Leading Scientists Say Airport Full Body Scanners Easily Duped

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Two respected scientists say they have discovered a flaw in airport full body scanners that could potentially allow terrorists to outsmart the machines.

In research published in the Journal of Transportation Security, physicists Leon Kaufman and Joseph W. Carlson of the University of California San Francisco say body scanner machines can easily be duped.

While the purpose of the scanners is to find contraband hidden on the body, some weapons and explosives would not be visible to the devices say the researchers, who are known for their work in creating magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines used in hospitals.

That's because the human body and benign objects add "structured noise that interferes with signal averaging," the scientists say.

A "pancake" of explosives with beveled edges, taped to the abdomen, for instance, "would be invisible to this technology, ironically, because of its large volume, since it is easily confused with normal anatomy," the scientists report.

"It is also easy to see that an object such as a wire or a boxcutter blade, taped to the side of the body, or even a small gun in the same location, will be invisible," Kaufman and Carlson write.

Increasing radiation exposure to get a better image from the body scanning technology won't help, the scientists say. "Even if exposure were to be increased significantly, normal anatomy would make a dangerous amount of plastic explosive with tapered edges difficult if not impossible to detect."

In reaching their conclusions, the scientists used simulations (computational algorithms). They refer in their research to some photos of full body scanners not deployed in the U.S., but used at airports elsewhere.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) responds to the latest report with the same pat response it has given to other criticism about full body scanners, a spokesman telling AOL Travel News, "While there is no silver bullet, advanced imaging technology is a proven, highly-effective tool that safely detects both metallic and non-metallic items concealed on the body that could be used to threaten the security of airplanes."

The TSA adds that full body scanners are just one of the airport security methods it has in place.

Critics of full body scanners have raised privacy concerns about "naked" images and questioned whether radiation from the machines could potentially pose a cancer risk, among other things.

This week the TSA also took steps to debunk a rumor that airport body scanner images of "Baywatch" star Donna D'Errico -- who has criticized the TSA for singling out attractive celebrities to go through body scans – are in circulation. The TSA says it's impossible for anyone to capture scanner images given safeguards it has in place.

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