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Drive-by Scanning: Officials Expand Use and Dose of Radiation for Security Screening

From prisons to borders to the streets of New York, law enforcement officials are using X-ray scanners on people more often and with higher doses of radiation.

Customs and Border Protection used backscatter vans, like the one above, at Super Bowl XLIV in Miami in 2010. (Photo courtesy of Customs and Border Protection)

We're seeking anyone who has had personal experience with certain X-ray devices. Please see the bottom of the story for information on how you can contribute.

U.S. law enforcement agencies are exposing people to radiation in more settings and in increasing doses to screen for explosives, weapons and drugs. In addition to the controversial airport body scanners, which are now deployed for routine screening, various X-ray devices have proliferated at the border, in prisons and on the streets of New York.

Not only have the machines become more widespread, but some of them expose people to higher doses of radiation. And agencies have pushed the boundaries of acceptable use by X-raying people covertly, according to government documents and interviews.

While airport scanners can show objects on the surface of the body, prisons have begun to use X-rays that can see through the body to detect contraband hidden in cavities. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is in the process of deploying dozens of drive-through X-ray portals to scan cars and buses at the border with their passengers still inside.

X-ray scanners have been tested at ferry crossings, for visitor entries at the Pentagon and for long-range detection of suicide bombers at special events. And drawing the ire of privacy groups, Customs and the New York Police Department have deployed unmarked X-ray vans that can drive to a location and look inside vehicles for drugs and explosives.

Most federal health regulations for medical X-rays do not apply to security equipment, leaving the decision of when and how to use the scanners almost entirely in the hands of security officials.

Although the 9/11 attacks provided the impetus and prompted the spending to develop such equipment, most of the machines have been deployed only in the last few years. New attacks and ever-tighter security measures have made law enforcement officials more willing to expose the public to X-ray devices that were once taboo.

When the body scanners were introduced in prisons in the late 1990s, the Food and Drug Administration convened an advisory panel. Several of the outside scientists warned that once the longstanding practice of X-raying humans only for health reasons was ended, it was just a matter of time before the machines would become acceptable in airports, courthouses and schools.

"This is exactly what I was afraid was going to happen back when we had the FDA meetings," said Kathleen Kaufman, who as director of Los Angeles County's radiation management program served on the advisory panel.

The FDA has little authority to regulate the use of electronic products emitting radiation. Because security scanners are not classified as medical devices, the agency doesn't approve them for safety before sale. And it can go after only the manufacturers for excessive radiation -- not the users of the machines for deploying them too frequently or in other questionable ways.

Handicapping its power even more, the FDA ultimately went against the advisory panel's recommendation to adopt a federal safety standard for the new security devices. Instead, it followed congressional direction to use industry standards wherever possible and let the scanners fall under voluntary guidelines set by a nonprofit group made up largely of manufacturers and agencies that wanted to use the X-ray machines.

It is difficult to estimate the long-term health risks of low levels of radiation. At higher levels, ionizing radiation -- the energy used in the scanners -- has been shown to damage DNA and mutate genes, potentially leading to cancer. A comprehensive study by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the more radiation a person gets, however little at a time, the greater their lifetime risk of dying from cancer.

The manufacturers counter that their machines emit extremely low levels of radiation, hundreds of times less than a chest X-ray. Humans are constantly exposed to background radiation from radon in the ground and cosmic rays in the atmosphere. In comparison, the radiation from security devices is trivial, they say.

Moreover, the X-ray scanners have produced a number of success stories, intercepting immigrant smugglers, unearthing tons of cocaine and other drugs, preventing contraband in jails and adding a layer of protection to the nation's transportation system, according to the agencies that use them.

But the rapid expansion raises serious questions about whether the United States is sacrificing safety in the name of security.

"Because of the wide proliferation of these things, we don't know who's using them and how frequently," said Peter Rez, an Arizona State University physicist who has criticized the use of the machines. "It's not that the radiation from these machines is very high. It's 'Does the benefit outweigh the risk?'"

X-rays on Wheels

The Z Backscatter Van, essentially a x-ray scanner on a truck, can scan while driving alongside a line of vehicles or while parked as they pass by. (Photo courtesy of the American Science & Engineering Inc.)One of the first technologies after 9/11 that would expose humans to X-rays was the Z Backscatter Van -- essentially a x-ray scanner on a truck -- made by American Science & Engineering.

The device, which was deployed by the military to detect car bombs in war zones, uses X-rays that are designed to find organic materials such as drugs and explosives. The rays scatter back to a detector rather passing through an object as in a medical X-ray. The van can scan while driving alongside a line of vehicles or while parked as they pass by.

According to a company presentation obtained by a civil liberties group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a backscatter van delivers a radiation dose about twice that of an airport body scanner.

Soldiers serving in Iraq nicknamed the vans "white devils." Customs officers call them "ice cream trucks."

Customs and Border Protection has purchased 75 backscatter vans for use at border crossings, ports, Border Patrol checkpoints and even the Super Bowl, according to agency records. Customs spokeswoman Jenny Burke said passengers must exit the vehicle before the scan.

While the Transportation Security Administration hasn't bought them, it tested them at a Delaware ferry crossing in 2004 and at a Long Island ferry crossing in 2009, spokesman Greg Soule said. In the first test, passengers weren't in the vehicles. But in the second test, passengers remained in the vehicles but could opt out, he said. Another TSA test in 2009 was conducted in northern New Jersey on empty commuter train cars in a rail yard.

The X-ray vans have also shown up on American streets. In 2010, Homeland Security officials conducted an exercise scanning tractor-trailers on Interstate 20. And the New York Police Department uses the vans.

The NYPD has declined to release details about the use of the machines.

