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How X-Ray Scanners Became Mandatory In US Airports

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the slowly-but-surly dept.

Security 264

OverTheGeicoE writes "ProPublica has a story on how x-ray scanners became the controversial yet mandatory security fixtures we in the US must now endure. The story title, 'U.S. Government Glossed Over Cancer Concerns As It Rolled Out Airport X-Ray Scanners,' summarizes a substantial part of the article, but not all of it. The story also describes how government attitudes about the scanners went from overwhelmingly negative in the early 1990s to the naive optimism we see today. How did this change occur? The government weakened its regulatory structure for radiation safety in electronic devices, and left defining safety standards to an ANSI committee dominated by scanner producers and users (prison and customs officials). Even after 9/11 there was still great mistrust of x-ray scanners, but nine years of lobbying from scanner manufacturers, panic over failed terrorist attacks, and pressure from legislators advancing businesses in their own districts eventually forced the devices into the airports. The article estimates that 6 to 100 cancers per year will be caused by the x-ray scanners."

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I wish they would do the obvious (-1, Troll)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#37918340)

Spit on the Qur'an or go through the scanner. We'd be just as safe.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918378)

Eat a Ham Sandwich, Drink a beer.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (3, Informative)

OzPeter (195038) | about 2 years ago | (#37918538)

Eat a Ham Sandwich, Drink a beer.

I'v travelled in several muslim countries (Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey) and saw people in each of those countries drinking alcohol. I also questioned a muslim colleague about things like this, and his off-handed remark was that he would "pay for it in the next life".
 
When it comes down to it, the average people are the same all over the world - they'll pay lip service to appear to be doing what the are supposed to do, but if no one notices, then they'll just do what they want to do.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (1)

C0R1D4N (970153) | about 2 years ago | (#37918574)

When it comes down to it, the average people are the same all over the world - they'll pay lip service to appear to be doing what the are supposed to do, but if no one notices, then they'll just do what they want to do.

Those aren't really the people we're concerned with.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (2)

OzPeter (195038) | about 2 years ago | (#37918648)

When it comes down to it, the average people are the same all over the world - they'll pay lip service to appear to be doing what the are supposed to do, but if no one notices, then they'll just do what they want to do.
Those aren't really the people we're concerned with.

And neither are the muslims that are rocking up to airports and flying to business meetings across the US

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918662)

speak for yourself, faggot

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (3, Insightful)

AlecC (512609) | about 2 years ago | (#37918750)

I was told by a Muslim that the actual ruling in the Koran is that you should not "allow alcohol to rule you". His interpretation was that he should not get drunk, and was quite happy to drink a single beer.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (2)

LordNimon (85072) | about 2 years ago | (#37918876)

Ironically, those who are afraid to drink a beer are effectively ruled by alcohol.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37919452)

Those who are afraid to smoke crack are effectively ruled by crack.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (1)

Frenzied Apathy (2473340) | about 2 years ago | (#37918892)

I was told by a Muslim that the actual ruling in the Koran is that you should not "allow alcohol to rule you". His interpretation was that he should not get drunk, and was quite happy to drink a single beer.

The same thing is related in the Bible as well: Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-35; 31:2-9; Isaiah 5:21-23; 56:9-12; Hosea 4:11-12, 1 Peter 4:1-5. Yet, I know too many people who claim to be Christian and still drink to excess.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37919320)

You know people that aren't perfect? Wow, me too!

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (1)

JonySuede (1908576) | about 2 years ago | (#37918608)

And if you fly first class : eat real maple smoked old style peppered bacon and have a glass of cask strength 12yr aged in a sherry oak bourbon opened with one small ice cube

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 2 years ago | (#37918842)

Actually a lot of the hijackers believed that performing jihad basically exempted them from pretty much any of the rules of Islam, and as such many of the hijackers drank.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37919148)

And used cocaine, and visited strip clubs. So they believed it as all ok because of their jihad? Is that how we are continuing to believe they were radical Muslims?

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (2)

mr1911 (1942298) | about 2 years ago | (#37919498)

And used cocaine, and visited strip clubs. So they believed it as all ok because of their jihad? Is that how we are continuing to believe they were radical Muslims?

No. We continue to believe they were radical Muslims because they killed themselves, a plane load of people, and thousands on the ground in the name of their faith.

Sincerely,
Captain Obvious

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (2)

Feinu (1956378) | about 2 years ago | (#37918558)

This assumes that the only terrorist threat is from Muslims, which is rather simplistic. Additionally, there is no way that a policy which is that discriminatory could be implemented without violating the constitution. It would be the equivalent of only requiring scanners for people in a certain skin colour range.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | about 2 years ago | (#37918752)

This assumes that the only terrorist threat is from Muslims

And, like it or not, that is a prevalent assumption in the U.S.

Additionally, there is no way that a policy which is that discriminatory could be implemented without violating the constitution.

I'm no constitutional lawyer... And I'd like to think that we're better than this... But I really wouldn't be all that surprised to see such an obviously discriminatory policy at least proposed, if not actually approved.

It would be the equivalent of only requiring scanners for people in a certain skin colour range.

Or kicking folks off planes because they look too Muslim?

Granted, it's a private corporation that's kicking people off of planes, so they don't really have to worry about constitutionality the way that the government does... But it's just as discriminatory, and just as stupid, and just as effective.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37919458)

Most terrorist ARE muslims. It is not our responsibility to accept Islam as peaceful, it is the responsibility of those that are musilm to prove it to be peaceful. And Islam is not a religion, it is a idealogy. A form of government that is not compatible with western styles of government.

The next major terrorist attack (things that cause real world death and destruction in large numbers), will be some muslim with a suicide vest at a so called airport security checkpoint. They will kill a couple of hundred and all the security in the world will have been wasted.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (2)

Asic Eng (193332) | about 2 years ago | (#37918596)

We still wouldn't be safe from five-month pregnant white females [wikipedia.org] .

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918652)

That's why El-Al asks if you if you have any sort of stuff carried on anyone else's behalf, and if you do, they check all your stuff.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (3, Funny)

OzPeter (195038) | about 2 years ago | (#37918678)

That's why El-Al asks if you if you have any sort of stuff carried on anyone else's behalf, and if you do, they check all your stuff.

Whenever I get asked the question "Has your luggage been out of your sight for any length of time or handled by other people" I really have to bite my tongue to stop saying "Yes .. the taxi driver loaded/unloaded my luggage and I haven't seen it for the last hour or so" .. That would be the honest answer, but unfortunately that would be the wrong way to answer.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (2)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | about 2 years ago | (#37918628)

I read that as "spit on the Ur-Quan" at first.

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918672)

The Kohr-Ahn?

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (1)

game kid (805301) | about 2 years ago | (#37918820)

The Cora-Ann [myfoxny.com] ?

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37919006)

You're not alone :)

Re:I wish they would do the obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37919348)

There was a certain large, stentorian magician who came up with "Bacon and a Kiss Airlines." You can skip security screenings if you agree to eat some bacon and kiss someone of the same sex.

It was a lobby, and some panic... what a surprise (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918364)

The reason why there are scanners: not because there is an actual need, or statistics that say so, or science or anything objective.

It was a result of panic and greed.

Just like the rest of that War on Terror.

That's a good tradeoff (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918368)

So, 100 people a year could get a death sentence from a system that has yet to save a single life? That makes as much sense as anything else this government does.

Re:That's a good tradeoff (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 2 years ago | (#37918442)

Do the scanners really pose a health threat?
Aren't they non-ionizing radiation so it wont affect your cells?

I know some people out there see Radiation = BAD, and don't take it beyond that.

Re:That's a good tradeoff (4, Informative)

heypete (60671) | about 2 years ago | (#37918516)

X-rays are ionizing radiation.

Millimeter-wave scanners Re:That's a good tradeoff (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 2 years ago | (#37919444)

X-rays are ionizing radiation.

Yes, but most of the full-body scanners are millimeter-wave scanners. That's non-ionizing. The headline and summary conveniently blurs this distinction-- it says that X-ray scanners are "mandatory" in US Airports, but thats for baggage, not people.

Re:That's a good tradeoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918552)

the X-rays are ionizing radiation.

Re:That's a good tradeoff (3, Informative)

peragrin (659227) | about 2 years ago | (#37918830)

X-rays arent good for you but mostly is the weak shieleding and poor maintience that is the long term problem. Those 100 people will be the security guards standing by the machines for 40 hours a week for 5 years.

Every 5 minutes or so they are getting a full xray dose.

Re:That's a good tradeoff (2)

blueg3 (192743) | about 2 years ago | (#37919024)

Millimeter-wave scanners are non-ionizing radiation (in not-so-small quantities). Backscatter X-ray scanners are ionizing radiation, though in very small quantities.

