TSA has no regular testing system for its pornoscanners

Many experts are skeptical that the TSA's new backscatter pornoscanner machines are safe, but even the experts who endorse them are careful to bracket their reassurances with certain caveats: the safety of the machines depends heavily on their being properly maintained, regularly tested, and expertly operated. Whether or not you're comfortable with the intended radiation emissions from the scanners, no one in their right mind would argue that a broken machine that lovingly lingers over your reproductive organs and infuses them with 10,000 or 100,000 times the normal dosage is desirable.

But when Andrew Schneider, AOL's public health correspondent, contacted the TSA to find out what maintenance and testing is in place to ensure the safe operation of the scanners, he discovered that the TSA appears to have no regime at all to ensure that they are functioning within normal parameters. While the TSA claims that entities like the FDA, the US Army and Johns Hopkins all regularly inspect their machines, none of these groups agrees, and they all disavow any role in regularly maintaining and testing the TSA's equipment (the Army has tested machines in three airports, but has not conducted any further testing). And Johns Hopkins denies that it has certified the machines as safe for operation in the first place -- let alone taking on any ongoing testing and certification program.

For example, the FDA says it doesn't do routine inspections of any nonmedical X-ray unit, including the ones operated by the TSA.

The FDA has not field-tested these scanners and hasn't inspected the manufacturer. It has no legal authority to require owners of these devices -- in this case, TSA -- to provide access for routine testing on these products once they have been sold, FDA press officer said Karen Riley said...

Two-person teams from the Army unit performed surveys of the Advance Image Technology X-ray scanners at just three airports -- in Boston, Los Angeles and Cincinnati, she said. And that was all that the TSA asked the Army to do this year...

"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, told AOL News.

"Many news articles have said we declared the equipment to be safe, but that was not what we were tasked to do," she added.

Moreover, the study said APL scientists were unable to test a ready-for-TSA scanner at their lab because the manufacturer would not supply one. Instead, the tests were performed on a scanner cobbled together from spare parts in manufacturer Rapiscan Systems' California warehouse.

AOL Investigation: No Proof TSA Scanners Are Safe (Thanks, Shebar!)

(Image: Bottle: entry in Bruce Schneier's TSA logo competition, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from bazzargh's photostream)


    1. But if the scanners aren’t properly calibrated, how do we even know they’re detecting the narrow range of threats they’re supposed to detect? They’re failing at security, too.

      The entire thing is insane.

      Y’know what? Let guns in carryons. The cockpit door is bulletproof. The aircraft hull is strong enough that a gun going off wouldn’t be a complete disaster. It would simply disrupt the flight, force an altitude change. You’d be in only slightly more danger than if you were in a school auditorium or a bank and someone started shooting.

      The only real danger is a large enough explosive to take down a plane. Such an explosive would be too large to be concealed on ones person, but could easily be transported in luggage. So we only need to search bags.

      You’re welcome America, I’ve solved our airport security problems in the most Alexandrian fashion possible.

      1. “It would simply disrupt the flight, force an altitude change”

        And even that is not very likely. The cabin pressure control valve, the variable-size outlet used to relieve the air-conditioned engine bleed air pressurizing the cabin is way bigger than a bullet hole. A single bullet would just require the outlet valve to be closed a bit.

        I suppose if someone started shooting lots of holes in the fuselage, you could get to the point of requiring an altitude change. But a) I’d hope when the shooter went to reload, there’d be enough passengers interested in self-preservation to take him down, and b) I’d expect once the shooting started, there’d be an altitude change anyway, as the pilot heads for the nearest airport.

      2. Nobody in favor of letting everyone have guns has yet explained to me what happens when everyone starts shooting, including well-meaning but poorly trained civilians trying to stop terrorists, and well-meaning but poorly trained civilians trying to stop the other civilians from shooting them by accident. That might have more consequences.

        1. Some people might die, just like in any other situation with guns. Again, it wouldn’t be much different than any other public place where people can carry guns, legally or illegally.

