Home > History Repeating Itself, Legal Issues, Public Service > The TSA Ignored Radiation Concerns in its Haste to Roll Out “Porno Scanners”

The TSA Ignored Radiation Concerns in its Haste to Roll Out “Porno Scanners”

In a story that will surprise no one who has been paying attention, the TSA ignored radiation concerns raised more than a decade ago about its airport X-Ray scanners.  The very real health risks posed by these machines (to say nothing of their privacy concerns and blatant trampling of the fourth amendment) received little to no consideration.  According to ProPublica,

One after another, the experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [in 1998] raised questions about the machine because it violated a longstanding principle in radiation safety — that humans shouldn’t be X-rayed unless there is a medical benefit.
Even the machine’s inventor dismissed concerns that such machines would be used at “lower-security” areas in the future, thereby deflecting criticism of its radiation dosages:
The machine’s inventor, Steven W. Smith, assured the panelists that it was highly unlikely that the device would see widespread use in the near future. At the time, only 20 machines were in operation in the entire country.
 
“The places I think you are not going to see these in the next five years is lower-security facilities, particularly power plants, embassies, courthouses, airports and governments,” Smith said. “I would be extremely surprised in the next five to 10 years if the Secure 1000 is sold to any of these.”
Inventor, yes.  Prognosticator, no.  But his statements almost certainly came from a sincere belief.  Contrast them with statements from the TSA:
Robin Kane, the TSA’s assistant administrator for security technology, said that no one would get cancer because the amount of radiation the X-ray scanners emit is minute…
 
“It’s a really, really small amount relative to the security benefit you’re going to get,” Kane said.
No one will get cancer?  Can I get that in writing?  And if someone does, can that be the impetus that we need to shut down this godawful privacy violation?
 
Also, we should consider the brief sop to cost-benefit analysis.  Kane engages in a little unwarranted assumption when he claims that there are benefits to this technology.  Let’s tally the scores.  How many people has the TSA irradiated?  Millions.  How many terrorists has the TSA caught?  Zero.
 
That’s right.  Zero.  Ever.  And annoyingly, the more the TSA strips away the freedoms of the people who would otherwise follow the rules, the more it seems that the people who are real, potential terrorists are still finding their way onto the planes.  Look, if they are going to make it through the TSA security theater anyway, why bother with any kind of scanning machine?
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