ABC News reporters Richard Esposito and Ted Gerstein provide one of the few accounts of the backscatter van in a book they wrote chronicling a year inside NYPD's bomb squad. Describing the security ahead of President Bush's motorcade to the 2004 Republican convention, they wrote that every vehicle entering the street in front of the hotel was ordered to drive between two unmarked white vans, which X-rayed each vehicle for bombs.

Such covert use of radiation, if done without informed consent, would violate the industry standard.

"The institution operating the system shall inform each person being screened that the system emits radiation," the standard states. It also requires that people be told the radiation dose and that there be a visible indicator when X-rays are emitted.

Joe Reiss, AS&E's vice president of marketing, said although the vans are designed for covert use, the vans comply with the standard because they have two lights that flash when a scan is in progress.

Kevin Barry, an NYPD bomb squad detective who retired in 2002, said that when he was there, the police ensured that the area was clear of people any time they used X-ray equipment and that officers wore film badges to monitor radiation exposure.

"They're very cognizant of the fact that if there's a radiation issue that they have to monitor the health issue," he said.

But even if a violation were discovered, there is little the FDA can do because the standard is voluntary and not a federal regulation.

The FDA, which said it doesn't regulate the "use" of security scanners emitting radiation, referred questions to New York State, which also said it does not regulate the scanners and referred questions to the New York City Department of Health, which also said it does not regulate the devices.

Drive-through Scanners

The Z Portal vehicle screening system, also made by AS&E, installed at the San Ysidro border crossing near San Diego, Calif. (Photo courtesy of Customs and Border Protection) Customs and Border Protection is also installing 35 drive-through X-ray portals purchased with economic stimulus money, according to a company report posted on the government's stimulus website, Recovery.gov.

A test system was installed at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego in 2008 and portals will soon be deployed in El Paso and Laredo, Texas, and elsewhere on the Southwest border, according to contract documents obtained by the privacy group EPIC.

The portals, made by AS&E, can scan cars and buses from the top and sides as their drivers pass through at 3 mph.

The scanners' X-rays have to penetrate metal and glass. But according to Customs and the company, the radiation dose is equivalent to an airport body scan.

The dose is low because Customs officers do not need as high a resolution to see bulk explosives or drugs as a TSA screener would need to see a tiny detonator or a razor blade, said Rez, the Arizona State physicist. He estimated the dose by analyzing the images with a computer program.

The company says the portal is safe for everyday use. But Burke, the Customs spokeswoman, said it won't be used on every driver crossing the border -- only those who raise suspicion and require additional inspection. Passengers will be allowed to opt out and have a Customs officer drive it through the portal for them.

Ginger McCall, director of EPIC's Open Government program, is skeptical.

"You know what else started out as a secondary screening mechanism?" she asked. "Airport backscatter machines. The TSA said 'don't worry' to the American public. 'These are only going to be used as secondary screening devices.' And look how that turned out."

"Intelligent Pedestrian Surveillance"

 A Transportation Security Administration volunteer demonstrates a full-body scanner at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Ill., on March 15, 2010. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)There are now about 250 X-ray body scanners in airports nationwide. But government agencies are exploring additional uses for the technology.

In 2010, the military brought two TSA body scanners to the Pentagon visitors' entrance, where they were tested by Defense Department staff. But plans were put on hold pending TSA testing of new privacy software that wouldn't show an image of a person's body.

"There's now technology which makes it look like a cartoon figure," said Chris Layman, spokesman for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. "We wanted to make sure that if we did this, all the privacy concerns are taken care of."

The Department of Homeland Security has funded research for walk-through X-ray body scanners that could be used at special events, and for long-range X-ray scanners to detect suicide bombers in crowds, according to documents obtained by EPIC.

Using similar backscatter technology, the walk-through scanner would speed up checks that now require people to stand with their hands over their heads while scanned. In tests of the long-distance scanner, according to contract documents, officials wanted to see whether it could identify people with metal and dense plastic from up to 30 feet away.

"Customers need a greater capability than what is currently available for detecting IEDs on people," Homeland Security officials wrote in a statement of work for a technology dubbed the "Intelligent Pedestrian Surveillance Platform." "This is especially relevant at high-volume public areas and entrances to important infrastructure."

The radiation dose for such a scanner was listed in 2006 as 10 times higher than that of an airport scanner.

Intelligence released last summer that terrorist groups are considering implanting bombs in their bodies has raised concerns that the TSA would one day deploy X-ray scanners that can see into the body. In the past, the agency has declined to say whether it had ever considered the technology, known as "transmission X-rays."

But other Homeland Security documents, also obtained by EPIC and provided to ProPublica, show that in 2010, Homeland Security's science and technology division entered into an agreement with the FDA to test such technology.

"Transmission X-ray devices are being considered by DHS for passenger screening," the statement of work says. "The proposed use of transmission methods for routine passenger screening may have significant health & safety implications and requires special study and evaluation."

John Verrico, a spokesman for the department's science and technology division, said the proposed tests never went forward and the discussion of transmission X-rays was ultimately removed from the final statement of work.

"Transmission X-ray systems have not been tested," he said in an email. "Personnel have viewed vendors' demonstrations at their locations to evaluate the maturity of the equipment and the state of the technology."

"Treating People Like Luggage"

Scans from a RadPRO SecurPASS show a hidden shank. (Photo courtesy of Virtual Imaging)Such machines, however, were introduced in prisons in 2011.

A transmission X-ray body scanner, the RadPRO SecurPASS, is sold by Virtual Imaging, a Florida subsidiary of Canon USA. In the last year, it has been installed at the Cook County Jail in Chicago; several jails in Florida and Alabama; and the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City, a temporary detention center for inmates being transported across the country.

