DHS documents show agency isn't sure pornoscanners are safe

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34 Responses to “DHS documents show agency isn't sure pornoscanners are safe”

  1. Hanglyman says:

    Just last week I was in an airport, and they actually had a recorded voice assuring everyone that the scanners were perfectly safe. They’re definitely aware of the safety concerns, and are actively lying about them. Maybe some TSA employees might care about whether or not they get cancer, though… they weren’t issued dosimeters, but is there any reason one can’t bring their own dosimeter and find out the danger for themselves?

    • jgs says:

      Maybe some TSA employees might care about whether or not they get cancer, though… they weren’t issued dosimeters, but is there any reason one can’t bring their own dosimeter and find out the danger for themselves?

      It’s a widely cited fact (or “fact”) that TSA agents are forbidden to wear dosimeters and I recall reading a story a few months ago saying one had been fired for doing so. Of course I can’t find the story now and for that matter, I can’t find any good sources for the “not allowed to wear” claim either. About the closest I found to a primary source is:

      http://www.sciencefriday.com/blog/2010/09/airport-screeners-denied-radiation-badges/

      Lord knows I like Ira Flatow and dislike the TSA, but before concluding that the screeners really aren’t permitted to even bring their own dosimeters, I’d like a better source. (And in fact down in the comment thread on that blog, there is a poster claiming to be a TSA screener who claims to have been allowed — or at least not forbidden — to use a personally supplied dosimeter. Look for Sam on September 14, 2010 at 10:43 pm.)

  2. OldBrownSquirrel says:

    What kind of dosimeters can we carry though airport security? A radiation badge shouldn’t scare TSA too badly. One would, of course, need to shield it for the actual flight.

    • myke says:

      OldBrownSquirrel:
      A radiation badge shouldn’t scare TSA too badly.

      Heh, shouldn’t, but this is a group scared of t-shirts, glasses of water, and breast milk. I would guess that a radiation badge would terrify them.

      Anon #13:
      Nonetheless, there are easy ways to lower dose as per the ALARA principle (as low as reasonable achievable, taking into account social and economic factors). There are three ways the TSA can protect their workers: time, distance, and shielding. The easiest is the first: just put them on shifts.

      The easiest solution, by far, is just not to have the machines.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You refuse to operate them, you lose your job. And you’re written up as a “security risk” on your fuck off papers. I’ve yet to find out if being dismissed as a “security risk” will have any effects in the rest of my life.

    It wasn’t for not operating these machines by the way, it was for something much much stupid: not partaking in a Slurpee drinking contest with cow-orker.

  4. HotPepperMan says:

    Anon 10:26 – I love the new name for TSA workers… “cow-orkers”. It conjures up some interesting LOTR type creature image.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Gee, an unlicensed medical device that emits enough energy to see through your clothes isn’t safe? Who EVER would have guessed?

  6. AnthonyC says:

    I’d imagine it’;s close to impossible that they;ve already identified cancer clusters caused by these devices- they haven’t been around long enough.

    But they’re not even requiring dosimetry? Not for employees, not positioned near the machines? That is absurd, and I would think OSHA might have a problem with it. What happened to ALARA?

    • lkkinetic says:

      Ionizing radiation scanners have been in some use at Logan since 2002, so there’s is a longer time horizon over which these clusters could have developed as a consequence of the radiation exposure from the scanners.

      Although I have chosen to protest the TSA’s draconian and irresponsible policies by not flying (I used to be platinum on American, but in 2011 have flown 0 miles so far, hooray for Skype and conference calls), I second ocschwar’s recommendation of getting to the airport a few minutes earlier so you can opt out — not only do you avoid the skin-concentrated radiation and image creation from the whole-body imaging, you also slow down the process in a way that enables those behind you to have a better chance of being directed to the walk-through metal detector.

  7. benher says:

    I thought we won the war on terror, like, a few months ago? Didn’t we have a few good minutes of hate in Times Square?

  8. g0d5m15t4k3 says:

    I can only hope this house of cards they’ve built falls by the time I fly to Vancouver this fall. I’d love to not even be around the pornoscanners. I already plan on a pat-down. But apparently just standing around them is a bad idea. I know I won’t be there for a super long time like a worker, but still.

  9. Anonymous says:

    A note about the radiation you receive from pornoscanners: when you’re told that it’s a safe low dose, a tiny fraction of a medical x-ray, and so on, you are being told about whole-body dosage…

    Pornoscanners do not penetrate like x-rays: they dump all their ionising energy in your skin. A biologically-active tissue with dividing cells and very common fatal cancers.

    Think of it as focussing the safe whole-body dose on your thyroid or into your bone marrow.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The scanners seem to be perfectly safe if and only if you aren’t standing by the scanner day in and day out. Looking at the JH document, the area exceeding the general public dose limit exceeds it due to the collective effects of ALL SCANS throughout the year. The energy of the radiation and the total dose is low enough that few scans a year should be perfectly safe.

    Nonetheless, there are easy ways to lower dose as per the ALARA principle (as low as reasonable achievable, taking into account social and economic factors). There are three ways the TSA can protect their workers: time, distance, and shielding. The easiest is the first: just put them on shifts.

  11. RagManX says:

    Thankfully, these devices are at least 100% effective in stopping bad things from ever happening on airplanes now. Who cares if hundreds, or thousands, or even millions of ‘merkins die because of radiation? It’s all worth it, because now air travel is 100% safe always. Shoot, we should install these on every exit from every house in the country, so we can known nothing bad will ever happen to us real ‘merkins again. After all, we want the government completely out of our lives except for keeping them around to protect us from every potential danger.