Re:That's a good tradeoff (5, Informative)

mbone (558574) | about 2 years ago | (#37919162)

There has been a long debate on this, most of which you can easily find by search engine. These devices do a raster scan with a fairly intense spot beam (most of this radiation goes right through you; the spot beam has to be strong as the signal is actually the fraction scattered off of your skin). The spot beam would be a problem if it was to sit on one location for any length of time, so you are totally reliant on the software to not get a serious dose. That alone is a real worry, as most medical Xray radiation problems are due to software errors. That also means that any repeated glints out of the device (say, by people's metal buttons) are likely to cause problems for nearby agents (as they tend to stand in the same place, and so could get repeated exposures). It also means that just wearing a dosimeter is pretty worthless. The agent's chest might get no glint exposure and their feet or crotch might get a serious one.

The above is pretty much the conventional wisdom. As a physicist, I also worry about the way that they calculated dosage (whole body versus surface exposure) may seriously underestimate the risk, but that worry is not very conventional. If I am right, look for skin cancers to start appearing in frequent flyers in areas normally covered by clothing. Of course, that will take a few years; Michael Chertoff is likely to have retired with his loot by then.

Broken window fallacy (4, Informative)

Compaqt (1758360) | about 2 years ago | (#37918384)

...pressure from legislators advancing businesses in their own districts eventually forced the devices into the airports.

The idea is that you create "make-work" for people to do, and then there'll be more jobs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window [wikipedia.org]

The problem is the money you're spending is coming out of taxes, which is reducing the amount that would have been invested in other productivity-enhancing or job-producing activities in the economy.

Re:Broken window fallacy (2)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 2 years ago | (#37918520)

In this case, I agree.

In other cases though, it has a benefit... so long as the project has long-term benefits worth the cost. Like the Hoover Dam was pretty much busy work to get the economy going again (jobs, money flow, pride, etc) and when it was complete it became a large source of electricity.

Or perhaps a bridge, of course assuming it doesn't go to "nowhere," where the long-term fiscal benefits are harder to calculate but still there. Easier travel to a city = less gas used + less traffic + fewer accidents + etc.

However with the scanners, it's mostly "to make the public feel safer, so long as they don't think it causes cancer." Sure, if stops someone from sneaking onto a plane with a weapon than you can say "it just saved X lives + plus the cost of the plane + plus the cost of insurance pay-outs + plus the cost of property damage + etc" but have they REALLY stopped anything? If someone wants to do something to the plane, they know enough not to just walk into line... they'll just try to infiltrate the employees that don't use them.

Re:Broken window fallacy (1)

Compaqt (1758360) | about 2 years ago | (#37918578)

>In other cases though, it has a benefit... so long as the project has long-term benefits worth the cost.

Yeah. That'd be investment.

The problem is you get people who are radical Keynesians (not people from Kenya!) who believe spending on something, anything will always be a net benefit.

That's why you get stuff like these scanners. And the Osprey.

Re:Broken window fallacy (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about 2 years ago | (#37919420)

The problem is you get people who are radical Keynesians (not people from Kenya!)

No, that would be Kenyans. Keynesians are people from Milton Keynes [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Broken window fallacy (0)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about 2 years ago | (#37919520)

The scanners possibly have the benefit of making people confident enough to fly, and so are not totally make-work ...

Money is put into circulation, beyond what is spent on the scanners...and people will fly who wouldn't otherwise, so there is a benefit - unlike the broken window where the end product is the status quo but money has been spent....

Keynesian economics works when you spend money on beneficial items, it doesn't if you waste it ...

Re:Broken window fallacy (2)

Ma'at (68095) | about 2 years ago | (#37919522)

The problem is you get people who are radical Keynesians (not people from Kenya!) who believe spending on something, anything will always be a net benefit.

Well, the point that Keynesians make is that during a demand slump, spending on something, anything will be a net benefit, they don't say that it will ALWAYS be a net benefit. In the current economy, where consumers can't spend because they are debt-constrained, and industry won't spend because there are no customers buying, then government should step in and spend to fill the demand gap and cut taxes to give consumers and industry more spare cash to spend. The corollary to this is during good times, you raise taxes and pay off the debts accrued during the bad times which we were actually doing a great job of until the Bush tax cuts. Since we went into this recession with very low tax rates, further tax cuts have little benefit and it would be, under these specific economic conditions, a net benefit for the government to spend money to put people to work doing almost anything, since they will turn around and spend that money and create further economic activity.

