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Scientists Cast Doubt on TSA Tests of Full-Body Scanners

The Transportation Security Administration is confident that its full-body X-ray scanners are medically safe, but a group of scientists with expertise in cancer and radiation say the evidence made public to support those safety claims is unreliable.

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Robert

May 16, 2011, 2:03 p.m.

Most people are sheeplike. Everyone knows sheep don’t mind radiation,they just follow the one in front of them and go"Baaaaa”.

Rev. Ortiz

May 16, 2011, 2:28 p.m.

Body scanners are irrelevant, as the enemy has already begun using surgically implanted bombs which a 1mm-deep scan would never detect.

Bryan

May 16, 2011, 2:42 p.m.

I don’t understand why they use the x-ray based machines when there are millimeter-wave scanners.  MM wave scanners use similar frequencies that cell phones use and pose no risk since it’s non-ionizing radiation.  Unlike x-rays.

Eric

May 16, 2011, 3:40 p.m.

“But at a congressional hearing in March, Robin Kane, assistant administrator for security technology, said doing so would expose a lot of sensitive information the agency wouldn’t normally share publicly.”

Such as how poorly they work and unsafe their radiation levels are?

Rev. Ortiz: Last I checked, the Bible had something to say about bearing false witness.

bill hort

May 16, 2011, 4:32 p.m.

First off, MM wave scanners are not risk free.  They may use “similar frequencies” to cell phones, but even the cell phone makers recommend holding your phone away from your head.  Moreover, the lower pulses of emf/rf radiation emitted from cell phone are similar to the human bodies own electric signals and potentially could be more dangerous.

It seems to me that if Israel rejected this technology for their airports, maybe we should look into their airport security.  But then again, we probably do not have ex-government officials sitting on the board to those potential companies like we had with this backscatter manufacturer!

Robert

May 16, 2011, 4:34 p.m.

Wonder WHY????? Pilots and Stews are EXempt? Do you Trust This Gov’t. Natural Born Liars…................. ACORN was to be buried, Now it is ready for the Next Election. Good old Nancy still flying aa Huge jet at Taxpyers Exspence.

Eric Smith

May 16, 2011, 4:42 p.m.

Millimeter-wave imaging does NOT use frequencies similar to cell phones.  Cell phones generally use bands from 800 MHz to 1900 MHz, which have wavelengths between 160 and 375 mm, while millimeter-wave imaging uses frequencies over 1 THz, with wavelengths well under 1 mm.

The difference in wavelength is so great (three orders of magnitude) that it is not possible to conclude anything about the risks of exposure to millimeter-waves based on what we know about cell phone exposure.

FrankInFL

May 16, 2011, 4:51 p.m.

No ‘implanted bombs’ required.  A suicide-inclined terrorist can detonate while on line for the scanner.  Result: hundreds of fatalities including dozens of TSA agents, millions of $$ of screening equipment gone, an entire terminal/airport shut down while forensics collects body parts, and NO plausible TSA response.

Everything TSA does at the airport is a waste of their time and your money.

Lynn

May 16, 2011, 5:06 p.m.

I just went through my first scan (Dulles to SFO).  People in the retail stores at the airport told me they have to go through security every day to get out to their stores, food stands, etc. for work…I hope that doesn’t include being scanned!

Rick

May 16, 2011, 5:15 p.m.

When I see Napolitano, Reid, Pelosi, Obama and their families regularly going through these machines and/or submitting to the pat-downs then maybe I will trust them, maybe!  If We the People have to go through this travesty then why not the fools that instituted it!

Gunny G

May 16, 2011, 5:20 p.m.

All you need to know is that Obama ordered Janet Incompetano to install these scanners that were made by a company that Soros had a huge amount of stock in, and then force them on us.

FOLLOW THE MONEY and it always leads back to the crooks, the Dems.

Eric

May 16, 2011, 5:25 p.m.

Anytime we are dealing with radiation, governments and corporations have a standard pat answer. It’s very low and it’s harmless. That is what they said during the Three Mile Island accident and lately again at Fukushima.. But it’s not really the truth now is it. Dr Helen Caldicott on the other hand will say that no levels of radiation are safe.
They used to tell us that the dental xrays were safe too and so are mamograms. But now it turns out that mamograms may actually be causing breast cancers.

Radiation is cumulative. Machines are not always calibrated the same. Governments lie. Sorry but I have been opting for a manual pat down.

Jan

May 16, 2011, 5:46 p.m.

In the 50’s and 60’s x-ray treatment was the way to cure “Thymosis” a respiratory stridor that the doctor’s THOUGHT was caused by an enlarged thymus gland.  They were given what at that time was THOUGHT to be a low dose.  However, a large percentage of the infants and children that received these treatments died 10 to 20 years later of thyroid cancer.  It was also given as a treatment for asthma and many of those children also died of thyroid, breast and lung cancer.  I thought my brother was lucky because he received those treatments when he was 2.  However, when he was in his early 40’s he was found to have a Left Bundle Branch Block in his heart and required to stents.  Luckily it was found when he was to have knee surgery and they did pre-op testing and caught it before he had a massive heart attack. 

For more info on the accumulative effects of x-rays google “radiation treatment for thymus in the 60’s”

If these machines were truly safe, they would allow them to be tested.

Dave Williams

May 16, 2011, 5:52 p.m.

Scanning passengers and crewmembers is nice but no one screens the airport employees who are admitted with a swipe of their id card.  Usually airport employees, inclucing snack bar employees, do not go through the same screening as passengers and crew.  Airport employees have an id card that no one checks and they only need to swipe it at a entry door and they are admitted to the spaces behind the ticket counter including the aircraft ramp and baggage areas.  Anyone can use an employee id card and Homeland Security knows this and only checks passengers to give passengers a sense of security, false security. 

Next time at an airport watch for employees going to work using their id card to open secure doors.  See if a TSA guard is checking their id or preventing four people from entering with one id card. 

TSA security is a joke.

Gary Kilgore

May 16, 2011, 6:01 p.m.

On a recent flight, I sat next to an electronics engineer, who told me that the TSA is going to kill a lot of people with those scanners. I would imagine that the group with the highest death rates will be TSA employees working in the security area.

rightherenow

May 16, 2011, 6:07 p.m.

An important measure of just how safe these devices are would be how often Janet Napolitano and John Pistole are subject to radiation.  Just how often do they go through routine screening—-and now often do they jet on government or leased private jets.  That is a question they ought to answer.  Unless there is a bone fide emergency, it should be required that they fly commercial, tasting their cooking.

Joe Doakes

May 16, 2011, 6:18 p.m.

January 10, 2010

To the editor;

  Recently the United States suffered yet another attempted act of war from a terrorist acting on the misguided notion of jihad.  This fellow evaded airport security, then while seated on the aircraft attempted to detonate a bomb in addition to the fuel tank positioned below him.  The jihadist’s failure was a result of a lack of preparation; neither his will nor our efforts to keep him off the plane did anything to ameliorate his plans.  This jihadist, like many who have attacked this nation in the past, are men educated in mind and not in morals, and as such are a menace to civil society, and must be stopped at any cost.  After thirty years of the free world trying to stop various forms of jihad we are no closer to stopping the next attack because the ideology that creates the next radical Islamic terrorist still exists; so long as it exists we will neither have peace nor security - nothing short of a regional war that redraws the boundaries of countries in the middle east will bring us the opportunity of lasting peace.  Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan did not alter their evil plans upon the sight of a TSA agent.  That said; a small suggestion.

