Detecting chemical explosives: The debateTSA fights back against charge that X-rays can not stop shoe-bombers

Published 16 August 2006

At a press conference yesterday, officials defended themselves with X-ray images of shoes with and without bombs; the difference was easy to see, they said

Stung this week by reports that airport X-ray machines were ineffective in detecting explosives, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) fought back at a news conference yesterday. Meanwhile, others raised questions about TSA’s ability to screen explosives in air cargo and worried about explosives being smuggled onto planes in passengers’ pants and belts. One more company claimed it had the ability to detect liquid explosives, the government asked for more data about incoming flights, and news out of China suggested that the threat is greater than previously imagined.

Yesterday we reported about a leaked DHS study that found that X-rays currently in use could not detect explosives, calling into question recently reintroduced rules requiring passengers to pass their shoes through airport machines. Now TSA emphatically disputes the DHS claims. “Screening shoes by X-ray is an effective method of identifying any type of anomaly, including explosives,” said TSA chief Kip Hawley at a news conference yesterday held at Reagan National Airport. He showed reporters copies of X-rays of two pairs of shoes, one worn by Richard Reid and one without explosives. “You can see very clearly the difference between a shoe with an explosive and one without,” Hawley said, noting that 31,000 screeners have been specially trained to do so.

-read more in this AP report