Can Nude-o-Scopes Really Be Foiled By a Sewing Kit?

Via Matthew, Jonathan Corbett believes that the nude-o-scopes are easily foiled — supposed ‘threat items’ are displayed in black, and the background that people are shown against is black, so if you can simply cause an item to appear against the background it becomes essentially invisible to the machine.

By sewing a pocket on the side of his shirt, he shows himself walking through these machines carrying metal objects.

Here’s his video:

I wish he was more matter-of-fact in his presentation, losing some of the editorializing at the beginning and end of the piece.

But this is an important story, worth testing further and worth seeking TSA comment on. It’s suggestive, if true, of what most of us already know, that the machines are purely security theatre and an expensive federal procurement boondoggle.

Sadly I’ve argued in the past that we’ll probably need an even more expensive boondoggle in order to create a politically powerful constituency willing to lobby for an end to the nude-o-scopes.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. Great video, hope this gets more exposure. While I’m holding out that one day folks will wake up and we’ll be back to pre-9/11 less invasive, and, more importantly, privatized airport security, I’m afraid the current fear mongering politicians will only view things like this as a reason to spend even more money on even more ridiculous theatrical performances.

    As a side note, on the surface it seems this particular issue is something that nudoscope manufactures might be able to address with a software issue, but I admittedly don’t know the ins and outs of the tech.

  2. Simple solution – double the radiation exposure. Take one shot from the front, then have people turn at a right angle (⊾) and get another image. Then, since they will certainly have set off something at that point, they should get a pat down.

    Of course, I never understood why these were installed parallel to walk-through metal detectors. Why not in series?

  3. It seems that this might toy with a backscatter scanner, but the far more popular millimeter wave scanners do about a 270º scan.

  4. @Kris Ziel

    Not sure what airports you fly through, but I see about 1 millimeter wave scanner for every 10-15 backscatters when I travel….

  5. I was with you until he started with the “privatize security”. It’s the profit motive that has made the TSA the epic fail that it is today. Further incentivizing them isn’t going to make things any better, only worse.

    We would be better off without the TSA entirely.

  6. I submitted this to Propublica as a great “muckread” that is related to their own investigation that states the health risk of going through machines that are not regulated because they are not classified as medical devices. So while Xray machines In hospitals eed to be tested ti make sure levels of radiation are “safe,” there is NO testing on the machines used in airports. Personally, I’m saving my body radiation doses for when my doctor recommends it. I refuse to stand in Xray line. (and I tell fellow passengers near me, the same thing). My worry now, is that my name will be flagged as a pat down from now on for chiming in on this site. I just can’t believe people young and old have no problem getting radiated! By the way, the metal detectors on belts don’t work either. How many times my Swiss Army knife on my keychain and pepper spray has gone through, I have no idea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *