Lots of experts doubt whether the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) backscatter porno scanner machines are safe. According to Boing Boing, the skeptics may be right because the TSA has no way to test its scanners.
According to the post on Boing Boing that references an AOL news investigation, even when an expert endorses the TSA’s scanners they are careful to preface their support with some warnings: the safety of the machines depends heavily on their being properly maintained, regularly tested, and expertly operated.
You may or may not be in favor of the radiation that comes from the Transportation Sex-crime Administration’s scanners, but I think most people would agree that a malfunctioning machine that beams your vital organs with 10,000 or 100,000 times the normal dosage is bad thing.
The post on Boing Boing talks about how Andrew Schneider, AOL's public health correspondent, contacted the TSA to ask what maintenance and testing is conducted to ensure the safe operation of the scanners. Not surprisingly he discovered that the TSA seems to have no system at all to guarantee that they are working properly.
According to Boing Boing, the TSA claims that the FDA, the US Army and Johns Hopkins University all conduct regular inspections on the machines. Sounds good except none of these groups seems to agree with that statement. They have all denied any role in testing and maintaining the TSA’s machines (the Army tested machines in three airports, but has not done any further testing).
Oh, and Johns Hopkins denied that it has ever certified the machines as safe for use in the first place, let alone doing any ongoing testing and certification programs.
The FDA has said that it doesn’t inspect the TSA’s nonmedical x-ray units and that they have no legal authority to require the TSA to provide routine testing after they buy the machines.
It might also be important to note the guy who used to be former U.S. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, has most likely made an assload of money off of selling the porno scanners to the TSA. His company, The Chertoff Group had Rapiscan Systems as a client, so he used his connections in government and war on terror fear-mongering to set himself up for a nice fat payday.
Yes the guy who was at one time supposed to “protect” us from terrorists is now making money off of us because the TSA is supported by tax-payer dollars. Awesome.
And there is this quote from AOL News via Boing Boing relating to Johns Hopkins University and their Applied Physics Laboratory that exposes the TSA’s mistruths about the scanners and their safety testing: "APL's role was to measure radiation coming off the body scanners to verify that it fell within (accepted) standards. We were testing equipment and in no way determined its safety to humans," Helen Worth, head of public affairs for the Johns Hopkins lab, said.
"Many news articles have said we declared the equipment to be safe, but that was not what we were tasked to do," she added.
According to Boing Boing, APL scientists were not able to test a ready-for-TSA scanner because the manufacturer would not give them one to test. Instead, the tests were done on a scanner pieced together from some spare parts in manufacturer Rapiscan Systems' California warehouse.
The TSA might very well be lying about the safety of the scanners and the safety procedures that go along with them. Shocking isn’t it?