« on: February 02, 2012, 02:10:57 PM »
Get ready for a change.
The TSA has given the go-ahead for passengers to use newly designed carry-on bags that will let them pass through security without having to take their laptops out for the X-ray inspection. Kip Hawley, the agency's director, told me Monday that the T.S.A. would accept the new laptop cases as soon as they come on the market. Two of the biggest luggage manufacturers — Pathfinder Luggage and Targus — say they are rushing to produce the new "checkpoint friendly" laptop cases and expect them to be available by late September or early October. Two problems with the existing laptop cases are that security officers have difficulty seeing inside them with X-ray equipment, and many of the cases are so crammed with extra gear — power cords, a mouse and the like — that the computer is obscured. The new cases include either a fold-down section in a bigger briefcase or a stand-alone protective sleeve that contains no extra clutter and can be readily viewed through the scanner.
More than a half-dozen luggage manufacturers, among about 60 that initially responded to a T.S.A. request for proposals about three months ago, have submitted prototypes for testing at checkpoints at three airports: Dulles, outside Washington; Austin-Bergstrom in Texas; and Ontario, near Los Angeles. The agency says that more than a quarter of all air travelers carry laptops through security. Along with having to remove shoes, the requirement to take a laptop out of its protective case has long rankled business travelers, who worry about damage to exposed computers as well as potential loss in the pileup of various travelers’ possessions on the other side of the X-ray station. Mr. Hawley, meanwhile, has often said that confusion at checkpoints is itself a security problem. Designing laptop cases that can improve customer service while keeping security at a high level is a way to better ensure a "calm and predictable" checkpoint environment, he said. "Threats have a hard time hiding in a calm environment," he said. "Chaos is great camouflage."
Mr. Hawley said the agency had been working with various manufacturers to develop the new luggage designs. He predicted that various new laptop cases that conform to government requirements would be in wide use by the holidays in December. "On a conference call with industry representatives, I said that the T.S.A. will not be your gatekeeper on this," Mr. Hawley said. "It all depends on how fast you can get to market. We won't law you down." Ron Davis, the executive vice president of Pathfinder Luggage, said that his company had just started producing its two new cases at a plant in the Philippines. He said both had been tested at checkpoints to ensure that they met government specifications. "They don't want anything obscuring the view of the laptop,” he said. “In our case, the material is nylon and foam, and the X-ray machine will see right through that." Pathfinder is making two models but plans others. One is a briefcase in which the attached laptop holder is exposed when the case is unzipped. The other is a wheeled carry-on with a removable laptop case. Mr. Davis estimated that the briefcase version would sell for $100 to $150 and the wheeled version for $150 to $200. Targus, the largest maker of cases for laptops and notebook computers, is about to begin production at factories in China of four new models of checkpoint-compatible bags, said Al Giazzon, the vice president for marketing.
Are you kidding me? They're putting people thru X-rays, you talk about laptops and the like!
Here it is an article talking about X-Ray Body Scanners:
by Michael Grabell
ProPublica, Nov. 15, 2011, 3:45 p.m.
The European Union on Monday prohibited the use of X-ray body scanners in European airports, parting ways with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which has deployed hundreds of the scanners as a way to screen millions of airline passengers for explosives hidden under clothing. The European Commission, which enforces common policies of the EU's 27 member countries, adopted the rule "in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens' health and safety."
As a ProPublica/PBS NewsHour investigation detailed earlier this month, X-ray body scanners use ionizing radiation, a form of energy that has been shown to damage DNA and cause cancer. Although the amount of radiation is extremely low, equivalent to the radiation a person would receive in a few minutes of flying, several research studies have concluded that a small number of cancer cases would result from scanning hundreds of millions of passengers a year.
European countries will be allowed to use an alternative body scanner, on that relies on radio frequency waves, which have not been linked to cancer. The TSA has also deployed hundreds of those machines – known as millimeter-wave scanners – in U.S. airports. But unlike Europe, it has decided to deploy both types of scanners. The TSA would not comment specifically on the EU's decision. But in a statement, TSA spokesman Mike McCarthy said, "As one of our many layers of security, TSA deploys the most advanced technology available to provide the best opportunity to detect dangerous items, such as explosives. We rigorously test our technology to ensure it meets our high detection and safety standards before it is placed in airports," he continued.
Body scanners have been controversial in the United States since they were first deployed in prisons in the late 1990s and then in airports for tests after 9/11. Most of the controversy has focused on privacy because the machines can produce graphic images. But the manufacturers have since installed privacy filters. As the TSA began deploying hundreds of body scanners after the failed underwear bombing on Christmas Day 2009, several scientists began to raise concerns about the health risks of the X-ray scanner, noting that even low levels of radiation would increase the risk of cancer. As part of our investigation, ProPublica surveyed foreign countries' security policies and found that only a few nations used the X-ray scanner. The United Kingdom uses them but only for secondary screening, such as when a passenger triggers the metal detector or raises suspicion (probably the policy to be adopted in the US too).
Five-hundred body scanners, split about evenly between the two technologies, are deployed in U.S. airports. The X-ray scanner, or backscatter, which looks like two large blue boxes, is used at major airports, including Los Angeles International Airport, John F. Kennedy in New York and Chicago's O’Hare. The millimeter-wave scanner, which looks like a round glass booth, is used in San Francisco, Atlanta and Dallas. Within three years, the TSA plans to deploy 1,800 backscatter and millimeter-wave scanners, covering nearly every domestic airport security lane. The TSA has not yet released details on the exact breakdown.