The dose has two settings. The standard setting delivers a radiation dose about 10 times higher than that of an airport body scanner. But to produce a better image, the operator has the ability to switch to a higher exposure, said Kris Kessler, creative marketing manager for Virtual Imaging.

That dose is still a fraction of the radiation received in a chest X-ray or cross-country flight. But it's more than 50 times higher than that of an airport scanner.

Even with the standard setting, the quality of the image produced by the SecurPASS is so good that people don't have to take off their jackets or shoes, as they do before going through the airport scanners, Kessler said.

"It's almost like we're treating people like luggage," he said.

The device has already made some interesting finds. One inmate was found to have swallowed 10 pouches of heroin, Steve Patterson, then the Cook County Sheriff's Office spokesman, told ProPublica last year. Another inmate, he said, was found to have kidney stones.

Jails use the SecurPASS mostly on prisoners as they leave and come back from work detail, Kessler said. But some facilities are considering using it on employees as well, he added, to prevent them from bringing in contraband.

Dennis Wolfe, Virtual Imaging's national sales manager for security products, said he has had conversations with the TSA and that a test lasting several months was overseen by Homeland Security science and technology staff in 2010 and 2011. The department denied that.

The device, which was initially used to prevent theft in diamond mines, has already been used at London's Heathrow Airport to scan suspected drug mules. (Customs officials in the United States and other countries can, with a traveler's consent, order a medical X-ray, which would deliver a higher radiation dose.)

For now, however, Virtual Imaging is focusing on corrections facilities.

Chris Burke, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said the system is running a pilot test of various scanners but has not made a decision.

Still, Wolfe said he expects many federal prisons and larger jail systems to be using the SecurPASS in the next few years. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist," he said. "If somebody's hiding something up their butt, which technology are you going to use?"

The rapid growth of X-ray scanning for security and the limited authority granted to regulators make it difficult to keep track of the equipment.

Two airport body scanners, for example, were recently auctioned off by the General Services Administration. A new scanner typically sells for $170,000. But these scanners, which had been in storage, were sold for a total of $600.

Under FDA regulations, sellers would normally be required to keep records of who purchases their X-ray products. But because the FDA never adopted a mandatory safety standard for the airport body scanners, this rule does not apply.

(Photo courtesy of American Science & Engineering Inc.) To help determine the extent of the use of these devices, we're seeking stories from those who have had personal experience. Please share your stories in a private email to xray@propublica.org.

We are especially interested in the following:

  • Have you seen the NYPD backscatter vans? If so, where and how were they being used?
  • Have you gone through a Z Portal at the border? What was your experience?
  • If your car was scanned by a backscatter van by Customs or Border Patrol, were you asked to get out of the car or did you remain inside?
  • If you work in a prison or jail with an X-ray body scanner, how are they used?
  • Have you seen these technologies anywhere we didn't mention in the story?
  • Do you know of other security X-ray products that are being used or developed?

Any information is appreciated.

While I appreciate the extent of the article, I am a little concern that the bulk of the article revolves around the radiation, rather than that these unannounced X-ray machines violate every single aspect of the Fourth Amendment.

At an airport, you’re contracting with a private vendor, and somewhere in the legalese you blindly signed to get your ticket, it probably says that they have the right to have a third-party vivisect you, if they feel like it (but please don’t give them any ideas).  It’s also a border crossing, where the courts have decided that our government doesn’t need to follow its own, few rules.  So it’s obnoxious but legal, and I understand fighting on the basis of medical danger.

However, when the NYPD drives around scanning, there’s no probable cause (unless you can prove that everybody is a dangerous criminal), the scope of the search isn’t limited except by budget, there’s certainly no warrant to search every New Yorker and tourist, there’s no consent, our bodies aren’t in plain view, and it’s thus an unconstitutional search, plain and simple.  We can’t be secure in our persons if there’s an implicit frisk on every corner.

If the cops can’t tap a phone booth (Katz v United States), then X-raying everybody is well over the line, and not because of potential medical issues.

Heck, f the space immediately around our homes (the “curtilage”) is secure from warrantless search, then who would say there’s no expectation of privacy between our skin and clothes?

And incidentally, all that talk about “cartoon characters” is a smokescreen.  To produce that image, they need the raw picture, so it’s no more “private” than showing a portrait with funny glasses and a mustache drawn over it.  Someone can still see the original, and we don’t know what’s done with it.

With regard to the request at the end, I’ve noticed an upswing in popularity of vehicles that look very much like the backscatter van out on Long Island.  I don’t know if they’re related, but it if they’re trendy (or camouflage), it could be more difficult to find the real vans.

I mention this because I’ve noticed that the police cruisers by me don’t always display their car numbers anymore (at all, as far as I can see), and of those that do, it’s not uncommon to see several cars with similar designations (i.e., x-2, x02, and x-02, where x substitutes for the precinct number) on the road in the same area at the same time.  That may be innocent, but it looks to me like they’re aiming to avoid clarity.

The businessmen of security mchinaries have taken every opportunity to make money by selling their products after convincing Congressmen, lawmakers and big guys in our North American judicial system. That is why US economy and Canadian economy for ordinary folks have reached to the state of poverty and the real sufferers are the hard-working people of middle class portion of the entire North American public.

AS&E Corporate Response

Jan. 27, 2012, 1:19 p.m.

We would like to clear up several inaccuracies in this article. The ZBV is erroneously referred to as a mobile body scanner, which is factually untrue.

The ZBV is not a body scanner on a truck.  The ZBV is designed to find contraband in cargo and vehicles and it has no application or capability to find contraband on people. The system does not show detail of a person and cannot be used to identify an individual. The ZBV and backscatter airport scanners are not comparable—their imaging systems are fundamentally different. Backscatter airport scanners use a different X-ray source, different detectors, different electronics, and different software.