  1. It is much better to be killed slowly by the government than rapidly by a terrorist. Besides, the wealthy and our representatives travel on private jets.

    1. actually our representatives fly commercial. I’ve been on flights with several senators and congressmen (i live in DC)

      1. Some of the more principled ones do (e.g. Ron Paul). A great many do not, at least not when they can hitch a ride on a supporter’s corporate jet.

    2. Anyone who can make such a statement has never watched a loved one die slowly of cancer and the radiation poisoning used to treat it (and which can just as easily cause the cancer in the first place).

  2. So, they’re on your flight. Bet they didn’t go through security. As for maintaining the calibration of the equipment: when has the deaths of countless Americans and foreigners ever mattered to the Corporations that own the U.S. Government?

  3. Twas the night before Christmas, everyone was crying (even the mouse),
    before we go flying, we must leave the house.
    Objectors were molested by the blue-gloved pervs,
    I wanted to say no, but I lacked the nerve.

    The children were probed, it’s etched in their minds,
    but better than being left far behind.
    They searched mamma, not once but twice,
    they squeezed my sack, it didn’t feel nice.

    Outside the gate, there arose such a clatter,
    I zipped up my pants, and went to see what was the matter.
    Out of the aquarium I flew like a flash,
    and removed the blue glove, which they had left, half-shoved up my ass.

    There a screener had her hand on grandma’s breast,
    I thought this depravity deserves arrest.
    When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
    perversion most foul – way worse than just queer.

    Molesting an old man, who was screaming it was sick,
    I knew at that moment, the TSA guy had just grabbed his dick.
    No more rapid than snails, the searches all the same,
    then, of course, they called us back by name.

    Now, traveler, take off your shoe,
    we claim to protect you from terrorists, not that we really do.
    With security theater, and Soviet tactics, too,
    Really, it’s just to compel obedience, that we do what we do.

  4. has any one at tsa ever heard of a geiger counter? seems to me if there is radiation leaking then this should tell them and if it does then they should shut them down and retire there is realy no need for tsa home land security or the patriat act its just a way to make you cow down to them period. any one that does not go along with the nwo is a terrorist so dont have a differant veiw be a sheep give away all that your forfathers fought for

  5. In the FAA software assurance course run by KU, the instructor used an example of the Therac-25 radiation therapy machine which killed 3 people. While not exactly the same, the same principles apply – safety measures, people, training, maintenance, certification.

    The Therac-25 was a radiation therapy machine involved in at least six accidents in which patients were given massive overdoses of radiation, approximately 100 times the intended dose. Three people died as a result.


    “These accidents highlighted the dangers of software control of safety-critical systems, and they have become a standard case study in health informatics and software engineering. ”

    When will we learn?

    A: never.

  6. The porno-scanners and gropings are about humiliation and control, not security. If the government wants to enhance our security, they’ll stop meddling in the Middle East.

  7. Chalk this up to yet another tyranny started under Obama’s “change”. Even worse than Bush, and thats saying something!

    State Security is never really about the safety of citizens. Its about ever expanding Federal powers. Now they have the power to zap you with uninspected devices to check out your tits. And if they like what they see they can call you aside for the “stinky glove treatment”. If you refuse you go to jail.

    When will the American people finally say enough is enough and do something to stop our march towards a totalitarian Police State?

  8. It’s real simple but Americans are so ignorant and narcissistic that it doesn’t seem to sink into their thick skulls! DRAMATICALLY REDUCE PERSONAL FLIGHTS. The revenue loss of just a 15% reduction in commercial ticket sales will bring the airlines to their breaking point. The TSA will no longer be used as airport security.

  9. There are alternative air travel options not affected by TSA B.S.

    Private Pilots & Charter, group aircraft ownership (of appropriate aircraft not affected by TSA & HLS regs), etc.

    The “Freedom Flyer Network” is striving to make these options more widely available to the general public.

    Check us out and help make it happen (www.FreedomFlyerNetwork.com).

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