The fight was worth it: TSA to get rid of naked body scanners

AP | JANUARY 18, 2012

The Transportation Security Administration confirms that it is getting rid of airport body scanners that produce a naked image of travelers.

Right now the TSA uses two types of scanners. One makes a generic image showing where agents should look for an object on the traveler’s body. Those scanners are staying.

The other kind of scanner uses X-rays. They raised privacy concerns because they show metal objects on the traveler’s body – along with every other detail, too. Congress has mandated that those scanners be changed or removed by June.

TSA says the X-ray scanners will be gone by June. It says the company that makes them, Rapiscan, was not able to come up with a software fix to make the scanners comply with the Congressional mandate.

 

Airport Scanners emit 10 times more radiation than advertised

USA Today
March 12, 2011

The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that it would retest every full-body X-ray scanner that emits ionizing radiation — 247 machines at 38 airports — after maintenance records on some of the devices showed radiation levels 10 times higher than expected.

The TSA says that the records reflect math mistakes and that all the machines are safe. Indeed, even the highest readings listed on some of the records — the numbers that the TSA says were mistakes — appear to be many times less than what the agency says a person absorbs through one day of natural background radiation.

Even so, the TSA has ordered the new tests out of “an abundance of caution to reassure the public,” spokesman Nicholas Kimball says. The tests will be finished by the end of the month, and the results will be released “as they are completed,” the agency said on its website.

TSA officials have repeatedly assured the public and lawmakers that the machines have passed all inspections. The agency’s review of maintenance reports, launched Dec. 10, came only after USA TODAY and lawmakers called for the release of the records late last year.

The agency posted reports Friday from 127 X-ray-emitting devices on its website and said it would continue to release results from maintenance tests for the approximately 4,500 X-ray devices at airports nationwide. Those devices include machines that examine checked luggage. Of the reports posted, about a third showed some sort of error, Kimball said.

The TSA announced steps to require its maintenance contractors to “retrain personnel involved in conducting and overseeing the radiation survey process.”

Some lawmakers remain concerned, however.

The TSA “has repeatedly assured me that the machines that emit radiation do not pose a health risk,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a written statement Friday. “Nonetheless, if TSA contractors reporting on the radiation levels have done such a poor job, how can airline passengers and crew have confidence in the data used by the TSA to reassure the public?”

She said the records released Friday “included gross errors about radiation emissions. That is completely unacceptable when it comes to monitoring radiation.”

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