TSA: eliminating backscatter scanners?

Discussion in 'Aviation Passenger Security in the USA' started by TSA News Blog, Sep 3, 2012.

  1. TSA News Blog

    TSA News Blog News Feed

    While the press has been reporting TSA stories such as the multi-million-dollar shoe scanner debacle and the TSA’s denial of stonewalling a court order to take public comment on the scanners, one story has gone virtually unnoticed.​
    A July 4th article in Air Transport World revealed that the TSA is replacing the backscatter (x-ray) scanners, the ones that use radiation, with millimeter wave scanners (pictured above). These millimeter wave scanners are equipped with the “Gumby-style” automated target recognition (ATR) — in other words, a generic outline of a passenger’s body rather than the graphic nude image presented by the backscatter scanners.
    Each scanner costs approximately $180,000, plus installation. The cost to taxpayers to swap out the 25 backscatter scanners at Boston Logan Airport will be $3.7 million. The cost for replacing all of the 244 backscatter scanners currently in use at 29 U.S. airports would be $44.8 million.
    There is no indication on the disposition of the scanners being removed.
    It’s possible that replacing all the backscatter scanners has been in the works for over a year, based on a TSA press release on September 7, 2011. The lack of clear information on the number and type of scanners deployed may have enabled this story to be overlooked by media. This would explain the decision by the TSA to stonewall the court order to take public comment on the scanners or to allow testing of them.
    The TSA website states that the millimeter wave scanners are equipped with ATR privacy software that produces a Gumby-like image. Conversely, the site offers a weak statement on the backscatter units, for which there is no privacy software, saying that the stranger viewing the naked image is in some back room.
    And while the TSA cites privacy enhancements as the basis for this decision at Boston Logan, there is no mention of the backscatter units in use at other major airports including New York JFK, Los Angeles, Chicago O’Hare, Ft. Lauderdale, and the airport that processes the highest percentage of children, Orlando.
    What is prompting this redundant expense? Why is the TSA replacing the backscatter scanners? Have Bostonians developed a sudden case of modesty after being seen naked for the past two years? Or is this intended to prevent more children from being unwitting participants in the production of pornography? Is it possible that the TSA has realized that the use of these scanners puts them in violation of federal and state child pornography laws?
    Coincidentally, Boston leads in the number of TSA screeners convicted of child sex crimes, with three offenders, Sean Shanahan, Jose E. Salgado, and Andrew W. Cheever, all being convicted in the two years since the scanners arrived.
    Orlando, which sees million of children going to and returning from Disneyworld each year, had two screeners, Paul David Rains and Charles Henry Bennett, charged with child sex crimes in less than two years. The airport also uses back-scatter x-ray scanners without privacy software on children.
    Another possible explanation is that TSA is tacitly acknowledging the health risks of the x-ray units. In June of 2011, there were multiple reports of cancer clusters at airports. TSA union reps at Boston Logan asked that the agency allow screeners using x-ray baggage and body scanners to wear radiation-monitoring devices, a request the TSA denied.
    The scanners at Logan are expected to be delivered beginning this month. It remains to be seen how the TSA will explain this new expense or whether the new scanners have anything to do with the TSA’s refusal to comply with the court order to hold a public comment period.
    Perhaps supporters and opponents of the TSA and its practices will be able to agree that privacy software should be a mandatory requirement for all scanners. Or perhaps they will agree we should at least draw the line where children are involved.
    None of this, of course, takes into account the fact that the millimeter wave scanners, with or without privacy software, have a 54% false positive rate. They alarm on pleats, on inseams, on sweat. Therefore, if your “Gumby” image up on the screen alarms, you’ll still be hauled aside for a grope.
    So much for technology.
    (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Mike Licht, Notions Capital)
  2. Elizabeth Conley

    Elizabeth Conley Original Member

    I suspect the Backscatter Xray naked scammers do pose a health risk. A scientifically valid study proving this would expose the TSA to liability for the next 5+ decades as patients emerged with new claims.
  3. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Bingo! I'd bet this is it and they KNOW that they weren't properly evaluated. The radiation leaks out the side are well known.

    While they're ditching the backscatter equipment, don't forget their infamous cast x-ray machines -- much more powerful machine operated manually by wholly unqualified personnel taking images in close proximity to your testicles and ovaries.
  4. Caradoc

    Caradoc Original Member

    When I departed via AUS, every single person I saw passing through the MMW was groped for false positives on sweat, usually at the small of the back.
  5. FliesWay2Much

    FliesWay2Much Original Member

    They never deployed them beyond just a few airports. You're right -- not only did the clerk administer the radiation dose, they did it on all four sides of your arm or leg....four radiation doese of an indeterminate quantity and exposure time.

