TSA Tries Doing Exactly What I’ve Asked It To Do for 5 Years: Metal Detectors + Dogs

The TSA announced an “exciting” “new” program that it’s trialing in MSP airport in Minnesota:

After a explosives-detection dog sniffs passengers for traces of explosives, travelers can then move through expedited screening like the Precheck program, where they can leave on shoes and light coats, and leave laptops and small containers of liquids in their carry-on bags.

“You’ll see them snaking up and down the line,” Neffenger said of the canine teams. “I’m very excited about getting extra teams here.”


In other words, passengers that pass a dog skip the body scanner and go through a metal detector.  This is exactly what I’ve been asking the TSA to do since the very beginning, because:

  1. dogDogs are by far cheaper than the body scanners.  A body scanner costs $300,000, functions for less than a decade, and requires significantly more man-hours per
    passenger than a dog, which may cost low-5 figures to train and a couple bucks a day in food.
  2. Dogs are by far tougher to beat than the body scanners.  The fact of the matter is that if you’ve been working with explosives, you likely have traces of it all over your body, and you’re likely not fooling Rover, while in 2012 I proved that beating the body scanners takes no more than a sewing kit.
  3. Dogs are far less invasive than the body scanners.  These dogs are trained to detect explosives only, while a body scanner is set to alert on anything on your body, including medical devices, scars, hygiene products, your baggie of weed, etc. Dogs are a targeted search only for the stuff the TSA should actually be looking for.

Instead of spending nearly $2B by now on technology that people hate because they are slow, invasive, and emit poorly-studied radiation… instead of fighting tons of legal battles… instead of making them perhaps the most hated federal agency on the planet… they could have just done this 5 years ago.

Let’s hope their pilot program goes well and the body scanners are relegated, along with a pat-down option, to those who fail Fido’s nose.

23 thoughts on “TSA Tries Doing Exactly What I’ve Asked It To Do for 5 Years: Metal Detectors + Dogs

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  1. Couldn’t this be abused just as easily? A dog that can track explosives can also be trained to track other things as well, like drugs, which is beyond the TSA’s scope right? And I question the accuracy of these dogs while under the command of humans. Humans working for a government agency. Isn’t it fairly common knowledge that police that use dogs to search for drugs can easily manipulate the dog to respond in a way that would implicate someone regardless of what they may, or may not have in their possession?

    Plus, the image of dogs walking along lines of complacent people just waiting to be allowed to be on their way seems incredibly creepy, and even more Orwellian than people standing in surrender poses to go through scanners.

  2. Appeals court: Drug dog that’s barely more accurate than a coin flip is good enough.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a troubling ruling about drug dogs last week. U.S. v. Bentley is just the latest in a series of rulings in which the federal courts refuse to consider the possibility that police departments may be manipulating the dogs to authorize unlawful searches — or at the very least that police agencies aren’t ensuring that the dogs are being trained to minimize the possibility, even though that would be easy to do.

    The problem with drug-sniffing dogs is not that dogs aren’t capable of sniffing out drugs; it’s that we’ve bred into domestic dogs a trait that trumps that ability — a desire to read us and to please us.

    Unfortunately, the way the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on this issue not only doesn’t account for the problem, but also has given police agencies a strong incentive to ensure that drug dogs aren’t trained to act independently of their handler’s suspicions. A dog prone to false alerts means more searches, which means more opportunities to find and seize cash and other lucre under asset forfeiture policies.

    1. Your point is well-taken that drug dogs are not suitable for generating probable cause in the context of a criminal investigation. That does not mean they have no utility at the checkpoint.

  3. Illinois State Police Drug Dog Unit Analysis Shows Error Rate Between 28 and 74 Percent:

    In the course of reporting on the traffic stop of Terrance Huff, was able to obtain the reports of an Illinois State Police K-9 unit over an 11-month period in 2007 and 2008. An analysis of those reports shows that only 25.7 percent of the drug dog “alerts” resulted in police finding a measurable quantity of illicit drugs. Just 13 percent resulted in the recovery of more than 10 grams of marijuana, generally considered an amount for personal use, and 10.4 percent turned up enough drugs to charge the motorists or their passengers with at least one felony.

