Effect Measure

Homeland security is a priority for the Bush administration. I know that because they keep telling us. We have to take off our shoes and take out our identification getting on and off planes. Not just any identification, either. Official stuff. And crossing borders — any borders, even the border from Canada — now requires a passport. A passport! Perhaps one of the most highly prized and secure of all official forms of identification, too, now embedded with electronic chips. Even blank passports are expensive, and we are charged for them — $100, up from $60 ten years ago. Which makes perfect sense. But it’s one of the few things about passport production that does make sense. Because it turns out that it is cheaper to make them in foreign countries like Thailand than in the US, so the State Department has been outsourcing printing of blank passports and pocketing the estimated $100 million yearly that is the difference between what they charge and what they cost. But that’s not the main issue. The main issue is security:

The United States has outsourced the manufacturing of its electronic passports to overseas companies — including one in Thailand that was victimized by Chinese espionage — raising concerns that cost savings are being put ahead of national security, an investigation by The Washington Times has found.


Officials at GPO [he Government Printing Office], the Homeland Security Department and the State Department played down such concerns, saying they are confident that regular audits and other protections already in place will keep terrorists and foreign spies from stealing or copying the sensitive components to make fake passports.

“Aside from the fact that we have fully vetted and qualified vendors, we also note that the materials are moved via a secure transportation means, including armored vehicles,” GPO spokesman Gary Somerset said. (Washington Times, hat tip Boingboing)

I thought I was pretty jaded when it came to Bush administration incompetence but this takes the cake. They outsourced both the printing and the manufacture of the small embedded computer chips. These were the small chips, remember, the Bush administration claimed it needed to prevent counterfeiting. Stored information, like ID and passport number, is transmitted through a small transmitter in the chip to the passport officer at border entry points. But the chips themselves are supplied by foreign suppliers and inserted in blank passports outside the US:

After the computer chips are inserted into the back cover of the passports in Europe, the blank covers are shipped to a factory in Ayutthaya, Thailand, north of Bangkok, to be fitted with a wire Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, antenna. The blank passports eventually are transported to Washington for final binding, according to the documents and interviews.

The stop in Thailand raises its own security concerns. The Southeast Asian country has battled social instability and terror threats. Anti-government groups backed by Islamists, including al Qaeda, have carried out attacks in southern Thailand and the Thai military took over in a coup in September 2006.

The Netherlands-based company that assembles the U.S. e-passport covers in Thailand, Smartrac Technology Ltd., warned in its latest annual report that, in a worst-case scenario, social unrest in Thailand could lead to a halt in production.

Smartrac divulged in an October 2007 court filing in The Hague that China had stolen its patented technology for e-passport chips, raising additional questions about the security of America’s e-passports.

Had enough? No? How about sending unsecure FedEx services for the blank passports to the State Department offices? When it was pointed out that this maybe wasn’t the most secure method, the State Department began to use armored cars. They wanted to use foreign armored car services but finally someone with half a brain in the State Department objected.

So here’s the bottom line. The Bush administration outsourced to multiple foreign companies the production of blank US passports complete with embedded computer chips and shipped them without proper safeguards back to Washington, where the State Department proposed to use contract security guards to protect them.

And the money? They charge you and me $100 but it only costs the GPO $7.97. They in turn charge the State Department $14.80 for each blank (possibly compromised) passport. And the difference — $85 — the GPO keeps. It is using a portion of this money to build a production facility in the US. But most of the money is GPO profit, a violation of the letter and the spirit of the law, which mandates charges only to cover costs. In essence the extra money is a tax.

So what does the Bush administration always do when confronted with an impropriety, not to mention an illegality? They just say they have determined it isn’t either one:

Like the security concerns, GPO officials brush aside questions about the profits. Agency officials declined a request from The Times to provide an exact accounting of its e-passport costs and revenues, saying only it would not be accurate to claim it has earned the large profits indicated by the documents showing the difference between the manufacturing costs and the State Department fees.

