Update: Newest TSA Carry-On X-Rays Can Indeed See Through Laptop Batteries

I just passed through a TSA checkpoint at Miami International Airport, where, during my pat-down after opting out of the body scanner, I was placed directly facing a monitor that showed a laptop that was being screened (notwithstanding that TSA policy is that such screens should be hidden from view of passengers).  From that image, it was clear that components underneath the battery of the laptop were indeed visible to the operator, and looked more like this image posted by bomb-detection specialists DSA Detection:

Laptop under AT X-Ray

In other words, lithium batteries are not completely opaque “black boxes” which airport x-rays cannot penetrate.

DSA Detection has been nice enough to publish a how-to guide to detecting explosives concealed in a laptop.  While the guide doesn’t go through how to detect an explosive specifically concealed within a battery, it is clear that the x-rays can penetrate through the battery.  Given that materials of different densities are color-coded differently, and given that the density of PETN is 1.77 g/cm3 and the density of C4 is 1.73 g/cm3, but the density of lithium metal is 0.53 g/cm3, there should be no reason why a properly calibrated x-ray with a well-trained and attentive operator cannot tell the difference between a lithium battery and a box filled with explosives.

Now, are the x-ray machines in the 10 airports subject to the current laptop ban of the newer technology which produces images like the one shown here, or the older that produces images like in my previous post?  I must assume that if DHS has used any logic whatsoever, these 10 airports are using the older technology and that’s why they’ve been shit-listed.  But there is no way all of Europe uses this older technology, and I truly hope that DHS’s European counterparts continue to resist the nagging of DHS to ban carry-on laptops anyway.  DHS should be helping any airport with inferior technology or training to get up to speed, not treating everyone outside of the country as if they are inept and inferior (especially when comparing others to the TSA… you know what they say about those in glass houses…).

18 thoughts on “Update: Newest TSA Carry-On X-Rays Can Indeed See Through Laptop Batteries

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  1. It has always been my position we are going about the whole process ass backward. Instead of trying to do the near impossible job of keeping bombs from exploding in airplanes, why not do the simpler job of just exploding the bombs before they even get near the plane? For example, as each passenger enters the secure airport area he/she must walk through individually, a short hall designed to contain an explosion. in the middle of the hall the passenger is exposed to an electro magnetic pulse that will explode any bomb he/she is carrying. So, bomb carrying freedom fighter gets his guts splattered all over the walls, but no one else is put in danger. The British in WW2 did a similar procedure for exploding ocean mines. The flew low over the sea pulling an antenna that would explode most mines under the water. That is also why, in a minning area using explosives, they strongly discourage random electronics. For those with devices that may be harmed by these EMP hall, they could be processed individually and maybe have a charge for doing this service?

    1. That is brilliant, Mr Riemers. Might even be able to get something like that through all the red tape, since there’d at least be an initial chunk of change paid out for the construction. Of course, then we’d need far fewer blue gloves so the country’s largest make-work program might be in jeopardy.

    2. I’d do it through resonant frequencies rather than EMPs, in order to avoid destroying every electronic item in the area, but yeah, there’s potential there. Of course, I’ve found no scholarly articles that have shown that this kind of remote detonation is possible. :-p But in theory…

    3. Novel idea. There are a few reasons this wouldn’t work. Primarily binary explosives. Also, firing circuits using non-electric blasting caps and mechanical triggers would be unaffected by an EMP.

  2. Delta Passenger Says He Was Interrogated After Falling Asleep On Flight:

    A Moroccan-born Delta airlines passenger says he was targeted by an abrasive flight attendant and berated by police at LaGuardia Airport — even though he did nothing more than snooze his way through the short flight.

    Yassine Siqal, 30, was returning from a visit to North Carolina on May 8 with his fiancée when he says he encountered a travel experience from hell.

    “I will never forget this day,” said Siqal, who is a Muslim and lives in Astoria, Queens. “All this interrogation, all these questions. Then the police officer realized that this is nothing more than just discrimination against color and race.”

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