Re:Broken window fallacy (0)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#37918592)

If someone wants to do something to the plane, they know enough not to just walk into line... they'll just try to infiltrate the employees that don't use them.

Not everyone can infiltrate employees. It is an effective barrier to entry.

Re:Broken window fallacy (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 2 years ago | (#37918992)

I don't know... at the air ports I've been to the eating area and shops are behind the scanners and such. Getting hired to work there probably requires more security checks than your average McDonalds or grocery store but I doubt it's THAT hard.

Besides, the concerns are usually less along the lines of the FBI's most-wanted list doing something, but some recently converted kid making a suicide run. Such a person might have a clean record.

Re:Broken window fallacy (5, Informative)

grumling (94709) | about 2 years ago | (#37918696)

Like the Hoover Dam was pretty much busy work to get the economy going again (jobs, money flow, pride, etc) and when it was complete it became a large source of electricity.

Bad example. The Hoover Dam was planned and sent through Congress during the Harding and Coolidge administrations. It was a happy accident that it was built during the 1930s, and Six Companies made out like bandits because they got labor at a much better price than estimated, and lots of it. In fact, the reason it is called the Hoover Dam and not Boulder Dam is because Hoover got the states together to sign the Colorado River Pact in the late teens and early 1920s. And the benefit to the US (and the world) is easily calculated in irrigated land in the southern US and the massive increase in food production that resulted.

A make work project would be about 1/2 the various epidemiological studies that look at cancer rates and power lines. Or locking up drug offenders for life.

Re:Broken window fallacy (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 years ago | (#37918568)

productivity-enhancing

Why would we want to increase productivity in a world where labor is a buyer's market?

We'd be better off if everyone did half as much. Assuming you believe in a "free market". Which I don't.

Re:Broken window fallacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37919482)

productivity-enhancing

Why would we want to increase productivity in a world where labor is a buyer's market?

We'd be better off if everyone did half as much. Assuming you believe in a "free market". Which I don't.

Well, we saw what happens when you ramp up the efficiency when all the remaining hard disk drive factories ended up in the same flooded-out city.

Anyway, the "broken window fallacy" doesn't apply well when the money leaves the local economy (US). Government employees employees pay local taxes. It may be churning more than it is productive, but at least it keeps local business in play.

Offshore labor doesn't pay local taxes, but it does siphon off local cash. That means less revenue for the government, which means that the government isn't going to contract out as much local business and the laid-off government employees won't be shopping local businesses, either. Double whammy.

Re:Broken window fallacy (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 years ago | (#37919566)

It may be churning more than it is productive, but at least it keeps local business in play.

More important, it keeps food in peoples' mouths.

Re:Broken window fallacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37919140)

On top of that, the only people living who can recall the madness of things like the shoe-fitting flouroscope are in their 70s'+ and are too senile and cranky to care about things like this.

Tourism (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918402)

I guess I just won't ever go on holiday to the US again then. Problem solved!

On a more serious note, as an existing radiation worker in the health industry, I personally object to being exposed to this which I see as completely unnecessary on health grounds

Point gun at foot. SHOOT! (1)

ebonum (830686) | about 2 years ago | (#37918418)

ok. 100 people a year. 10 years. I sincerely doubt the "terrorists" could kill 1000 people in 10 years on US soil.

Perhaps the terrorists are actually hyper intelligent beings who knew all along that if they could only trick us into radiating ourselves out of fear of them and we would do their job for them while they kick back and enjoy some of that great Mideast sun and sand. 1000 dead and all they had to do was say "Boo!"

Re:Point gun at foot. SHOOT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918474)

ok. 100 people a year. 10 years. I sincerely doubt the "terrorists" could kill 1000 people in 10 years on US soil.

...Except when they killed almost 3000 in one day...

Re:Point gun at foot. SHOOT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918494)

yeah, a real shame that keeps happening every year...

Re:Point gun at foot. SHOOT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918540)

How would x-ray scanners prevent that from happening again?
I can think of more than one way of killing 1000+ people without an x-ray scanner stopping me.

Re:Point gun at foot. SHOOT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918542)

ok. 100 people a year. 10 years. I sincerely doubt the "terrorists" could kill 1000 people in 10 years on US soil.

...Except when they killed almost 3000 in one day...

Which has happened once in 500 years.