Questioned about its own annual report showing a $90 million-plus profit on e-passports in fiscal year 2007 alone, the GPO spokesman Mr. Somerset would only say that he thinks the agency is in legal compliance and that “GPO is not overcharging the State Department.”

The answer to the question, “How stupid and incompetent can these people be?” can only be answered this way: “Much stupider and much more incompetent than almost any body could possibly imagine.”

The only conclusion I can come to is this. While they keep talking about the grave threat we face from terrorists in fact they don’t really believe it and probably know most of it is a convenient (although incredibly costly) fiction. Otherwise why would they so consistently behave with such careless nonchalance about issues even I can see are a security problem?


  1. #1 blf
    March 30, 2008

    While they keep talking about the grave threat we face from terrorists in fact they don’t really believe it and probably know most of it is a convenient (although incredibly costly) fiction.

    I think here you’ve forgotten they are stupid and incompetent. (And very probably on the take.) They may indeed think there is a threat which justifies their abandoning the rule of law and ruling by diktat, but that leads to them thinking they are infallible. Hence, it they decided the procedures are Ok, then the procedures must be Ok, because they decided the procedures are Ok. Yes, that’s circular. And stupid. And incompetent. And increases the amount they are probably skimming off.

  2. #2 chezjake
    March 30, 2008

    Good story. Unfortunately, your Washington Times link comes right back here.

  3. #3 natural cynic
    March 30, 2008

    Whaddayamean stupid? They are making a profit. And if their system fails in some spectacular manner, they can demand more money from the taxpayers for more profitssecurity. And a byproduct would also be a more scared population which could be led to give up even more privacy, pay higher costs and elect more Rethuglicans.

  4. #4 revere
    March 30, 2008

    chezjake: Thanks. Fixed (I hope).

  5. #5 PhysioProf
    March 30, 2008

    They are not incompetent; they are anticompetent.

    Incompetence implies attempting, but failing, to achieve competence. They do not want to be competent.

    Every single day our own elected government by its every action gives the citizens of this nation the finger.

  6. #6 M. Randolph Kruger
    March 30, 2008

    Hmm…. December 19th, 2007. Inbound aircraft returning from Central America to my facility in Memphis. Customs meets the plane. 1 woman, 3 men, a dog and a child.

    Papers please. Ostensibly, US citizens. They exited the plane and were held under the canopy by an agent who walked over and faxed the picture to the office at the end of the runway… Not a match. He climbed into the car, went over and then scanned the passport via the e-chip. Not only not a match… International warrant for the woman. So even changing the picture didnt work because the e-chip did. They were all taken into custody. Dont know what happened beyond that.

    Okay so the costs dont hang with the necessity. I had to have mine redone Revere, you will too. If you have a problem with the price, you ought to see what I pay for the “terrorism” part of my operations insurance. If you want the price dropped for your passport, you can call your senators.

    If it stops even one who is hell bent on taking a plane or a train then its good enough for me at 100 million.

  7. #7 revere
    March 30, 2008

    Randy: Read the post. That RFID chip could easily be spoofed because it is made elsewhere. I wasn’t complaining about the cost of my passport (which I got renewed last year). I thought it probably cost at least as much as they charged me. Not 15% of what they charged me — which is itself a violation of the law. This story — in the super right wing Washington Times, by the way — is a story of malcompetence so grand it makes an ordinary person gasp. I would have thought you’d have been outraged by this. If the Bush administration does it does that mean you are never outraged by it?

  8. #8 paiwan
    March 30, 2008

    To do in a country where the policy men and politicians are corruptive from top to the bottom, I only can comment that is not a wise choice.

  9. #9 Pierce R. Butler
    March 30, 2008

    The Washington Times did real, original, worthwhile, investigative journalism?!? Now that’s news!