    In all, the police dog conducted 252 “sniffs” over the 11-month period, resulting in 136 alerts. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a drug dog’s alert is enough to establish probable cause for a warrantless search of a vehicle. Of the 136 alerts, 35 turned up a large enough quantity of drugs to merit an arrest, and 63 turned up what the police officer refers to as “shake,” or “residue.” The officer didn’t send any of those cases to a lab, so it’s difficult to know if what the officer found was actually drug residue or, as appears to have been the case in the search of Terrance Huff, likely something else. In 38 cases, or 27.9 percent of the times a dog alert gave cause for a more thorough search, the officer recorded finding no drugs at all.

  4. Dr. Agus Advises Against TSA Scanners At Airports:

    Dr. Agus then suggested that the full body scanners TSA agents use at the airport could cause cancer.

    He advises to opt out of the scan when going through any security checks at the airport.

    “In the 1960s, when everybody went to a shoe store they’d put a little box on the ground and you’d put your foot in an x-ray to see if the shoe would fit or not, well what do you know, they all got cancer in our legs when they did that because they were exposed to radiation.”

    “In those airports, they’re putting energy through you. We don’t have a lot of long-term outcome data and it’s all new. I’m not a believer in technologies like that. I get a free massage. I get a pat down when I go through and I opt out. I’m not comfortable without data. It’s worth it in the long run.”

    1. College Student Who Was Kicked Off a Flight Because He Speaks Arabic Isn’t the Only One:

      In February, a Muslim family was removed from a United Airlines flight after having a discussion with an employee about how to secure a child’s booster seat. In a YouTube video posted by the mother, Eaman-Amy Saad Shebley, an airline employee told them to leave because of “a safety of flight issue.” “I felt singled-out, humiliated, and helpless,” the mother reported in a statement released by CAIR.

      Last November, two Palestinian Americans, Maher Khalil and Anas Ayyad, were told they wouldn’t be allowed on board a plane because another passenger felt afraid after hearing them speaking Arabic. “If that person doesn’t feel safe, let them take the bus. We’re American citizens just like everybody else,” one said to a Southwest Airlines gate agent, according to NBC Philadelphia. Eventually they were allowed back on board, but several passengers demanded that Khalil show them what was in a small white box he carried. “So I shared my baklava with them,” he told the NBC affiliate.

      READ MORE:

  5. DA Agrees To $10K Settlement Calls It A ‘Plea Deal’ After Court Found DEA Gulity Of Stealing A Man’s Money At Airport:

    The lawsuit stemmed from the Sept. 22 seizure of $41,870 in cash from Majdi Khaleq at the Tucson International Airport. Khaleq was not charged with a crime, but his money was taken into custody (stolen) by the Counter Narcotics Alliance, a multi-agency task force.

    In the March 10 stipulation of dismissal, Deputy County Attorney Edward Russo said the $10,000 is not an admission that Khaleq has shown he is “entitled to an award of attorney’s fees, costs or damages in this action.”

    Russo did not say in the court filing why the County Attorney’s Office agreed to pay the $10,000.

    Chief Criminal Deputy County Attorney Kellie Johnson said the settlement was similar to a plea deal in a criminal case.

  6. Court Says Gov’t Needs More Than The Permission Of A Couple Of Underperforming Drug Dogs To Justify Seizure Of $276K:

    Police responded to a call about a home invasion at the residence of Pedro and Abraham Cruz-Hernandez. While inside the house, officers came across a handgun, a small amount of marijuana and a scale. This apparently prompted the arrival of two drug dogs, considering they’re not usually standard equipment for home invasion investigations.

    When searching the brothers’ van, police found $276,080. So, they took it. Why? Because their dogs said they could.

    A police drug dog signaled the presence of drugs in Pedro’s van, which was parked outside the house. After obtaining a search warrant, the police discovered in the van a safe containing $271,080 in currency and two pages of handwritten notes including dates and numbers. The cash was bundled with rubber bands in stacks of $5,000. A second dog alerted to the safe. No drugs, however, were found in either the van or the safe.
    It didn’t matter that neither drug dog could adequately perform the single task required of them. The “alerts” were all the justification law enforcement needed to rob the brothers of their money.


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