I suppose its to be expected. You can’t get more government contracts if you were to tell them the problem cannot be solved as long as they are headed in that direction. But what you can do is sell them millions and millions of dollars of technology that can be defeated with a few dollars worth of mu-metal and/or a Faraday Shield. I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s just government money. They have to spend it on something anyway, right?
Here are the details:
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has a comforting prospect for the million or so daily passengers on U.S. airlines. Los Alamos National Laboratory is working on an alternative to the “sandwich bag” solution for carry-on liquids.
Passengers’ ability to carry liquids with them during boarding has improved since the original total ban installed after a plot involving liquid explosives on transatlantic flights was busted in London in August 2006.
A total ban has given way to a partial ban because current X-ray machines can detect liquids, but they don’t know the difference between Gatorade and a liquid explosive.
But the so-called “3-1-1” plan for placing smaller-than-3-ounce liquid containers into one separately scanned, quart-size plastic bag per passenger remains an annoyance for many airport travelers, a fact that has not been lost on the department.
Within a month after the London scheme was foiled, said Michelle Espy, LANL’s co-principal investigator on the project, the laboratory had sketched out a “proof of concept” for a liquid-sensing instrument that has come to be called SENSIT.
In May this year, Brian Tait, a program manager in the Homeland Security Advanced Research Project Agency made a presentation on LANL’s demonstration for using magnetic resonance technology to perform non-invasive “liquid and solid explosive detection at ultra-low field without radiation.”
Espy said the technology is a variation on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a very low-field approach that the lab has been using for studying the brain in a technique known as magneto-encephalography, which is a way of reading signals emanating from the brain.
The sensor or magnetometer used in both the brain study and the bottle analyzer is known as a SQUID, an acronym that stands for Superconducting Quantum Interfering Device.
Comforting? I suppose you could say that. It will give some people a false sense of comfort. But then that’s what TSA is all about anyway. A Security Theater that makes some people feel good.