  10. #10 FO
    March 31, 2008

    Yeah MRK, because there aren’t any better ways to prevent that one hell-bent individual other than spending $100 million on outsourced, insecure chips. You know, there’s such a thing as “projection”; given your paranoid attitude, perhaps it’s YOU who’s hell bent on “taking a plane or train”.

  11. #11 Phila
    March 31, 2008

    Tech-savvy “Islamofascists” – or run of the mill identity thieves – may also be able to use the chips to pick American tourists out of a crowd. The revised design has done a lot to reduce that possibility, as I understand it, but it’s not completely ruled out. And as we all know from the Cheney Doctrine, that means we have to treat ’em as a certainty.

    As for MRK’s predictable response…not sure why I bother, but here goes anyway. There are two interesting things about spending $100 million to prevent “one hell-bent individual” from carrying out the terrorist attack. The first is that any such system is going to generate false positives and negatives, and these have to be taken into account in terms of total costs, and also in terms of their adaptability to fourth-generation warfare tactics. Suppose you want to overwhelm the system with passports that set off alarms? There are a couple of obvious ways of doing this, which would not only cause considerable consternation but also increase the likelihood that an actual criminal could get through.

    Second, and more important, if you use MRK’s metric for every goddamn threat that comes down the pike, not only do you end up bankrupt and overwhelmed, but you again give terrorists an easy way to disrupt your country and cost it a fortune. Shoe bombs? Let’s spend whatever it takes to address this terrible threat! Explosive shampoo? Let’s ban liquids! On second though, let’s just ban some liquids! Guidelines are forthcoming, or perhaps not. Say, maybe what we really need is a $100 million dollar machine that’ll do spot tests on hygiene products and soda. Explosives hidden in a baby’s diapers? No babies allowed unless they’re naked, or freshly changed while you’re in line! And so on.

    OBL once reportedly said that all he has to do is send a couple of guys to some remote location and have them put up an AQ flag, and it’ll cost America a million dollars. He gets it. Why people like MRK don’t I have no idea. The whole point of terrorism is to provoke overreaction.

  12. #12 attack rate
    March 31, 2008

    I have to say, when you said that the passports were $100, I stopped reading.

    Jealousy, you see. I recently renewed a british passport (AU$390) and an Australian one ($240). Even with the exchange rate difference, a US passport is still cheap as.

    You get what you pay for, I guess…

  13. #13 pft
    March 31, 2008

    It is fairly obvious they are not worried about foreign terrorists. They worry more about us, if people discover what is being done to them. But the fluoride and mind control stuff seems to still be working on those without the tinfoil hats that drink tap water.



  14. #14 highflyer
    March 31, 2008

    Security issues? Yes.
    Price issues? I doubt that. Neither the Netherlands nor Fance nor Germany are low price countries and the technology stems from these countries even if some parts of the production is in other countries too.
    The US was behind in smart card applications (either and or in terms of technology / quantity). At the same time they want a new passport that uses that technology.

    I agree, outsourcing was not a good idea. If you want things not available in your own country thats the only way to go.

  15. #15 revere
    March 31, 2008

    highflyer et al: For me, there are two price issues. I didn’t think the fee for a ten year passport was out of line. What surprised me was that in fact the actual cost was so low, and it was low because they outsourced it, thus creating a security problem (they for whom security is the top priority, no less). The second issue on price is that “making a profit”, i.e., charging far beyond the actual cost, is prohibited by US law. So they were also doing something illegal. I wasn’t complaining about the price per se.

  16. #16 SusanC
    March 31, 2008

    I would have said ‘unbelievable’! Except for the fact that there are very few things that surprise me anymore…

    Along the same lines, I’ve always wondered about this practice of having people supply their own photos for passport and visa applications. Given that these days altering a photo is a piece of cake, what makes tptb think that whatever photo that they see on the passport is the ‘true likeness’ of anyone?