The ZBV is not designed to scan people without their knowledge. U.S. regulations require notification that scanning is being conducted. AS&E systems are used effectively within that framework, as you show in the photo of the 2010 Superbowl—a traffic coordinator is directing the ZBV driver to drive past an unoccupied vehicle.

The ZBV system is safe. All companies that produce non-medical X-ray screening systems need to comply with the appropriate American National Standard Institute (ANSI) safety standards. The ZBV system fully complies with these standards, including rigid adherence to the radiation dose limits prescribed in these standards. The dose measured and confirmed by 3rd party radiation testing organizations falls into the category described as “trivial” by radiation experts from the Health Physics Society. In fact, a single ZBV scan is equivalent to the radiation a person receives from flying in an airplane at 30,000 feet, for about two minutes.

nikki marcuss

Jan. 27, 2012, 1:24 p.m.

I totally agree with the privicy thing. They say its all in the name of safty but really its in the name of controll and info gathering. No longer lol!

nikki marcuss

Jan. 27, 2012, 1:33 p.m.

HELLO Does anybody believe the AS&E corp? Of course your not going to tell us what this stuff is really going to be used for. And as for knowledge of being scaned, once the systems are put into use whos to stop those who chose use it for other things? The government? Yeah right, like Odumba is on MY side. My tax bracket is not high enough to omit me from these invasions.

I don’t want to accuse the AS&E rep of lying (though a confirmable contact to verify that it’s not just some moron trying to start a fight would help), but it’s easy to cherry-pick data (not to mention products) and there’s always a wide gap between what something is designed to do and what customers do with the product.

Consider Q-Tips, and the scary warning on the package to not put them inside your ear, as if there’s another use for the things.  Right, it’s for cleaning the external contour, as opposed to using a towel.  Sure.

I don’t begrudge AS&E making the things.  I’m sure it’s a good product line for certain situations.  But used on the public, especially by government, is a violation of civil liberties (and basic human rights) no matter what the Health Physics Society calls trivial or how happy the Superbowl organizers were to have it.  Their public use, therefore, needs to be regulated.

Another AS&E rep was bragging about these vans in an article at Forbes last year:

“This product is now the largest selling cargo and vehicle inspection system ever,” says Reiss.

Though Reiss admits that the systems “to a large degree will penetrate clothing,” he points to the lack of features in images of humans like the one shown at right, far less detail than is obtained from the airport scans. “From a privacy standpoint, I’m hard-pressed to see what the concern or objection could be,” he says.

Title of the article is “Full-Body Scan Technology Deployed In Street-Roving Vans” by Andy Greenburg, and it was published on-line on August 24, 2010.  I don’t want to include the URL here cause that will get my comment booted to moderation/spam. 

CNET has also written about it:  “DHS’ X-ray scanners could be cancer risk to border crossers” by Declan McCullagh, pub. Jan 12, 2012.c

So what about pregnant women who aren’t obviously pregnant yet? Most women don’t start really showing for 3-5 months, and those early months are the most crucial for fetal development. I’d like to know what precautions they are taking to prevent fetuses and embryos from being exposed to this radiation. Of course, if they only used them in parking lots on empty cars, that might be okay, but on moving cars with who knows who in them… that really bothers me.

Michael Javick

Jan. 27, 2012, 7:31 p.m.

When will this madness end?

This is how terrorism is really getting the best of us.

So what if these scanners can’t detect anything on a person.  They are still exposing people to unnecessary and dangerous ionizing radiation without their knowledge or consent.  This is outrageous on it’s face.  Totally illegal and immoral.  There is no known ‘safe” level of radioactivity…. none!

People who give other people dangerous xrays can go to hell.

None of the articles I see ever quote numbers for relative exposures.  I think we deserve to see the math for a change.

There’s a simple solution to avoiding the government’s irresponsible radiation of us: abolish the TSA, abolish the DEA and abolish the CBP.

For too long, Americans have believed the government’s lies that drugs, immigrants and terrorists are our worst enemies. In fact, rulers who want to irradiate all of us just to find a few bags of weed here and there do us far more harm than the other three all put together.

As long as we buy the propaganda that politicians and bureaucrats “protect” us from drugs, immigrants and terrorists, and as long as we continue demanding that protection, these bozos will irradiate us.

It is and has been doctors, hospitals and all xray,CTScans and still MUCH discussion by major radiologists “as to what is safe”. I have been way over CTscanned and doctors want to scan at the slightest pain today. I now refuse all of it. Only if they think I am having a major Brain Hemmorage would I allow more.

SO, IF Radiologists, hospitals, doctors, machine technologists that usually know very little, can’t get their radiation danger amounts together,  HOW THE HELL can some Civilian cop, neighbor, stupid TSA airport feeler uppers , have a clue as to what they are doing???
The more you drive, the more you fly, the younger you will die.  THEN 5 or 10 years from now, they will blame it on “secondhand smoke”.

Our Government has broken the Constitution over and over and over. How long are we going to allow this to continue????

Journe, I’m sorry about your problem but that doesn’t answer my question.    Can the authors get the numbers from the people they talk to, and if not why not?

Ok, so tell me again, WHO are the TERRORISTS?

There will be massive increases in cancer because of this.

http://prisonplanet.com

did an Amerikan Soviet police state take power?

From your article: “Soldiers serving in Iraq nicknamed the vans “white devils.”“

From the linked book: “In Iraq rebel forces call these vans the white devils.”

Two different things, I suspect.

You need to form large groups of people and physically stop these vehicles and smash them before they give you cancer and sterilize you and kill you. The same people, now totally in control in the USA, murdered thousands using X-rays before, like in the news article ‘100,000 radiations’. This mass x-raying is nothing other than Bolshevik communism fulfilling the intention to perform mass killings of all they see unfit to live. The communists said they had destroyed all the private property owners in Russia, and that they would do just the same thing in Europe and in America, and here we are. They are doing it. For a reality check see the film ‘In The Shadow of Hermes ’ by Juri Lina. People need to be out on the streets in huge numbers and stop this with massive physical force.