  If an airline operated a system akin to how credit card companies detect fraud, in the atmosphere of airport security, what would that look like?  Might a pre-flight approval system consist of various credentials already in a citizens possession; a system for non-citizens would perform the same function of verification with cross referenced forms of identification, the elimination of the option of using cash to purchase a ticket, and the elimination of purchasing a ticket without being pre-qualified to do so in the first place.  In addition, the airline would be responsible for all security; remember the $50 Billion per year TSA could not stop this jihadist, and frankly in a world where people willingly swallow prophylactics filled with narcotics to breech our drug laws, the TSA will not stop the next one; an airline that is one hundred percent responsible for the occupants and operation of the aircraft can and will.  They will have the ability to reject people who do not meet their flight criteria identity policy in a way that the TSA is forbidden from doing.  The profit driven airline can drive the innovation that will be required to detect individuals whose behavior is suspicious even before a ticket is purchased by combing the data points that separate out frequent travelers from those that have never flown, or are traveling in a manner not consistent with past patterns, and thus require more scrutiny at security checkpoints prior to boarding the plane. 

  It is almost treasonous that after so many kicks to our collective complacency we are still only fighting the last battle, and not the next one.  Securing an aircraft is best left up to the airline and the crew of the airplane, and not the federal government.  The private airline possesses the incentive to maintain the safety of the airplane that the TSA and the rest of the security apparatus lacks.  The federal government lacks the economic incentive to do a quality job, but the private airline is nimble and can evolve the policies and procedures the government is not permitted or politically unable to do.  The current setup seems to serve only one purpose - to avoid responsibility for anything at all, in that atmosphere you can bet we are going to lose much more then an airliner in the future.  The radical Islamic threat from 1979 to 2010 has grown stronger, and developed a greater reach into the west then our side has developed a defense or plan to defeat; we are fooling ourselves if we think a watch list, that no one even bothers to check, is anything more than a placebo for the cancerous philosophy of radical Islam.

Michael Ireland

May 16, 2011, 6:20 p.m.

Wow isn’t technology great, It only kills 6 people out of every 100,000,000 who fly annually, Such an insignificant number. Unless of course you are or are related to one of the 6. Annually. All this in a device which has yet to catch a single offender. If the TSA would go after the terrorists instead of this weapons witch hunt we would could all be safer. And free from the molestation at the terminal. Osama lives. He has forced change that will never be reversed.

Kathleen

May 16, 2011, 6:33 p.m.

The Federal Government should be sued for what they are doing with both the body scanners and the sexual assault.  The TSA should be disbanded immediately (yes, the entire department of Homeland Security should be closed) and the job given over to the National Guard and the US Armed Forces.  We should then adopt the Israeli style of profiling passengers.  Don’t like it?  Don’t come here and/ or move to another country.  This entire tsa system is unconstitutional yet we let the THUG Government get away with it.  GO AFTER THE TERRORISTS, YOU MORONS.  STOP LOOKING FOR THE GUN INSTEAD OF THE GUNMAN.

Mark Parity

May 16, 2011, 6:34 p.m.

About
> potential to close a significant security gap for the TSA because metal detectors can’t find explosives or ceramic knives, which can be just as sharp as the box cutters that hijackers used on 9/11.

The hijackers on 9/11 didn’t carry any knives or box cutters aboard.  The box cutters were already there.  DHS/TSA has done nothing to determine who put them there or prevent cargo/staff from doing it again.

Harassing 100% of airline passengers has done nothing to increase security. 

Cancer risk aside, the “we’ll take over an airplane” attack vector is 10 years old an unlikely to be duplicated.  Congress has outspent its budget and the US has hit its debt ceiling and STILL the TSA goons fondle toddlers and want to see us naked—while we take billions of dollars of our tax dollars to pay for this Security Theater.

No security here.  Nothing to see.  Move along now, Sir.  I SAID, Move along now sir, or I’ll arrest you.  Land of the free.

Mark

monika mueller

May 16, 2011, 6:35 p.m.

No outside testing allowed… hear that sheeple? Wake up people!

Kurt B. Kaiser

May 16, 2011, 6:56 p.m.