    I’m wondering about this cos every time I pass through US customs I have to be fingerprinted and photographed. Now I have no objections to that; it’s your country, and you are free to require whatever the heck you want. But I’m wondering what on earth they are supposedly comparing the photographs TO.

    I don’t know enough about face recognition software but I reckon that it has something to do with proportion and distances between various landmarks on your face. So all it takes really to beat or at least confuse the system is to alter the proportion of the photo eg by shrinking or widening specific parameters on the photo. I can make myself look slimmer or whatever by just one click. With some patience I can imagine it being entirely possible to alter subtle proportions so as to ‘resemble’ someone else, digitally I mean.

    Anyone know the answer to that? Mind you, this is just to satisfy my curiosity. That question always comes up in my mind as I stand patiently in line at US customs. Maybe if someone can answer it next time I’ll have something more interesting to think about while I wait…

  17. #17 bigdudeisme
    March 31, 2008

    You must be ignorant to the manufacture and testing of microchips. The chips that go into passports are frequently tested for security program protocols and proprietary program information that cannot be duplicated or forged. They are only inserted into a passport once they have met stringet testing and security requirments. Only the manufacturer can properly program these chips and the chip can only match with one numbered document, period. Any alteration to this protocol and a Customs Officer is alerted at the border and the passport holder will be taken into custody.

    Regardless that the GPO is making a profit, they are not partisan for the most part. The people that run that place have been there throughout many administrations. Only the top administrator and his staff changes with each new administration.

    It is right to point out government corruption, just be sure to name the people and not generalize, as you may hurt many people that work for a living there (the GPO or State Dept.), that may be innocent, are just trying to put food on the table, and are trying to get their kids through school.

    I resent being labaled a “Rethuglican”. I do not call my Democratic friends names and consider them as fine people and patriots. Do not treat all people as scum because they are conservative or liberal. We are all Americans and just have opinions.

  18. #18 carl
    March 31, 2008

    “…that cannot be duplicated or forged.” Now that is amusing. I gather we have then, for the first time in human history, achieved perfection. I have a bridge in Brooklyn I want to tell you about.

  19. #19 revere
    March 31, 2008

    bigdude: I’m not sure I ever used that epithet (Rethuglican). If another commenter uses it, then refer to them, not by implication, me. Comments here are traditionally freewheeling and I don’t control them. If you are offended by what someone else says, you have a perfect right to say it and to say why.

    Regarding the microchips, the point was that the chips are manufactured outside the US where there are no controls by US security. Other chips could be substituted at some point in the chain. Regarding the GPO, it is not a person, it is an institution. It still has to be held accountable. The story was from the right wing and determinedly pro-Bush Washington Times, not me. As for career people at these agencies, the agencies I am familiar with have lost many of their career professionals because of political interference from on high and a real pressure to privatize and dismantle government (CDC is a good example but there are others). This is one more example.

  20. #20 highflyer
    March 31, 2008

    I am not really talking about prices. If you prefer to talk prices (although there is too little information available to do so) the price of the bare chip is not the whole of the costs involved. Also you assume it was outsourced because of the price. I do not think it was.
    Another German company (Giesecke & Devrient) that does quite a lot in this area (also “security” relevant if you consider printing foreign currencies, smart cards, passports, health cards and money identifying machines security relevant) for the US and many other countries, that does have a large facility in the US, stated explicitely that they did not want to do the passports, because regulations changed too frequently. So it seems (although I do not know enough details) that they did not outsource it for price reasons, they simply could not find anyone within the US willing to do it or capable and willing to do it or capable and willing and able to deliver the quantities.

    I have not seen a brakedown of the costs but the empty card should be only a fraction of the total cost. Its not even all the “hardware” needed, let alone software and data managemenent. Lots of additional software and databanks (after all the information initially has to be stored somewhere in a form to be transferred) could easily drive the real cost five or six times higher.