Though I would love to see massive civil resistance, please let’s not cloud the issue with irrelevant musings about Communism.

I’m a far left “radical” according to the conventional—and pointless—political definitions.  I’d actually call myself a—gasp!—socialist.  Yet I’m conservative in that I believe in old-fashioned things like civil liberties and the rule of law.  The true radicals are the money-grubbing politicians and corporate interests that run this country.  Who do you think’s getting rich off this “terrorism” boondoggle?

There’s no grand conspiracy.  It’s just business as usual.  And business as usual—now and throughout history—always privileges the wealthy and powerful.  They will do whatever it takes to hang onto that wealth and power, including trying to crush the rest of us.

We’re all in this together.  Let’s not play divide-and-conquer.  That would be playing right into our overlords’ hands.

Colin Donoghue

Jan. 28, 2012, 5:21 p.m.

Government and industry keep exposing us to more radiation, more toxins… they keep destroying our health and this amazing beautiful planet… we need to recognize that all of this mass-harm has the same origin: social-systems, “democratic” or not.  We have no control over all this destruction, if you think voting every 4 years will stop it, a reality check is due big time.  Please read and share the top 2 posts here which point to a real solution:  colindonoghue.wordpress.com

Our dumb heads, in the first place were not targetting real criminals or terrorists. There are different smart ways to handle the terrorists all over the world and dumb heads handling the power of governance do not have enough wisdom to implement those smart ways. Man-made laws can now be changed by the digitally transmitted or voted support of the local or global public. First of all, we need Internets total freedom and greedy businessmen of any kind should not have control on information technology. More Wise and informed global public means a more peaceful and happier World the mankind is going to share.
Obama is the right person in the right place at this digitally developing era. Why should we waste time finding a second best when we already have a kind and unsefh one -willing to sacrifice his valuable lfe-time and personal income for the benefit of US public of multinational folks from all over the World. God bless North-America to remain always the pioneer humanitarian power on earth.

Shahislam, I do hope you’re being sarcastic.

Obama “the right person in the right place”??  “Kind and unselfish”?  Are you kidding me??

Obama has not only continued, he has expanded the worst abuses of the Bush administration.  He has sh*t upon the rule of law.  He’s bombing civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia.  He’s allowing torture to continue.  He’s prosecuting whistleblowers.  He’s given us the NDAA, for god’s sake.  Now you can be thrown in jail, with no charges, no access to a lawyer, and for an indefinite period of time, any time our overlords feel like doing it.  He has obliterated the Bill of Rights.

AND he’s in the pockets of every big business muckety-muck out there.  He has $35,000-a-plate fundraising dinners.  Where do you get this “willing to sacrifice his valuable lfe-time and personal income for the benefit of US public of multinational folks from all over the World” business??  What a joke.

As Colin Donoghue rightly put it above, anyone who thinks they’re going to get change by voting in national elections is delusional.  The entire system needs to be brought down.

Lisa, your reply to the Communist kook could have been written by moi.

When will hoi polloi awaken to the reality that we are no longer a DEMOcracy (rule by the people) but a PLUTOcracy (rule by the rich).

So every word you have said about who’s really running things (and getting rich off the “terrorism boondoggle” is the sad truth.

Allow me to quote your golden words:” We’re all in this together.  Let’s not play divide-and-conquer.  That would be playing right into our overlords’ hands. “

I’m a “values voter” too, but different values from the Evangelical stooges for the corporate manipulators.  My values are not who can buy the newest I-whatever; who can buy the most expensive purse or car; who’s the latest drunk/drug “celebrity” model for our youth—but rather who gives the most—in money or work or other resources—to causes that benefit humanity, especially those without access to power.

Wow, we didn’t even have to have a nuclear war to get nuked. I guess “duck and cover” no longer applies as a strategy.

“Terrorism is the best poitical weapon, for nothing drives people harder than fear of sudden death”- Adolf Hitler

Just wear your tinfoil hat and you will be just fine you conspiracy whackos.
It’s perfectly safe.If you aren’t doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about.
Talk about paranoia! The Tin foil hat convention must have let out an they all are making comments on this story.I suppose there are silent scary black helicopters hovering over your houses too.
WoooOoooOoo!
It’s just a little X Ray you would think it was Fukishima or something.
  Would you rather have Al Queda get you?
We need more of these vans because there are criminals out there and they need to be disarmed.How would you suggest we catch all the criminals roaming our streets?
Do you just want to sit back and let the bad guys overrun the hard working citizenry that does follow the rules?
If not for technology like this we would all probably haven’t lived as long as we have.There are terrorists just waiting to strike and the good guys need these tools to perform their duties.
Stop complaining and casting aspersions on the authorities.
The machines are safe and they are necessary and until you put your life on the line to serve and protect,people should keep their uneducated opinions to themselves.People with strong opinions are usually hiding something and wouldn’t be complaining unless have criminal tendencies.

pazzmo writes: “It’s perfectly safe.If you aren’t doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about . . . People with strong opinions are usually hiding something and wouldn’t be complaining unless have criminal tendencies.”

There’s somebody who obviously flunked 5th grade civics.

It’s worse than that, Lisa.  Pazzmo is writing from a slave’s POV, not that of a free American.

Go along, get along, keep your head down, don’t make waves.  That’s slave talk.

We’d all be singing God Save the Queen if some people with “strong opinions” hadn’t put their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” on the line to get the British off our ***.

