The TSA doesn’t really want you to read what’s in here. They’ve said so many times, and their SOPs even say so. Here’s what’s strange, though: all the information we’ve got here is available to anyone who’ve worked some kind of advanced security, read a couple of books on the subject and searched through some patent archives. And that’s why we’re going to tell you how the TSA’s mystical “Explosives Trace Detection” works, what it does and what they really mean when they talk about “alarm resolution”. It’s simpler than you think…

TSA and SSI, K-I-S-S-I-N-G…

If you’ve been unlucky enough to have the TSA, for example, “sample” or “swab” your hands for one of their explosives detection tests, and that thing set off some kind of alarm, you’re probably familiar with the hassle that can entail. If you haven’t been through that ordeal, count yourself lucky. You should still read on, because we’re going to tell you what those alarms actually mean, and how they’re usually “resolved”. Why? Because the TSA, amongst others, keep saying that explosives trace detection (ETD) and alarm resolution in explosives detection systems is “SSI” – Sensitive Security Information – and we know that it really isn’t.

The TSA just loves to designate things as SSI – mostly to have an excuse ready for when the press comes a-knocking, and we’re here to blow the flimsy lid off the things that aren’t really SSI. This time, it turned out to be a rather lengthy page, and we’ve put it here, so you can always find it.

We know you want to know what we know about ETD and the TSA’s alarm resolution, so you should probably go ahead and check it out. It’s right here


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