    By that logic – a paper passport costs how much? And the printing of the empty passport is like one dollar at most?
    The processing is also new. Legal or illegal would rather be a matter of wether this or that equipment was adeaquatly priced and the portion on each passport is correct.

    Not my area of business and “intimate knowledge”, just a few factoids I came across long ago in other contexts, the rest guessing.

  21. #21 jen_m
    March 31, 2008

    Bigdudeisme, I can’t figure out why you think the security issues are about the chip verification and programming – the issues are that the pathways among the chip production facilities, the assembly facilities, and the distribution points aren’t being properly secured, and that the production cost is being kept very low because the operating budget requires a staggering profit off the passports. The justification for chipping passports is reduction of counterfeiting, but if the process of chipping the passports makes it easier to steal the real thing, then chipping defeats security.

    I can’t speak for the Reveres, but when I’m paying more to try to increase security, and I’m giving up a tiny chunk of my own liberty to do it (in the form of putting still more information about myself and my travels in a permanent readable format), I am disappointed and annoyed when I find my travel less secure.

    Passport production should be a homegrown industry, even if it costs more. (As should currency production.)

  22. #22 marquer
    March 31, 2008

    I know a gentleman — a rockribbed conservative Republican to the core — whose thesis about the high cost of US passports is that it is a deliberate device to discourage Americans, especially lower-income and working-class Americans, from travelling abroad.

    He said, “If your typical American blue-collar Joe or Jane got a look at how their French or German economic counterparts live, there would be ugly questions asked once Joe and Jane returned home to the States.”

    Reflect upon the ramifications of the fact that the entire planet is now smaller, gauged by the metric of travel time, than was France of the eighteenth century. And that it is now smaller, gauged by the metric of communications time, than is the neighborhood in which I live.

    I would aver that, in such a rapidly shrinking world, it is so critically important to build understanding of the rest of that world, via travel and via exposure to other national cultures, that it should be an explicit goal of American federal policy to encourage US citizens to obtain passports.

    I would further suggest that the issuance of such documentation should be subsidized if necessary, and perhaps even issued free of charge upon request.

    The degree of insularity which my fellow Americans evince in conversation is frankly frightening. And while I am normally content to allow ignorant people to remain ignorant if that does not have dangerous sequelae, unfortunately, in this case, such ignorance is in fact actively dangerous.

    Consider that a preponderance of adult Americans continue to believe to this day that a majority of the hijackers in the September 11th attacks were Iraqi, when in fact the majority of the hijackers were Saudi nationals, and none of the remainder were from Iraq at all. (There are obviously going to be certain interests who are keenly interested in perpetuating this error, the House of Saud foremost among them.)

    These sorts of childlike misunderstandings have huge and damaging consequences in the real world — when, for instance, a President proposes to go to war and is cheered on by people who don’t realize what that actually implies.

    So we are due for change and I hope it arrives soonest.

    Not least in terms of canning the appalling graphic design of the new US passports. They are gaudy comic books compared to the simple, dignified, classic passport I had carried for many years.

  23. #23 Lori
    April 1, 2008

    Okay Randy, this time I have to fact check your story. Since no matter what the subject, you always seem to conveniently come up with some personal experience – what do you mean “My facility”? Who do you work for? “Customs” Well, there isn’t a “Customs” anymore. Are you an “agent”? Hmmmnn….there aren’t any “Customs agents” anymore either.

    Just wondering.

  24. #24 george
    April 1, 2008

    It is possible that Americans are purposefully being kept ignorant. Travel, reading, socializing and conversing are becoming luxuries for the few. A lack of art and history education combined with little or no vacation time, decreasing income, and the falling dollar all add up to a population that is mostly plodding along as if wearing blinders. Makes us much easier to control.

    I’ve been meaning to find and renew my passport. Not because I am able to travel anymore due to having to work two jobs, but because I might need to make a quick getaway.