Same could be said of the martyrs in the early labor movement who literally died for the right to organize.  And on and on.  History is replete with people who had strong opinions but no criminal tendencies, just a yearning to be free.

Fresh out of recent headlines:  The martyr in Tunisia whose death unleashed the “Arab Spring” that quickly spread to other Arab countries that had been ruled by (US favored) dictators for decades.

The story of humanity is the story of brave people with “strong opinions” who risked all for their cause.  Not slaves like pazzmo.

Hypatia,

Precisely.  The slave mentality is alive and well in this country, as pazzmo demonstrates.

By the way, this little tidbit demonstrates some truths of its own:

“An evil exists that threatens every man, woman and child of this great nation. We must take steps to ensure our domestic security and protection and to protect our Homeland.”

-Adolph Hitler 1922
-John Pistole 2010

P.S.  Sorry, typo:  that should be 1933, not 1922.

You make some good comments, though I am positive that the evil Hitler was speaking of, in the form of Bolshevism, was utterly real, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn has testified, though his most telling work has yet, I believe, to be translated into English. Rather than attempting to find the source of this evil in something to do with Hitler, we should rather look to the political affiliation of the overwhelming majority of the US, UK and most of the European government at the time of 9/11, and then look at the similar affiliation of the politicians in power in these places today. Mayer Amschel Rothschild stated in 1849: “If my sons did not want wars, there would be none”. I choose to believe that the Rothschilds want just that, for the purpose of world hegemony by the very same people that our present governments truly represent. Of course one can follow the path of choosing not to identify the source, but that is just like continuing to mop up water from an overflowing bathtub without thinking to turn off the taps first. The film ‘911missinglinks’ gives ample testimony to the real source of the evil that currently seeks to inflict the inconceivable terror of world war upon us all, as did the attack on the USS Liberty. People criticize Hitler and say look how he put fluoride into prisoners’ water (at least they say he did that) yet foolishly do not even begin to consider the balatantly obvious staring them right in their faces, that their own governments are doing this very same terrible thing to them, and not understanding that they are being attacked by their own hostile governments. There are no endless programs on the TV about that you can be sure. Fluoride in dried egg powder, used extensively by the military and survivalists and those on low incomes in the US is around 750ppm, and in dried instant tea powder it rises to an horrific figure very slightly below 90,000ppm. This damages the brain, turning everyone into zombified sheeple, and also greatly limits the capacity of the brain to grow new brain tissue and repair and replace that which had been damaged, by stymying the production in the brain of phosphatidylserine. America is becoming nothing less than a polished communist dictatorship already, there can be no genuine democracy of a people who are purposely brain-damaged and effectively hypnotized. In short you are being lobotomized, nothing less. Rather than hypnotize yourself watching endless WWII propaganda about how bad Hitler was, consider the massive attack the US government is perpetrating on its own people by purposely brain-damaging them all. The amount of damage of these x-rays will also be massively underestimated. Mike Adams found that ‘radiotherapy’ of cancer victims gives twice the fatal dose of X-rays, and they say that is good for you too. Time to wake up and smash the vans anyway, and see what they do to you if you let them. You will see that they do not regard you as their citizens or friends, but as their enemy. Franklin Roosevelt actually stated that the citizens of the US were the ‘enemy’, and secretly worked to ensure communist takeover of the US until his death and replacement. If he had not ‘died’ so suddenly, you would already have been living in a much more communist USA right now.

@ Lisa simeone,
For my back pain, I am late in replying to your post. I will get back to you ASAP, with good explanations when my condition allows. If you had clear ideas about unseen scenarios behind the apparent political scenes, you could understand why any of the modern day’s Democratic governments is unable to do things they want to do.
It’s a difficult job to please all the sides the same time. I will later try to post details of my false case in Canada to let you see examples of Obama’s kindness and wisdom.

We should all question the motives of our officals these days

Oussein Hbama

Jan. 31, 2012, 4:56 a.m.

INSANITY! CRAZY CUNTS! WHAT IS TOTAL RAD EXPOSURE ON THIS?

nikkim is quite right:  “We should all question the motives of our officials these days.”

OK, having questioned their (rather transparent motives), what next?  Do we keep on voting those political whores into Congress because:

1.  They take corporate money to run lying, smearing TV and other media ads.

2.  Many, if not most of the voters in their district(s) are ignorant, uneducated, uninterested in examining the motives of candidates, or are ideologically and/or religiously motivated.

3.  Good people will not come forward to run for office because the game is so obviously rigged in favor of the political whores and their corporate paymasters.

4.  Judges appointed by Religious Right Presidents, from the lower courts all the way up to the 5-4 corrupt Supremes tend to rule according to their “faith” rather than the law.

5.  Presidents who seek to appoint honest people to the courts or to high office cannot get confirmation of their appointees because of determined bloc opposition by the corporate-funded Congress.

There…enough bad news for now?  We ARE the 99% (I have a big sign on my front lawn) and the sooner we realize it and ORGANIZE the faster we can get money out of politics, so decent people will seek office.

Hypatia, I don’t think your analogy is quite valid.  Whores work for a living.  They face risks for doing their jobs improperly.  They’re also relatively self-sufficient in that they don’t require their clients to do all the work, I imagine.

I’m also not sure about your #4-5.  There are some terrible judges of all stripes, and just because corrupt people block an appointment, it doesn’t mean that the appointment was less corrupt.  In politics, the enemy of your enemy is usually just another enemy.

But I don’t think it’s as bad as you do.  After the SOPA protests, I now suspect that we can best model our representatives like small children.  Left to their own devices, they’ll test boundaries and act entirely in their own interests.  But they’ll also cave to pressure and reluctantly do the right thing.

For the last forty years, we’ve been VERY negligent parents.  With a Civil Rights win, people stopped exercising their rights for political reasons and, more importantly, stopped annoying their representatives.