More important than cancer: we really don’t need to have young boys subjected to Compton electrons rattling around in their gonads. 

Consider that the absorption is entirely within an inch of the surface.  How does it work? The incoming x-ray photon interacts with an atom in the kid’s testicle, ejecting a high energy electron and producing a “new” photon which heads back to the detectors mounted alongside the x-ray source.  That’s the “backscatter” photon.

Meanwhile, the electron, the high energy Compton electron, loses energy by several energetic collisions with the molecules in the cells of the kid’s testicle.  That includes DNA molecules.

It’s absolutely the wrong place and the wrong time of life for this to happen.  I’m astonished this isn’t be shouted from the rooftops.  Where is the data?  Where are the studies?

And while I’m on this, where are the studies regarding melanoma production in mice subjected to these very soft x-rays, which are filtered out of dental x-rays to avoid skin damage.

Steve

May 16, 2011, 7:04 p.m.

@Gunny G: FOLLOW THE MONEY and it always leads back to the crooks, the Dems.

Sorry to burst your bubble, Gunny G, but one of the main proponents of this scanning technology is a Republican, George W. Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

Check

http://washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/beltway-confidential/2010/11/bush-s-homeland-security-secretary-flacking-nudie-scanners-too

The profiteering, sadly, is a bipartisan activity.

B Sterling

May 16, 2011, 7:44 p.m.

Millimeter waves aren’t without their potential dangers, either.  While they certainly won’t cause genetic damage through ionization, resonant terahertz radiation (even lower energy than millimeter waves) is now thought capable of “unzipping” DNA molecules:

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/24331/

astonerii

May 16, 2011, 8:38 p.m.

The TSA says the results have all confirmed that the scanners don’t pose a significant risk to public health.

Any threat is more threat than they have prevented or will likely ever prevent.

newjerseybt

May 16, 2011, 9:16 p.m.

Wait till lawsuits start being filed for causing sterility because a scanner was not calibrated properly and overdosed passengers.

Blazing Saddles

May 16, 2011, 9:24 p.m.

Of course, we could utilize profiling as Israel does - which does not cause cancer last I checked. But if you happen to be the one in 100,000 that does get cancer from the scan, you can find comfort in the fact that you supported being politically correct.

David from San Diego

May 16, 2011, 9:48 p.m.

I will opt out until I am able to see the image of JANET NAPOLITANO that comes from the machine.

Edwin

May 16, 2011, 9:57 p.m.

I’m not going through those machines. I choose enhanced pat-down. No big deal.

Dude Looks Like a Citizen

May 16, 2011, 10:01 p.m.

Whether or not it causes cancer I’ll never know probably and the rest won’t get the chance. Would like to know if this technology will help detect an orfice stuffing terrorist with his deadly personal cargo. I’d bet the future attempts would be more likely to use this prison tried and true method. There are much better methods than virtual strip searching of everyone.

Edwin

May 16, 2011, 10:08 p.m.

They won’t profile, so it’s either the machines or the pat-down. At least we have a choice. Do you want terrorists to sneak a bomb onto your plane? I’ve had the enhanced pat-down and lived to tell the tale.

The Bruce

May 16, 2011, 10:20 p.m.

Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that the TSA is correct about the radiation levels (I don’t believe a word of it).  They claim the passenger is exposed to an amount of radiation equivalent to two minutes of flying.

What about those TSA employees that are standing around that machine for an 8 hour shift (day in, day out)?

ALK

May 16, 2011, 10:20 p.m.

we all need dosemeters…..Probably that would even scare the TSA employees…

Daniel

May 16, 2011, 10:21 p.m.