  25. #25 bigdudeisme
    April 1, 2008

    I stand corrected. Natural cynic used the term “Rethuglican”, which is offensive, since we all are people and have opinions here.

    As afar as chips, each chip has a wired circuit that can be traced from start to finish and it has a program that can be printed out and can be de-coded. The code can all be matched to the original code that the supplier requested the manufactuer have placed on the chip and Quality Assurance techs can assure that compliance was carried out with the contract. It is pretty straight forward. A certain chip can be matched numerically with a a numbered document. This is not perfection, as Carl eludes to above, it is 1 + 1 = 2. If the formula does not calulate, the chip does not match the document, you have a forgery. Pretty straight forward.

    As far as the present Administration presuring long term government employees to leave their posts, that is a rare occurence, except for when the large agencies try to transfer the Executives to some outpost. That is not something that would happen in the GPO. The annalogy of the CDC is laughable. The CDC has a real high turnover and always will as the doctors just want to have it on their resume and don’t stay long. The place is corrupt at the top with incompetent people that don’t know how to run a business because they are doctors and not corporate business people that have no experience in government. Most are researchers and get no respect from the rest of the government agencies they deal with and that is why they did not locate in Washington DC.

    Now, am I happy that they outsource these passports chips and such, no, I think this is a job that should be done in the US. However, the real cost of these passports and the real security is in the software. Someone else above states it well. All programing has astronomical costs as programers are all pinheads that require lots of cash to keep their brains functioning. There is lots of expensive testing equipment and lets not forget that nobody ever knows if the programer is ever really working or not, so there is a bottomless pit that the government must shovel money into to keep the whole thing going once they flip the switch. All in the name of security. Now don’t imagine for a minute, that all of the software is installed in the foreign factory, just enough to test the chip. The final installation happens when it is ready to be issued to the person, all of the final security features are installed by the State Department, and then one last test happens. That is why the passports are secure and can’t be forged.

    That is why they cost $100.00. Print costs are low, but that programmer and his equipment are keeping the costs near $100.00, plus you got to pay that State Department employee to hand it out.

    Quit whinning.

  26. #26 Matthew
    April 1, 2008

    bigdudeisme: The problem with the RFID technology is the false sense of security it’s giving people. Even with a Faraday cage preventing the reading your chip remotely, what would prevent an “official” inspecting your passport to scan your RFID to spoof later? RFID spoofing, though non-trivial, is also not too difficult for those with some electronics background (look up RFID spoofing on Google for examples). RFIDs are not going to add that much more difficulty to those who are serious about getting a fake passport.

  27. #27 retired paramdic mi
    April 1, 2008

    Border patrol uniforms made in Mexico, and passports from Thailand. It just gets better and better.

  28. #28 M. Randolph Kruger
    April 1, 2008

    Lori-Its US Customs and Border Protection… We didnt do away with them dear. They were merged with that little group three years ago and as a result we got this.


    Wouldnt want you to have to worry about it too terribly much Lori. Please visit my website memphisaviationworldwide.com

    It has my address, phone numbers and do feel free to visit as I am a certified screener with blue rubber gloves. Draw from that what you want.

    Also Lori I deal with these issues everyday and right in front of me. How about having to escort people onto the ramp? I have to have them within arms reach at all times. I have to use a metal detector, I have to use a sniffer on boxes and under the new TSA 1544 regulations I have to inspect things for bombs. Unfortunately, if you find one its generally in your face and they dont tick. They go off. Everyone has to be trained in recognition, security processes like dont use the radio’s or phones inside of a mile (good luck on that one) as it might set the little bugger off. So even the planes that are leaving are in jeopardy because they cant communicate with ATC.

    Its nice to be able to make decisions without all the information. That is though, if you were wondering. I mean Hell I have only been in aviation all my adult life.

    You guys really just dont understand what goes on behind the scenes and I think you are just uninformed, but not stupid. I surely would like to go back to the days of 9/10 but its adaptation to a situation.