The way I see it, there are three routes, here.

First, we can relearn what “petition the Government for a redress of grievances” means.  It ain’t a bunch of people signing fake names to a list, it’s getting in their faces so they know they have real constituents.

Second, we can all walk off the job and hope that American labor makes any difference to Washington.  I don’t have high hopes for this, because we’re not seriously oppressed (regardless of the abhorrent mechanisms in place to do so), but “From Dictatorship to Democracy” gives a good overview of how this looks in the general case.

Third, we revolt, at which point we realize that we have crappy pistols and pepper spray while they have bombs and machine guns, and violence from the citizens gives them the excuse to respond in kind.  So, no.

Personally, I think they’re a bunch of smarmy parasites.  But the SOPA hearings and protests make me think that maybe this has been counterproductive.  Maybe they’re ignorant and taking a lifeline from whoever will give it to them.  Maybe they’re acting badly because we’ve ignored and insulted them for decades.

Think about all the lame local organizations that get the attention of local Senators.  It’s not out of the blue that Congress investigates the endangered purple unicorn or mandates security cameras in vending machines because some poor kid couldn’t get his soda.  It must be because people badgered them enough that the anti-unicorn lobby couldn’t make headway.

I’m giving it a shot.  Worst case, I’m out a few bucks in stamps and some free time.

We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

even in his dreams he wouldn’t have thought of this - getting radiated for security

John, you’re absolutely correct about whores and government (specifically Congress)!  In fact, when I use that analogy, which I do often, I always pause dramatically, then specify that I wouldn’t want to insult whores by comparing them to Congress.  I should have inserted that disclaimer in my post.

I will, however, stand fast on the subject of—not necessarily"corrupt” in the usual sense—judges, but judges who are put on the bench for ideological reasons, by far the most often by the radical religious Right and their corporate funders.

By contrast, Obama the Wimp has allowed the Mad Dogs of the extreme Republican far,far,far Right to deny him appointments to the Federal bench to such an extreme that justice is grinding to a near halt in some jurisdictions for lack of enough judges,

About the 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court, what more can be said   after e.g. the New London Connecticut decision, violating the takings clause of the 5th Amendment.  And of course, Citizens United. Plus a whole bunch of less well-known decisions carrying out the wishes of Our Corporate Masters.

One can only hope that, disappointing as has been his first term, Obama can grow a pair in his second term and stand up to the Mad Dogs in Congress.  Plus, of course, have the opportunity to appoint better Justices, if Fate is so kind as to remove the Bad Actors, one way or the other.

“One can only hope that, disappointing as has been his first term, Obama can grow a pair in his second term and stand up to the Mad Dogs in Congress.”

Dream on.

Those promulgating and defending these absurd abuses of our basic human rights are Domestic Enemies of the US Constitution.

Upon it’s restoration we will remember who tried to sell us into technological slavery to the multinational corporate elite.

abc local 11pm news in NYC - top story…cop shot in Brooklyn….live report showed a glimpse of ZBackscatter pulling up on the scene. Yep, they’re using them.

To a certain extent, I agree with you, Hypatia, but keep in mind that an active legislature can fence off the abuses of judges.  Case law is only a guide until legislation passes to the contrary, even as high as the Supreme Court.

Citizens United isn’t the end of the story, as much as its supporters would like us to believe it.  In fact, the case went the wrong way because they used the wrong argument (an odd epidemic among attorneys standing in front of the Supreme Court, I’ve noticed).

The issue shouldn’t have been whether a corporation is a person (even though it’s a silly idea purely to shelter assets), but rather if it’s a citizen.  It’s not.  Nobody would argue that a corporation should be allowed to vote or be drafted into the military.  And since we do what we can to prevent the Chinese, Mexicans, or French from swaying our elections, that same force should be brought to bear on corporations, too.

Instead, the case was argued on the merits of corporate personhood, which is spelled out clearly in legislation.  Since there’s nothing unconstitutional about that (just nonsensical), there’s no reason for the Supreme Court to use it to overturn the previous decision, so that’s what we got.

Is it true that judges sometimes legislate from the bench?  Yes.  But that’s controllable.

As for Obama, I don’t have high hopes, but it’s a case where I’d love to be proven wrong.  I mean, with the available Republican jokers, he’s obviously going to coast through reelection.  And with the “one-term presidency” worry out of the way, maybe his spine will grow three sizes that day or something, and he’ll clean up his own house and demand the same of the rest of the government.

But the way to bet is that he’s the most corporatized and authoritarian of them all, and it’ll be another four years of business as usual, plus the war with Iran, because they’re totally making noises under the bed and it’s really, really scary, so check your civil rights at the door, please.

Which brings us back to the original topic.

Civil liberties?  How quaint.  The Bill of Rights is eviscerated.  Wait’ll our overlords start using the NDAA.

Meanwhile, in the Land of the Free:

LA Police Department Conducts Joint Exercises with the Military

The LA Police Department, known for its brutality and corruption over the years, and the U.S. military conducted joint “tactical exercises” in downtown LA this week.

One Black Hawk, a helicopter that has served in combat in Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and other areas in the Middle East, and four OH-6 choppers – “Little Birds” – flew over the city during the exercise . . . press release . . . “not open to the public.”

. . . “You mean the deployment of military assets in an urban area is supposed to be inconspicuous? The video of these ‘exercises’ would be something to behold, probably much like what we saw in Iron-Curtain Eastern Europe and Tiananmen Square. But since the NDAA 2012 was passed nothing seems surprising any more.”

“It appears America is preparing for war against its own citizens. I don’t know how else to put it. If someone can make a suggestion for another way of interpreting this, please do,” the blog stated.

