Sunday musings: TSA’s media fake, terrorist-industrial complex, Audi parks itself


Today we go from the depressing to the impressive, from TSA to Audi, from bureaucratic doublespeak to cars that can park themselves. The TSA maneuvers are more important, however, the video of an Audi self-parking automobile will bring a smile to your face.

Isn’t it amazing that software can be created to park a car far from its driver, but after years and millions of dollars of development and software code, TSA contractors can’t come up with a program that creates a stick figure with areas of possible contraband highlighted? It’s amazing and frankly unbelievable; and shameful.

TSA’s media PR head-fake
From the pages of newspapers, TV news stories and radio programs, one would think that TSA has abandoned the whole-body scanners at airports. Even the Wall Street Journal ran this headline: TSA to Halt Revealing Body Scans at Airports. NPR reported, “‘Invasive’ Body Scanners Will Be Removed From Airports.” But, when travelers arrive at airports, they will find a phalanx of whole-body scanners awaiting them (the ones on the left in the photo above — millimeter wave scanners).

What all this sound and fury signifies is certainly not an about-face by TSA and an ignition of privacy concerns. The changes may have far more to do with TSA’s ongoing study about the effects of radiation emitted by these machines.

Something is rotten in the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Congress is afraid of providing any real oversight when it comes to TSA. Everyone must be quaking in their Gucci shoes, worried that if they ask hard questions and a terrorist strikes, they will be personally blamed. It is the only explanation for congressional reluctance to hold TSA accountable.

It is time that our Representatives and Senators do that for which they are paid — protect the people of the United States and uphold the Constitution. So far, the only people coming out ahead are evidently unscrupulous manufacturers of backscatter whole-body scanners who have been thumbing their noses at Congress and airline travelers for half a decade and dosing us with radiation.

Back in 2010, I wrote about radiation, health and security issues with whole-body scanners. Earlier that year, I pointed out that TSA security personnel as well as travelers were being fried by these backscatter scanners.

This past week, TSA announced that they were removing the backscatter whole-body scanners because of privacy concerns. And, unfortunately, the media has so far parroted that same rationale in their stories. I promise you that an organization that has shown absolutely no regard for privacy and that is now collecting data on travelers together with other governmental organizations that will remain in records for 99 years, is not pulling whole-body scanners out of operation because of privacy concerns.

I am afraid that my health objections raised back in 2010 are about to be confirmed by an independent study being conducted by TSA. Now that the scanners in question are being removed, the study will be moot and may never see the light of day.

Let’s be realistic. TSA claims it has conducted studies that proved these machines were perfectly safe. Where are they? Why do we need a new study? Were these studies telling the truth? Was TSA telling the truth?

A simple release of data backing up TSA claims would end these questions.

A terrorism-industrial complex

President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans against what he called the military-industrial complex 52 years ago (almost to the day). He noted that citizens would have to be alert in order to curb such a group’s power. Today, he would advise the same about the growing terrorism-industrial complex that has developed since 9/11, encouraged by Congress and unfettered by normal rulemaking procedures. His prudent warning is now more relevant and critical than ever as the country struggles with downsizing our military, controlling “domestic security” organizations and getting control of its defense budget.

Audi’s self-parking demonstration from the Consumer Electronic Show
On a lighter note, here is a video showing the new Audi self-parking system in operation. We are not speaking of a car that can parallel-park itself. This is an automobile that can drop you off at the garage entrance, find an open parking spot, park, lock itself and then come back to pick you up when you are ready to leave. Amazing stuff.

  • Ken Rahr

    No video link for the self parking car.

  • Charles Leocha

    It’s there now. Thanks.

  • Carrie Charney

    Aw, I pictured it parking on a city street. Maybe next year…

  • James

    Someone will have a lot of fun making a parody of that video. Wish I had the skills to do it. Does the car take the ticket from the machine at the entrance and return it with the payment on exit? Hey, I don’t need to go on vacation. I’ll just send the car to the airport and take my trip on Google Earth and I won’t have to mess with the TSA. Anyway it was interesting. Thanks.

  • AkFlyer

    Agree 100% that TSA’s Friday afternoon press release about backscatter X-Ray imaging machines had a whole lot more to do about finding a graceful way out from under DHS’s accumulating lies about the efficacy and safety of this technology, than about software obstacles. You really can’t expect anyone who knows anything about digital image processing in 2013 to believe that it’s impossible to anonymize said images in 20 or fewer lines of code. Post the challenge on lifehacker and get ‘er done for free.

    I love the fact those Rapiscan machines will be downcycled to prisons. What does this say about the traveling public?

    I’m still not planning to submit to the WBI drill. Instead, let a real live fellow American look me in the eyes as she probes my pubes.