Re:Point gun at foot. SHOOT! (3, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | about 2 years ago | (#37918630)

ok. 100 people a year. 10 years. I sincerely doubt the "terrorists" could kill 1000 people in 10 years on US soil.

...Except when they killed almost 3000 in one day...

Yep .. they sure did kill 3000 in one day. However the preventative measures to stop them doing this again seems to be killing more that 300 people a year through increased road traffic (and hence car crashes) and (as reported in this article - although this is not news) another 100 or so a year from cancer.
 
Terrorism is not something you can eradicate (especially if your foreign policy is to continually piss people off), so combatting it is always going to be a trade off/balance between how much hurt you can accept from the terrorists vs how much hurt you will inflict on your own people in the name of "protecting" them.
 
In this case I find it strange that the solution to stopping the terrorists from killing off US citizens is to institute policies that effectively cause the US government to kill off even more citizens than the terrorists have.

Re:Point gun at foot. SHOOT! (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#37919460)

...Except when they killed almost 3000 in one day...

You've killed hundreds of thousands of them in return. Isn't that enough?

Re:Point gun at foot. SHOOT! (1)

Leebert (1694) | about 2 years ago | (#37918950)

The summary didn't say 100 DEATHS per year. It said 100 cases of cancer per year. And that was the high side. I'm as anti-scanner as anyone out there, but succumbing to the same style of sensationalist rhetoric as the scanner supporters does our cause no good.

Re:Point gun at foot. SHOOT! (2)

Barnett (550375) | about 2 years ago | (#37919230)

Nor did it say that scanners will prevent all deaths from terrorism.

Re:Point gun at foot. SHOOT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37919488)

To be fair it didn't really say that it would prevent any deaths from terrorism.

Re:Point gun at foot. SHOOT! (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#37919510)

I don't think they''l prevent any deaths from terrorism.

a) A terrorist can blow up the airport.

or

b) He can put the C4 up his ass where the scanners can't see it and the gropers can't feel it.

Re:Point gun at foot. SHOOT! (1)

bberens (965711) | about 2 years ago | (#37919370)

Yes it does. Sensationalist rhetoric gets votes. It's really the only way to get things done in an American Idol world.

Re:Point gun at foot. SHOOT! (2)

Denogh (2024280) | about 2 years ago | (#37919322)

Don't be so hard on them. Of course they could kill well over 1000 people on US soil in a year. All they need to do is bomb the bloody security checkpoints. There are hundreds of people in close quarters in an unsecured area, just waiting in line to be groped and irradiated. Put a bomber in the middle of that crowd and you've got the biggest vulnerability in the whole damned air travel system.

I for one... (4, Interesting)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 2 years ago | (#37918420)

do not welcome our new x-ray overlords.

Re:I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918548)

Then sign a petition [senatenj.com] . Why are there only 5000ish signatures? That should be 5000000.

The TL;DR version. (4, Insightful)

crow_t_robot (528562) | about 2 years ago | (#37918422)

"How X-Ray Scanners Became Mandatory In US Airports" --> Raw, unmitigated fear.

Re:The TL;DR version. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918670)

"How X-Ray Scanners Became Mandatory In US Airports" --> Raw, unmitigated GREED.

Fixed it for you

Re:The TL;DR version. (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#37918900)

No, that's not correct: It was raw, unmitigated corruption.

Or did you think it was an accident that then-DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, in charge of DHS when they made the decision to use the scanners, just happened to have a financial interest in the company that makes the scanners?

Revolving door corrupt politics... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918426)

The people that do not seem to care about politics in this country.. or think they actually get news from CNN, FOX, MSNBC, or any of the country's big newspapers.. do not realize how thoroughly corrupt the entire system has become. Michael Chertoff is corrupt.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/23/fear_pays_chertoff_n_787711.html

These unelected public officials go from decision-making positions in government to lucrative private industry that sells more bullshit back to government at the expence of taxpayers. We, as taxpayers, need to start looking at these big-money solutions as spending OUR money.

Airport security is a farce (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918448)

Airport security is a farce. Tell me this, what sense does it make to limit liquid tubes to 6oz? Why do we simply throw any liquid tubes into the trash can if they really believe the liquid is explosives? Now there is a trash can full of `explosives`. What is to stop someone from having 3 6oz bottles, when mixed together you now have 18oz? These policies make no sense. It's no surprise to me that we use x-ray scanners in airports. They're mostly a deterrent but if someone really wants to take a plane down I'm sure they can figure out a way to get around airport 'security'.

