed 'test'?? Was there not a TSA person at the checkpoint who could have called off the evacuations because they knew a screener was being tested? Are these people all nuts? Does anyone in charge have a brain or a shred of common sense?

I think a good response to this is a class action lawsuit filed against the TSA (whether it goes anywhere or not, at least it will attract public attention) on behalf of every passenger who was evacuated from these airports. Some of these actions are so stupid you have to wonder if it's real or we're living in some kind of bad television show.
In my view, nearly every change to USA airport security during the past 38 months has been a farce - even worse than bad TV.

And events like this one just reinforce my beliefs.

On the other hand, several of the changes to airliner security during the past 38 months have been effective and worth the money. Not all, but some of the changes, like reinforced flight deck doors and armed pilots. Those are well worth the cost and don't further OBL's goal of "September 11 forever changed everything related to air travel."

Others will, of course, disagree.
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Old Nov 17, 04, 6:05 pm
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Originally Posted by Wally Bird
Please someone tell me this just isn't so
I have enough of a problem dealing with being searched in the absence of probable cause. If they are inventing probable cause with false projections well, words fail....
That is just effing insane. So they have a fake picture that shows something in your bag and they have no way of knowing, when they find you later, whether you really had something in your bag or got rid of it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How soon before someone loses the data the image is fake and prosecutes someone?!
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Old Nov 17, 04, 6:06 pm
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Originally Posted by studentff

And I agree with Wally Bird. Inventing probable cause and creating an enviornment that promotes accusations like this? What a horrible idea. There's got to be a legal issue here. What if TSA "accidentally" files a report based on the test image and someone gets fined/charged?
Somebody needs to expose this. Is there a journalist in the house?
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Old Nov 17, 04, 6:13 pm
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Originally Posted by whirledtraveler
Somebody needs to expose this. Is there a journalist in the house?
Actually, there is. Joe Sharkey from the New York Times is now a FT participant.
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Old Nov 17, 04, 6:17 pm
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Originally Posted by whirledtraveler
Somebody needs to expose this. Is there a journalist in the house?
With all due respect, this insanity isn't new; it's been around since before September 11:

http://www.dot.gov/affairs/2000/dot13900.htm

http://www.faa.gov/apa/pr/pr.cfm?id=1181

http://www.eee.ntu.ac.uk/research/vision/projects.htm

I've read about the threat image projection system in various mainstream media over the past 4+ years. The TSA certainly hasn't hidden it either - that agency has trumpeted it for its ability to keep the screeners focused and looking.

I agree that these three failures demonstrate that it is perhaps a good idea that is in dire need of some wholesale refinement. Let's hope that more ordinary citizens are as outraged as Mayor Daley.
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Old Nov 17, 04, 7:02 pm
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Originally Posted by FWAAA
I've read about the threat image projection system in various mainstream media over the past 4+ years. The TSA certainly hasn't hidden it either - that agency has trumpeted it for its ability to keep the screeners focused and looking.
I've read about it too but always (mistakenly?) assumed the system put fake images of non-real bags on the display, not that it superimposed images of weapons on innocent travelers' bags.

I'm hoping one of our resident TSA posters will help clarify this issue.
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Old Nov 17, 04, 8:29 pm
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Originally Posted by studentff
Hang on a sec: Does this software project "test images" onto actual real pax's bags as implied above? Does this mean during normal non-buggy operation, a screener could think he sees a gun in my bag, and call for a LEO/detention/etc. until they clear the bag? If so,

Or does it project images of fake bags with weapons in them? (which makes some sense)
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Old Nov 18, 04, 12:00 am
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I was suprised

That this much info was released about the system. I have had this exact thing happen to me. We didnt dump the concourse though because we had control of the passengers and the bags. The real information about how this system works is SSI. So you will just have to guess.
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Old Nov 18, 04, 12:24 am
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Originally Posted by eyecue
That this much info was released about the system. I have had this exact thing happen to me. We didnt dump the concourse though because we had control of the passengers and the bags. The real information about how this system works is SSI. So you will just have to guess.
This isn't at all directed at you as I appreciate your info, but the fact that it appears TSA is using SSI to cover up technical glitches that are causing terminal dumps costing airlines, airports, and pax millions of dollars plus using SSI cover up a system that apparenlty implicates totally innocent pax as having weapons in their bags goes to confirm a lot of the fears some of us have about TSA (administration) mentality. Somebody should class-action sue the TSA, but I would want the $ to come out of the leaderships' pockets, not taxpayer funds.

The first time a pax goes to jail, even for an hour, or is arrested over a non-existent item in his bag, I hope it is splattered over every newspaper in the country. It may have already happened, although I assume responsible checkpoints/LEOs would have to "see" (in reality, not a machine) a prohibited item before a detention/arrest.

For better or worse, I now believe that this sort of technical screwup in the hands of exhausted or unaware screeners is responsible for the vast majority of terminal evacuations that are triggered by "bag with suspicious item left checkpoint without secondary search."

Based on your post, I appreciate you and your checkpoint working with (around?) the technology and being careful not to cause needless dumps. Too bad you aren't given a better system to work with.
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