    You all make valid points but you have no concept of the regulations that we have to deal with. Recurrent checks every six months at the employers cost if anyone is found to be illegal or a person of interest and its not just the airport. Trains, toll booth operators, chemical truck operations anyone in transportation. All have to be re-vetted. Remember the deal with the truck drivers in Ohio? They only caught some 80 illegals and they werent Mexicans…. They were mostly Canadians, a few Romanians and Hungarians. Quite a few (most) of them were of Middle Eastern descent and had gained access to the US -HOW?

    100 million… Is that ALL? Are they making money on it? Good. It reduces the needs to tax for it and puts it on the consumer rather than the rest of us.

    CBP busts about two or three a month for something right here on the ramp. Believe it or not, its normally not dope. A year ago it was someone from the no fly list trying to charter an aircraft to New York with an interim stop in a bug crap airport. A jet in fact. BTW it doesnt have to be a 727 to do the damage. One pop in the pilots head, they land, grab a load of explosives and then visit Wall Street.
    Lots of little incidents where its almost a situation where you have to let them commit the crime first, then try to arrest the pieces.

    Lori-This is only one incident. I have more if you would like to hear about them.

    A lot of people here dont know whats really going on. I am firm in the belief that if people are given the same amount of information that 7 out of 10 will always draw the same conclusion, 1 will be too stupid to understand it, 1 will dismiss it out of personal preference and 1 will draw something novel out of it, but thats just me.

    I am not satisfied at all by airport security. OBL and friends will not likely come thru the front door, but you do have to secure it. Shoe bombs? Please be aware that a shoe charge isnt very much but placed on a foot, next to the pressure vessel of an aircraft its more than enough with a 1 pound charge to bring the plane down. Its high pressure on the inside and lower pressure on outside. It wouldnt take much as the external structure is designed to take a hit, the inside isnt.

    If it had been anything other than a lighter R. Reed might have pulled it off. E.g. Walkman or PSP charge.

    Phila-its not about babies unless you are talking about people who want to kill other people. There are documented cases of people cramming drugs up baby butts, false bottomed baby carriers and most importantly we know that they are actively trying to bring airliners down. You must not fly much. But please do check into this because if you recall, a Libyan was going to send his American wife and child onto a plane with a bomb aboard in the mid 80’s. Pretty easy to mix two chemicals in your carry on. Binary chemicals, very, very effective.


    But better… Here are some simulators that you can look at and by all means understand that I have seen them before during their “system tests” and especially you Lori. Ask yourself if you could get one of these onto a plane. I know I could get past the security people.


    This one is about to be outlawed I think…. Its like gum or play dough. Very hard to detect.


    Here is a Canadian binary. Its a published chemical composition. Not hard to synthesize.


    Nice shock tube vid here. The tube and cord could be EASILY put onto a plane and all you have to have is something on the other end. How about the above binary? You could have multiple people carrying multiple pieces onto a plane.


    Revere-The chips are made outside the US and they are very limited chip. Its not like its some computer CPU. It has but one function, its checked before its sent out from the govt and its also programmed at the source. Almost impossible to “fix” because it is scanned every time its presented. It MUST match the database exactly and you MUST have access to the database to change it. As I understand it, the double blind on it is creation date, access dates and picture. all kept in different databases. If that assertion is not correct, its mostly correct.

    If there is an access date different from the creation date it flags, as does obviously the picture which would have to be inserted into the database as well. In otherwords to change it, you have to have another level above the initial one to change it. No reason to alter it so if there is a change on the chip, its immediately known. Not foolproof, but pretty close.

    Could it be done? Sure, but no security system is perfect. So you multilayer it. Anyone who thinks flying is ever going back to the way it used to be is nutz. You will continue to pull those shoes off for the rest of your flying life.

