Portland, Ore. -- U.S. airports have invested billions in security since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Still, the Government Accountability Office managed to sneak bomb-making components onto planes at 21 U.S. airports--every one it tested--over a recent four-month period. Now, an Israeli technology called CarrySafe has been licensed to a U.S. company that insists it could have detected those bomb-making components with 100 percent accuracy.
In the security trial, conducted from last October until January, "GAO investigators were able to smuggle explosives past screeners in their carry-on luggage in 21 out of the 21 U.S. airports," the chairman of the U.S. company, TraceGuard Technologies Inc. (New York), said. Ehud Ganani, who is also TraceGuard's chief executive officer, was formerly CEO of Israeli Military Industries and, before that, vice president at Israeli military technology company Rafael Armament Development Authority Ltd. "CarrySafe would have detected traces from every one of those carry-on bags," he said.
Moreover, Ganani said, CarrySafe can be retrofitted to collect traces of explosives and pass that residue on to existing analysis equipment. Instead of manually swabbing a bag and putting the swab into an analyzer, hoping the single swabbed spot had residue on it, CarrySafe automatically collects residue from every part of the luggage, Ganani said. "All those 21 airports already have the analyzers installed, but they are too inefficient to work to their full potential," he said.
Originally designed to screen air cargo, CarrySafe was invented by TraceGuard chief scientist Fredy Ornath for a joint demonstration organized by the Israeli police and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. The demonstration, performed before the 9/11 attacks, successfully used a larger version of the technology to detect trace amounts of explosives in cargo. Later, Ornath founded TraceTrack Technology Ltd. (Tel Aviv, Israel), developed the technology for seven years, then last year licensed it to TraceGuard, a U.S. corporation, and brought aboard Israeli security specialists.
"CarrySafe was developed in consultation with Israeli building-security and anti-terrorism specialists, former military and agency personnel from the Israeli Security Agency, the Mossad and the Israeli police," said Ganani. "In Israel, we have been fighting terror for the last 57 years, and will probably be for the next 57."
The Israeli Security Agency is now certifying CarrySafe for use in Israeli airports, and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration is expected to follow suit with certification in early 2007 for use in U.S. airports. "CarrySafe can be adapted for use with any analyzer currently installed in an Israeli or U.S. airport," said Ganani. "It can also be adapted to detect biological substances like anthrax or any other hazardous material."
How it works
TraceGuard's patented technology wraps a piece of baggage in an adaptive membrane that houses both air-jet nozzles and vacuum nozzles. It first shoots high-pressure air streams onto the bag's surface, streams so powerful that they dislodge any residue. It follows immediately with a vacuum step that collects and accumulates the residue, which is then automatically delivered to the existing airport explosives analyzers. There is almost no space between the membrane and the bag, said Ganani. "Then an automated sequence goes through a compression and decompression cycle that uses air to exert sheer forces that extract every residue which is on the skin of that bag."
As an add-on to existing airport systems, CarrySafe is much less expensive than the analyzer already installed in those systems, the company says, and enables them to operate at full accuracy, by collecting traces as small as 40 micrograms--the amount of residue left by a single fingerprint. "CarrySafe works with existing chemical analyzers that airports already have, but multi- plies their effectiveness by replacing a manual analysis with an automated procedure that is much more sensitive," said Ganani.
The United States has 451 large airports with international traffic and more than 1,500 small airports from which terrorists could launch attacks. These locations can make existing analyzers more effective with CarrySafe, TraceGuard says. Future CarrySafe models will also screen checked bags and cargo, and will be marketed where there are no existing analyzers, such as railroad, bus, subway, trucking, shipping and even building-security applications.
"Nobody should base security solely on technology or equipment--it should always be in combination with someone who has proper training to pick suspects out of a crowd," said Ganani. "But they need to have CarrySafe nearby so that they can step up to a suspect and say, 'Sir, please put your bag into that machine.' "
CarrySafe costs less than an advanced X-ray, gives fewer false alarms than computer-aided tomography, the company said, and can work with any of the 28 types of chemical analyzers made today (out of 45 types of explosives). Seventeen new types of chemical analyzers are being made to detect the remaining types of explosives, and TraceGuard guarantees that its CarrySafe add-on will work with them too.