Re:Airport security is a farce (4, Interesting)

ledow (319597) | about 2 years ago | (#37918556)

Even better:

I was once in an airport queue with an American friend who had, somehow, managed to bring a can of CS spray into a country where any sort of offensive weapon is illegal. CS spray is illegal for anything but police use over here. You will be arrested just for having it on you, whether you use it or not, whether it's for "self-defence" or not. It's just an instantaneous "arrest me".

They'd managed to bring it from the US, through all the "heightened" airport security post-9-11, onto a plane, into my country, through my airport security, carry it around London for several weeks in her handbag (including through museum entry security checks, public transport etc), and only because her friends spotted it when she opened her bag IN A LONDON AIRPORT as she headed home - specifically, the queue to security scanning - that anyone knew she'd had it.

In London, carrying CS spray is an instant arrest that would pretty much provoke an immediate armed response anyway, especially in an airport which is about the only place the average Brit would ever see live weapons in real-life (carried by the policemen).

We quietly and hastily had her dispose of it into the wheelie-bins used for over-size deodorants etc. (as you say, they're just a large, unchecked "trash can" full of material that you're NOT allowed to take on a plane because of it's contents or size, sitting in the middle of an airport foyer) and passed through the airport unhindered onto our destination.

God knows what happens in that bin. The incineration must be fabulous when they do it, because it could literally contain anything at all. And, as you point out, prime target to drop a couple of things in, along with a dozen or a thousand "innocent" items that your accomplices can put in there earlier in the day and be pretty much untraceable which one caused the explosion. Right by the entrance to a security queue which can take hours to pass through and contain thousands of passengers sounds pretty much perfect - and the risk is just that of dropping someone off at an airport and them dropping something in a bin designed for things to be dropped into anonymously, because those bins are not "airside".

Re:Airport security is a farce (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37919276)

why bother bringing the plane down when there are large lines of people waiting in line to go through the security checkpoint that are all vulnerable to attack...and as an added bonus you don't need to get through the security checkpoint to bring your bomb to them...and you are even expected to be carrying luggage or bags so it is easy to hide your bomb.

Re:Airport security is a farce (3, Insightful)

bondsbw (888959) | about 2 years ago | (#37919432)

why bother bringing the plane down when there are large lines of people waiting in line to go through the security checkpoint that are all vulnerable to attack

Because terrorists want western society to become a police state, or dictatorship, or whatever isn't free. Their goal is to incite fear of freedom, and to make society beg their government to make them less free (in exchange, of course, for something like security).

Just say you can't raise your arms over your head (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about 2 years ago | (#37918470)

If your're really worried about the x-ray scanners just claim you can't raise your arms over your head.
Then they grope you instead. This is TSA SOP nowadays.

Re:Just say you can't raise your arms over your he (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918512)

just claim you can't raise your arms over your head.

Bob Dole isn't sure if he is offended or honored by this comment.

Sincerely
Bob Dole

Re:Just say you can't raise your arms over your he (2)

heypete (60671) | about 2 years ago | (#37918528)

Or you could just politely say "I opt-out of going through the scanner." with the same results.

Hasn't been a problem.

Re:Just say you can't raise your arms over your he (1)

wren337 (182018) | about 2 years ago | (#37918606)

When they passed seat belt laws in Michigan it was a "secondary offense" - you couldn't be pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt. Until they changed the law after about 10 years, once everyone had gotten used to it.

6 to 100 cancers per year will be caused... (5, Insightful)

fredrated (639554) | about 2 years ago | (#37918590)

In other words, more people will die from exposure to the scanners than would have died from the supposed terrorist attacks they 'protect' us from. And why? Money of course, that is what runs this country (into the ground).

Re:6 to 100 cancers per year will be caused... (2)

QBasicer (781745) | about 2 years ago | (#37918836)

In other words, more people will die from exposure to the scanners than would have died from the supposed terrorist attacks they 'protect' us from. And why? Money of course, that is what runs this country (into the ground).

Sure, but if we didn't have scanners and it was fairly trivial to get through security, they number would skyrocket. That's like saying 'we have this drug that virtually eliminates cancer, but rarely people will die from it". The overall net effect is that more lives will be saved than lost, just it's unfortunate that they can't all be saved. At least if you die from cancer you get to say goodbye to your family.