    • Cowicide says:

      I think we should ditch the scanners and just put everyone in prison for our own safety. I mean, America is already headed that way, so for safety’s sake we should speed that process.

      It’s un-American to not be safe and in prison.

      • querent says:

        I once made a joke that we’d all eventually be in tiny cells with camera’s on us, and then we’d be safe. Then I saw such cells actually marketed as a fucking product…I think it’s in one of Michael Moore’s documentaries. The mother fucker is like, “You could be in here, enjoying your favorite wine….”

        • Cowicide says:

          Well, as long as you’re also armed to the teeth to keep out the evil… the safe room with a camera is safe. Better yet, it should have a giant, shiny, red button in the middle of the room that makes the entire room rocket into space once your prison/home is invaded and/or a raccoon steps on your lawn. This will be streamed on YouTube as it’s happening, of course for safety’s sake.

          You… just… can’t… be… too… safe.

  12. jeligula says:

    The thing to do for a person who works one of these machines is bring in their own dosimeter and when it hits red, reap millions of dollars under the whistleblower act.

  13. emmdeeaych says:

    Yesterday I hear the USA has reached our peak demand for oil.

    Not that the reduction in miles flown has ANYTHING to do with using less fuel.

  14. ocschwar says:

    I just landed in Columbus from Boston. At Logan, I asked for the patdown, and while waiting, I advised everyone behind me in line to do the same. Nobody took my advice, and the guy operating the machine advised me to keep my opinions to myself. So I pointed at a little girl behind me in line and I think he got the hint, and waved her and her family into the metal detector instead. And all the teenagers who were behind me in line, until somebody finally came to frisk me.

    So the lesson here is if you opt out, they speed the line by waving more of the others into the metal detector. And so you wind up helping other people avoid the danger from these machines.

    Opt out, folks. For yourself and for others.

    • itsgene says:

      Okay, so yet another ridiculous flaw in TSA security is pointed out: a terrorist carrying something nasty but non-metallic needs only to bring a clean accomplice with him. Stand together in line, and let the accomplice opt out – and the bad guy gets waved over to the metal detector instead.
      There is no end to the silliness of our system.

  15. MrJM says:

    DHS documents show agency isn’t sure pornoscanners are safe

    Just as long as some person somewhere sometimes feels somewhat safer, it’s all worth while.

  16. hancocks says:

    I don’t mind bringing along my Geiger counter. It’s nice and noisy when assaulted by certain types of radiation. Not X-ray, tho’ – I’ll have to look a bit more closely into what is getting disseminated…anyone know? A, B, G?

    I suspect it would be an awesome demo at every airport with said scanner. That, and a quick lecture about what they were standing near, every day they worked there. And there are no rules against flying with a Geiger counter…also, in flight, the gamma goes up. As many of you know. Nice toy.

  17. T Nielsen Hayden says:

    I remain convinced that the DHS as an institution has such an ingrained habit of lying that it can’t be reformed, and certainly can’t reform itself. It must be eradicated, and replaced with a completely different organization.

    • IronEdithKidd says:

      Teressa, there was never any legitimate reason to create the DHS. Loosening of rules preventing the FBI from sharing intelligence with the CIA and ICE (as well as CIA sharing with FBI) was all that was required. However, if the right thing had been done, there’s a boatload of political flunkies and crony corporations that wouldn’t have made a mint from this boondoggle. Denying those profits is treason, I tells ‘ya.

      • ocschwar says:

        “Teressa, there was never any legitimate reason to create the DHS. Loosening of rules preventing the FBI from sharing intelligence with the CIA and ICE (as well as CIA sharing with FBI) was all that was required”

        Not even that. If not for the loosening of those rules, Bradley Manning would never have had access to the documents he is accused of leaking, and would not be facing the risk of a firing squad.

        It was a bad idea. But we have a media that pushes the notion that Congress must Do Something(TM) in response to everything they report on. Hard cases make for bad law, and Congress supplies Bad Law by the truckload thanks to our newsmedia.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is unbelievable. In Phoenix, these scanners were all that were available. The guy working there said there was alternative screening, but then he was blocking the traditional metal detector and giving me an attitude. I am pregnant, and at the time I was only about 2 weeks along. I specifically asked them if it was safe for pregnancy. The first person said he didn’t know (what? are you serious?), and the second person said the radiation is equivalent to watching an hour of TV, or flying for an hour. So I went through it. Now they’re coming out with this?? The safety of my unborn baby is at risk here and I am infuriated at the way I was shrugged off when I specifically asked about that risk.

    • Anonymous says:

      Anything that “replaces” the TSA in function will necessarily become the TSA, Theresa. I thought you read Zimbardo? If you place people in positions where they are required to dish out abuse by the realities of their situation, it brutalizes and dehumanizes everyone involved.

      It’s the great weakness of modern western civilization that most people no longer understand evil.

  18. Unmutual says:

    VINDICATED AT LAST!

    I have been saying all along that the people MOST at risk from these damn things are the TSA goons who are forced to stand around them all day.

    There is NO WAY these things aren’t scattering radiation in every direction all day and night that they are operating.

    Lo and behold:

    “Also, a Johns Hopkins University study revealed that radiation zones around body scanners could exceed the “General Public Dose Limit.”

    I have taken several diagnostic imaging classes. These things are NOT safe, their radiation is not a targetted beam, there is no blocking, etc., it’s just slowly cancer-izing everyone who works in the damn airports. It’s fucking madness I tell you!

  19. boo says:

    Sounds like the perfect way to eliminate the use of full-body scanners: tell the people operating them that it will give them cancer.

    • Unmutual says:

      boo that sounds like a great thing to put on a T-Shirt and wear the next time you pass through an airport security checkpoint

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