    I suspect the TSA could get away with quietly swapping out the Cancer Boxes. NOS's wouldn't disappear like the puffers did. If pressed, they could come up with a lame excuse such as maintenance costs or wanting to consolidate training, parts, procedures, etc.

    I wonder how they decided which airports got which type to begin with? I haven't seen the side-by-side specs, but, I'll be they have different floor loading, power and HVAC requirements, and space requirements. The MMW NOS for sure has a larger footprint.

    When this is all done, they have eliminated the privacy and cancer issues and can make the NOS mandatory. ...and we will thank them and dutifully line up.
  6. nachtnebel

    nachtnebel Original Member

    It'll be enjoyable to watch the cancer clusters come out for the TSA staff that used these things in about 10 years. CDC will be under pressure to suppress it, I imagine.
  7. Fisher1949

    Fisher1949 Original Member Coach

    I was never certain about the number of BKSX out there until last week. There was a Fox report that said:

    Representative Steve Israel of NY is calling for an investigation into the safety of these scanners citing that there are 244 backscatter scanners being used at 36 airports across the country.


    When you multiply 244 x $180K/each it works out to the $44 million they mentioned for more scanners. I originally thought this was to expand scanner deployment but evidently they want out of the x-ray business before the cancers show up.

    Many of us said back in 2010 and before that there would eventually be huge lawsuits over these things and this may actually end up being incriminating evidence when the lawsuits start. I hope there are some criminal prosecutions of the OSI executives and TSA management for this as well.

    Then again, if the images get out and are as graphic as reported, the child pornography issue also looms.
    Elizabeth Conley likes this.
  8. Elizabeth Conley

    Elizabeth Conley Original Member

    I don't want to see anyone getting cancer over these nasty radiation boxes. It will be a sad day, and a sadder day if John Pistole isn't held culpable.

    The deployment of this junk was predictably dangerous and absolutely pointless.
    barbell likes this.
  9. FaustsAccountant

    FaustsAccountant Original Member

    Dude, they would just swear up and downtime pole and deny that was the cause of caner. They've had plenty of practice denying everything else under the sun.
  10. At this point, I don't have much sympathy for screeners who get cancer from working around these machines. Sympathy for their families, maybe. But the dangers and dangerous unknowns are there to be easily discovered by anybody who can type a couple of search terms into google. If employees of the TSA believe everything they are told by the government about the scanners and don't look into it any further, despite clear controversy, despite the concerns of many of the people they coerce into the scanners for their own convenience, and despite their own concerns and conflicted feelings, if they bury their heads in the sand about all of it so they can keep collecting a paycheck, there's no real difference between TSA employees and the people who endanger their lives with the other kind of criminal activity, the kind that isn't institutionalized and sanctioned by the government. They chose this job, they chose to stay as things got ugly, and they chose not to find a more honorable path. What they get in the end is what they signed up for.

    I guess I'm Ayn Randian on this one -- I don't feel particularly bad for these people if cancer is a direct result of their own poor choices, especially when the taxpayers who they have been having so much fun abusing with their unchecked power will be on the hook for their medical treatment and related compensation. Life is not the socialist realism of the situation comedies with we've been lulled into complacency for so long, in which justice is always served and everybody gets a nice big hug at the end. Serious, difficult choices and serious, difficult consequences are the real essence of life. Whatever cancer clusters we witness over the next decade are little more than a textbook example of this -- a cautionary tale for future generations about the perils of getting in bed with a rogue, fascist institution.
  11. nachtnebel

    nachtnebel Original Member

    I suppose that is a more charitable take on it. Poetic justice was my take. Yet it is coming. Passengers will develop cancer from those things, and in larger numbers so will the smurfs. Yet Chertoff and his fellow Rapiscan piggies will go wee wee wee all the way to the bank.
  12. RB

    RB Founding Member

    The cost is double or more of the$ 44 million. Original backscatter cost plus replacement cost, and that does not include removal/installation expenses which are going to be high.
  13. Elizabeth Conley

    Elizabeth Conley Original Member

    The Rape-Scam cancer boxes have got to go somewhere. I just hope they don't show up on the used market or government surplus system and get snatched up by local jails and state prisons. There could be 2nd and 3rd order impacts as these wretched machines decline still further in maintenance while in use by various unscrupulous authorities around the nation.
  14. RB

    RB Founding Member

    TSA, a disaster that just keeps giving.
  15. nachtnebel

    nachtnebel Original Member

    perhaps they will be given to states and counties. oh joy.
  16. TravelnMedic

    TravelnMedic Original Member

    Worse then any STD.
    Elizabeth Conley likes this.
  17. RB

    RB Founding Member

    More like Ebola gone wild.
  18. TravelnMedic

    TravelnMedic Original Member

    eh Monkey flu is one thing...necrotizing fasciitis is another story.

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