Joint military exercises have also been conducted over Boston, Massachusetts and Little Rock, Arkansas over the past six months. 

http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2012/01/25/la-police-department-conducts-joint-exercises-with-the-military/

John, commenting on one section of your remarks:

“As for Obama, I don’t have high hopes, but it’s a case where I’d love to be proven wrong.  I mean, with the available Republican jokers, he’s obviously going to coast through reelection.  And with the “one-term presidency” worry out of the way, maybe his spine will grow three sizes that day or something, and he’ll clean up his own house and demand the same of the rest of the government.”“

Like you & Lisa, I’m not holding my breath. For umpty elections in my long voting history, it has been the lesser of two evils.  A neighbor of mine called Obama “...just another Chicago pol.”  We’ll have to wait and see—and not rest on our oars pre-election; the Evangelicals, the Tea Party, and assorted nutcases cannot be entirely counted out just because their standard-bearer is [choose your epithet].

But the way to bet is that he’s the most corporatized and authoritarian of them all, and it’ll be another four years of business as usual, plus the war with Iran, because they’re totally making noises under the bed and it’s really, really scary, so check your civil rights at the door, please.

Yes, the “bomb Iran” noises are just more of the same.  Our Corporate Masters do not WANT an understanding with Iran.  In 2003, Iran approachd the U.S. for a meeting—EVERYTHING on the table.  Our real President, Dick Cheney, simply ignored the offer.  He, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and their fellow conspirators had other plans, which their puppet Bush saw no reason to veto, having little understanding of the situation—or anything else in the realm of foreign policy.

Unfortunately, Our Corporate Masters will probably con or nudge Israel into doing their dirty work, just as with the Osirik reactor in Iraq (about which the international community made a big “tsk, tsk”, while privately rejoicing.)  And Israel’s bombing of a suspicious site in Syria (about which the Syrians remained mysteriously quiescent).

Apropos of the Osirik caper, may I be allowed a brief historical footnote: Of the eight planes that left Israel, it was by no means certain that all, or even any, would return.  The LAST plane—therefore the most vulnerable—was piloted by a young Ilan Ramon, who was to become the first Israeli astronaut in space.

http://en.goldenmap.com/Ilan_Ramon

He died in the Columbia tragedy in 2003.  In an almost unbearable irony, his pilot son Assaf was killed in a training crash in 2009.

I just want to know,” the excepteable levels” is that a one time dosing or did they take someone that travels alot and may also live or work in a “high risk area” that may or maynot scan you 2 or 3 times a day . No one has ever said how much radiation is to much over a period of 15 or 20 years. And with all the other “exceptable levels” of toxins in our water, air ,and food is this a ok? I for 1 am tired of “them” saying that its exceptable and its ok to be bombarded by this stuff daily.

I just want to know,” the excepteable levels” is that a one time dosing or did they take someone that travels alot and may also live or work in a “high risk area” that may or maynot scan you 2 or 3 times a day . No one has ever said how much radiation is to much over a period of 15 or 20 years. And with all the other “exceptable levels” of toxins in our water, air ,and food is this a ok? I for 1 am tired of “them” saying that its” exceptable” and its ok to be bombarded by this stuff daily.

Al Qaeda, the alleged enemies of security, that all this is about, were very curiously in evidence fighting by the side of NATO forces in Libya, rather than being seen to be fighting against them as usual in Afghanistan, and I think that they were really hired by Israel to invade Libya. Al Qaeda seems to be able to set up camp anywhere, anytime, to lob a few rockets from some country into another, and provide an instant and convincing excuse for that country to get hammered by NATO forces, and invaded, their connection to the Bin Laden business family and the Bush family etc. and all their CIA Mossad links conveniently forgotten by all the media owned by their agents and co-conspirators. http://www.whale.to/b/alqaeda.html
Their disinfo merchants confabulated the story of the 50,000 African ‘mercenaries’ hired by Israel to defend Libya against the ‘revolutionaries’, so that no one would be able to justify saying that Israel had a hand in invading Libya. The blacks slaughtered in Libya were merely innocent migrant workers, and their killing was a bit of blood sport performed to attempt to justify the story of their having been mercenaries (that they were supposed to have been hired by Israel was conveniently brushed under the carpet at this point), making out that the black migrant workers had really been involved in the fighting. See how blacks are vilified in Israel, they are known as ‘kooshim’, and routinely imprisoned unjustifiably to force them to leave Israel, so why the hell would Israel ever help black or Arab people in this way? They never would. http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/“my-hell-israeli-jail”-israel-prison-population-90-percent-black-africans
Of course, all the heads of state that initiated the fighting were strongly pro-Israel Zionist fanatics, and the invasion was to build military bases for Israel on Libyan soil for the security for Eretz Israel, also to destroy a highly progressive model society that would have provided inspiration and massive financial security for a pan African body of nations no longer reliant on obscenely exorbitant crisis loans from the IMF, and thus they would have escaped from slavery to the world banks and the people that own them, and those owners couldn’t have that, could they, as the Africans and others were only made in the first place to be slaves to a certain people according to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Qadaffi was due to receive a human rights award from the United Nations http://www.mexicauprising.net/blog/wordpress/?p=40 just before all the trumped up charges were made before what was in truth an invasion. http://gagnauga.is/index.php?Fl=Greinar&ID=169

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Body Scanners

Body Scanners: Risking Health to Secure Airports

In an effort to detect explosives hidden under clothing, is the TSA jeopardizing passenger safety?

The Story So Far

The Transportation Security Administration is planning to roll out body scanners at nearly every airport security lane in the country by 2014. Right now, it has deployed more than 500, split about evenly between two technologies—one using X-rays and another using radio frequency waves.

Several prominent radiation safety experts have raised concerns about exposing millions of airline passengers to X-rays.

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