First, anybody who has studied physics knows that for every action there is a reaction.  Government and business tell you there is no reaction so that they can make money and gain power over people.  These so called back scatter machines have an effect on people.  Just wait 10 years to see a rise in cancers and illnesses.  People like Bill Gates among others have stated their beliefs in population reduction.  These machines fit nicely into their agendas.  Second, government knows that these machines do not prevent terrorists.  A real terrorist will find a way around any system.  Just look at all the computer security systems that have been breeched over the past 10 years.  The real reasons for these machines is to make money, to reduce the population of the world, for government to assume more power and control over regular people, to condition the public to being declared guilty for doing nothing, to move the United States toward a police state controlled by corrupt government and business oligarchs.  I have lived in the former Soviet Union.  They have been doing these types of actions over there for years.

Dennis

May 16, 2011, 10:52 p.m.

This is all about respect, the TSA has lost respect for the people that it has been created to protect. It has quickly elevated itself to a place above the laws of the land and the laws of the people. This Agency is the most visible agent of the Governmental Tyranny that is now the Transportation Safety Administration and entity that has taken on God like powers, much more than the FBI, State Police and Secret Service (whose agents are sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States) the TSA answers to it’s real masters the Global Bankers that demand that the TSA teach the General Population of the United States to heel and obey any non-governmental authority put over them.

The sooner the TSA is disbanded the better. You thought your worst enemy was the terrorists outside the country, LOL, think again the worst enemy is the one from within that wants to destroy the very foundation of your Government - The Constitution and that is the Total Sexual Assault citizen training Agency. You can find them nearly everywhere soon….

Read This

May 16, 2011, 10:56 p.m.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize writer Andrew Schneider wrote a great article that dug into this issue called:

“No Proof TSA Scanners are Safe”

Google it and read it.

ellen bork

May 16, 2011, 10:59 p.m.

Hi, I trust everyone knows by now that these stories with comment followup are for helping the people vent frustration. While doing nothing to relay to political leadership and those that control them, to stop the abuse of the public and loss of civil rights. Best thing to do is copy and paste multiple comments from these stories and email them to all elected officials.

JimB

May 16, 2011, 11:25 p.m.

It seems to me that the cloak and dagger secrecy is unnecessary.  Unless there’s a means to fool the machine that they don’t want getting out.  It is obvious they’re in use.  It is also obvious that if you fly a lot for business, you’re more likely to get cancer than the vacationer.  The bottom line is, radiation kills and mutates cells and DNA.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure that the reason they REALLY don’t want you looking into their machine’s performance is it is more dangerous than they let on.  This is just like the Birth Certificate.  He could have had the CIA make up a much better document two years ago but, he let it drag out till no one believes him even if he tells the truth about it.  Same situation here.  No one will believe them even if they publish the complete specifications on the machines because they’ve been dragging their collective feet for so long delaying answering any reasonable questions about the machines.  Cut the budget; ax the TSA and Homeland Security.  Neither actually make us safer and the cost losts more than they’re worth.

pfwag

May 16, 2011, 11:29 p.m.

All of the existing scanners have a hard time detecting an underwear bomb.  Most will not detect a sheet PETN bomb.  None will detect a body cavity or breast bomb.  additionally there are valid concerns about the radiation, the lack of calibration and records, and the integrity of some of the existing MFRs.

There is, however, a brand new, ultra-low radiation, full body scanner.  Its radiation is less than a passenger is going to get on the flight they are about to take.  It will easily detect underwear and sheet PETN bombs and is the only one in the world that can detect body cavity and breast bombs.  It is made by a small American company called Valley Forge Composite Technologies and is called ODIN. It has just come on the market and I don’t believe the TSA has any.

Judy

May 16, 2011, 11:43 p.m.

C`mon people…..this is not aboout YOUR safety, nor is this about AIRLINE safety, nor even about getting this PRIMITIVE JIHADIS.  This is another instance of “never let a crisis go to waste!” This is about growing the TSA in airports, railways, and whatever else YOU ALLOW this government to do to you, and then unionizing these groups so that the Democrats` voting base is even larger!

