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)