Can the body scanners used by the TSA save images? It seems unreasonable to geeks that a computer cannot save any images at all—ever. But according to a statement made to Gizmodo by the TSA, that's the case.
After the shock last week over images that were saved by a millimeter wave scanning machine operated by U.S. Marshals at an Orland, Florida federal courthouse, many—myself included—wondered if this meant a similar leak from machines operated by the TSA was inevitable. The TSA, on the other hand, has publicly stated that there was no way at all for images to be leaked from their machines—a claim that is especially hard for geeks to swallow, for whom 'computer security' is a temporary condition.
DHS/TSA's public affairs office was kind enough to provide some answers.
I asked the Department of Homeland Security to clarify exactly which models of body scanners were currently in use by the TSA.
Their reply (emphasis mine):
TSA competitively bids new technologies and makes selections through a comprehensive research, testing, and deployment process. Technology must meet detection standards and TSA tests new technology in both laboratory and field environments. As companies develop new technologies, they can be included in the competitive process. Currently, L-3 and Rapiscan are the two vendors on TSA's qualified products list for Advanced Imaging Technology.
I also asked if it were truly "impossible" for machines to save images.
TSA (emphasis mine):
The machines in airports do not have the capability to save, print or store images. New software and hardware would need to be installed in order for this to be possible.