    Susan C-The facial recognition is from landmarks on your face and it scans a HUGE database of people. Will you get detained? If you fit the mold yes. Its a facial fingerprint and it would be very hard for them to ever convict on just that because there are so many people who have so many near features. I wouldnt though want to be sitting detained if the plane suddenly went kablooey that I was supposed to be on. Might have to change your travel plans.

    Costs-Think of it as an unwanted tax. Just like the tax that created the Energy Department in the 70’s… Still waiting for the energy. The security you can see. Same with the federal pax tax that was supposed to be used for airport improvements and upgrades to ATC. That money was held for almost 30 years until a federal lawsuit was filed to release it. Balanced the budget with it.

    All in all I am fairly comfortable with the new passports and the costs. They were about 100 as I recall for the last 15? years. Can they be screwed with? Man made it, man can unmake it. Do they have the resources to do it? I dont know if the Saudi’s are funding “charities” anymore. But it might amaze you to know that Arafat was sitting on 1 billion dollars in cash when he was killed.

    I want to get into the bank that was paying that kind of interest rate.

  29. #29 M. Randolph Kruger
    April 3, 2008

    TSA Week at a Glance (March 24 – March 30, 2008)
    Photo of a Caspian gun

    * 15 passengers were arrested due to suspicious behavior or fraudulent travel documents
    * 16 firearms found at checkpoints
    * 4 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
    * 12 incidents that involved a checkpoint closure, terminal evacuation or sterile area breach
    * 17 disruptive passengers on flights

    Note item one… those were fake passports in nearly every condition.

    Be sure to check your assault rifle at the desk which by the way is perfectly legal if you ask for the TSA to move it in the security bin in the aircraft and have them escort you off the property with it. As long as you declare it, dont have access to it during a flight, and are handed it in a broken down manner its just a chunk of metal to them.


  30. #30 marquer
    April 3, 2008

    But please do check into this because if you recall, a Libyan was going to send his American wife and child onto a plane with a bomb aboard in the mid 80’s.

    An Irish wife, surely. I remember the attempt well. Quite appalling.

    Just like the tax that created the Energy Department in the 70’s… Still waiting for the energy.

    Actually, the Energy Department has come up with a number of very good technologies over the years. My personal favorite being the Integral Fast Reactor. Which neatly solves the nuclear waste problem by burning its fissionables so thoroughly that long-lived wastes are minuscule. There are others, including some neat biofuel ideas that have nothing to do with the insanity of corn ethanol.

    The problem is that deploying any of these innovations would step on the toes of existing business interests who are well-connected inside the Beltway.

    So perhaps the Department of Energy should be renamed the Department of Energy Sources Which Will Never Threaten Anyone’s Profit Margins And Which Will Never Be Built.

    And before anyone decries the evil of the Bush Republicans for preventing research funded by the public from benefiting the public, although they are in truth quite good at that, note that a whole lot of DOE projects, including the highly promising IFR, were canned by the administration of one William Jefferson Clinton.

  31. #31 M. Randolph Kruger
    April 3, 2008

    Very good Marquer, but I dont think anyone is going on the lefty side of the aisle is going to allow the building of any nukes. They want us to end our dependence on fossil fuels but they just cant seem to get over the hill of there aint enough real estate for sun panels, nor is there enough wind to push those windmills to make it happen. You are right about ethanol, the disposed mash is an absolute disaster.

    But for those of you who think the passport thing is all about e-chips and where they are made you should really think about it a bit. All of the boys here whose paperwork was in order were planning to bring down seven airliners out of Heathrow. Guess what they were planning to use? Binaries….How nice.

    More important, you should also understand something else. If e-chips had been in use at the time they likely would have never gotten near a plane. Not going to say impossible, but highly improbable. Now if we can just get the illegals back across the border then everything should be fine.


  32. #33 M. Randolph Kruger
    June 5, 2008

    Germany has apparently adopted the near US security, surveillance and detention laws.


    Should be interesting to see who their nets catch…

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