Think back to American history and the words that the power to rule comes from the CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED! Your LIBERTY guarantees you protection from the power of government to interfere in your life.  The government is in our light bulbs, our toilets and now in our bodies…..what is left?!!  Take your power back and vote these tyrannical types out of office in November!

WKC

May 17, 2011, 12:28 a.m.

Janet Napolitano refused to enter one of the backscatter scanners at JFK.  Instead, she sent one of her lackeys through.  Why the refusal?

Those scanners are junk and a product of lobbying from former TSA supreme leader Michael Chertoff.  He gets rich while millions are exposed to ionizing radiation in the name of security theater.

Disgusting.

David Moynihan

May 17, 2011, 12:29 a.m.

OMG, a journalism has been committed!

Way to go, ProPublica.

Sean Connors

May 17, 2011, 12:36 a.m.

Why are we so arrogant that we have to reinvent the wheel? Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport and their airport safety system is one of the most threatened and still the most enviable track record in the world. Why are we not studying them instead of employing 50,000 of these “rent-a-cops with Dunkin Donut coffee breath and cruller waistlines. I am offended when these morons have 85 year old ladies and 2 years old little girls standing in lines with their shoes in hand, like criminals. They have no manners, they are unable to assess risk and relevance on any level and are obviously extremely poorly trained. Anyone who knows their record is aware that they have been infiltrated by drug smugglers and petty thieves who routinely label bags with valuables for handlers to violate later.  Will we Americans ever take back our Liberty or have we become sheep?

Bob Sawyer

May 17, 2011, 12:46 a.m.

Why are we so worried about a bomb on an aircraft anyway.  We seem to only be checking the people that are actually ON the aircraft.  There are PLENTY of people that have access to any particular aircraft that are NOT screened by anyone.  Baggage handlers for instance.  They could easily place a timed device on an aircraft before it takes off.  And if you are worried about a sharp instrument in the hands of a passenger, think about this:  All one has to do is wait until a meal is served and the airline provides you with a metal knife, fork and spoon.

Don

May 17, 2011, 12:49 a.m.

youtube Ron Paul’s address to congress about the the TSA, scans and pat downs.  Ron Paul 2012!

bob ho

May 17, 2011, 1:03 a.m.

but it is your reponsibility to get cancer to protect Obama and co.

don

May 17, 2011, 2:03 a.m.

The cause was just but the methods were not.  Subjecting old women and toddlers for pat downs is asinine.  I even witnessed the pat down of a paraplegic!! Made him stand (with help) in front of his wheelchair while they did it.
Money is now the driving force to “scatter” these machines around the country.
And yes, Israel does not need them.  They have HIGHLY TRAINED people in their airport.
And as “dee” said above, one guy with hot shoes and now the whole nation; one guy tries to blow his crotch off and now all of us have to pay.
It is not hard to see that our country has taken a turn for the worse.
November of 2012 is your chance to at least try to rectify the onslaught of so great a cloud of trouble.
VOTE!!!!!!!!!!

sja

May 17, 2011, 2:37 a.m.

Trash the useless screeners. Fire 2/3 of the tsa and hire some dogs. They work for dog food and health care and are much more efficient. They may sniff but they don’t feel you up.

Axebo

May 17, 2011, 3:04 a.m.

Mismanagment, mismanagement, mismanagement.

Evidently certain brainmen & women of the TSA don’t realize they must balance their mandate with health concerns, one among them being regular measurements of radiation emitted.

Should we not expect that the manufacturer’s specifications are validated on a regular basis?  Yes!  It’s common sense & has nothing to do with security.  The bonehead in the article he thought “passengers might exploit such an opportunity” is one being a bonehead & two doesn’t realize such tests could occur when piecemeal or when the airport is closed for business.

Cripes man, my 17 year old niece could manage better than some of the smart folks at the TSA in this article.

Harold

May 17, 2011, 3:30 a.m.

Who believes anything these liars say anymore. Power concedes nothing without demand.

Commenting is not available in this section entry.
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?

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