Re:6 to 100 cancers per year will be caused... (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | about 2 years ago | (#37918978)

'we have this drug that virtually eliminates cancer, but rarely people will die from it"

Ah, the "Patented Quicksilver Cure". Prevents cancer 99.7% of the time with only minor side-effects!

Re:6 to 100 cancers per year will be caused... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918994)

That's like saying 'we have this drug that potentially virtually eliminates cancer, but rarely people will die from it".

FTFY

Re:6 to 100 cancers per year will be caused... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37919008)

What terrorist attacks would scanners have effectively stopped? It's a solution to a problem which doesn't exist and never has.

Now that is some wrong thinking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37919108)

Actually, no. Not one terrorist attack has been stopped by these damn things ever. So they do kill more people than terrorists, period. Sky marshalls, building more secure planes, and having actual trained security staff is what detects and prevents terrorism.

Re:Now that is some wrong thinking... (1)

QBasicer (781745) | about 2 years ago | (#37919428)

Of course not, the terrorists aren't dumb enough to do something that they KNOW will get themselves caught.

Re:6 to 100 cancers per year will be caused... (3, Insightful)

TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) | about 2 years ago | (#37919400)

No.

The US is not filled with terrorists at every corner, just waiting for us to relax airport security so they have a chance to blow up as many Americans as possible. You've fallen into the fear.

Ignoring the fact that there are still ways to get a bomb past security despite these scanners, here's a list of places where you could kill more people, with less security, by blowing up a bomb there instead of on a plane:

Pro Sports Event
Mall
Large classroom auditorium
Popular (i.e. rivalry) High School Sports Event
Concerts
Conventions
etc...

Why have there been no terrorist attacks in these places? Oh yeah, because the number of terrorists in America willing and able to blow themselves up in one of these locations is so incredibly small that we are actively killing more Americans using this technology than they could ever hope to achieve.

Opting out (2)

magamiako1 (1026318) | about 2 years ago | (#37918644)

I opt out of these things every time I fly. My buddies insist "you get more exposure to radiation flying in the aircraft than you do going through the scanner." They proceed to go right through them.

Amusingly enough I've had an easier time voluntarily subjecting myself to the search than I have ever had when involuntarily being forced into being searched. I travel a lot, single white guy, long hair--most people assume drugs, search accordingly.

At the end of the day though; someone touching my crotch very briefly (trust me, they don't want to be touching me any more than I want to be touched) isn't going to give me cancer.

Re:Opting out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918800)

A significant portion of the time those going through the scanners end up receiving a pat-down as well, so why even bother subjecting yourself to it.
 
Realistically, the cancer potential is _probably_ small. But then again, back at the beginning of the 20th century radioactive products were commercially advertised and sold as life-enhancing and curative...sometimes that longitudinal study is worth waiting for! Unfortunately, it will be another 50 years before there is solid evidence either way, and even then it will depend on how well these "non-medical" devices are actually maintained and calibrated.
 
In the end the question is whether it is worthwhile increasing your risk, however small, just to ensure the scanner manufacturers can justify sales of their products.

Re:Opting out (3, Informative)

bberens (965711) | about 2 years ago | (#37919472)

At the end of the day though; someone touching my crotch very briefly (trust me, they don't want to be touching me any more than I want to be touched) isn't going to give me cancer.

No it wont' give you cancer, but it should be considered an unreasonable search under the Constitution.

The Terrorists Win!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918722)

The Terrorists Win!!! How many Americans have died in vain in wars designed to "stop terrorism"? How effective have those efforts been? How many man years have been lost to security theater? And now, how many will die from security theater?

How many TSA cancers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918754)

TFA claims 6 to 100 passenger cancers, but how many TSA agent cancers? A passenger gets a scan a couple times a year, and the machines are claimed to be equivalent to 0.001 medical X-ray images (assuming the calibration is correct -- I've seen reports of 0.1 or 0.001 for misaligned machines). They claim it's equivalent to the ionizing radiation from the cosmic rays at cruising altitude. How many passengers get scanned during a shift, and how much of the X-ray gets reflected or scattered to the agents standing just outside the machines? At 10 seconds per scan, that's 6/min, 360/hour, 2340/day (8 hour shift - 1hr meal and 2 15 min breaks). The agent would be standing a few feet away from a couple medicals a day. X-ray radiation is cumulative. Whenever I get a medical x-ray, the radiologists (who know something about radiation) leave the room and hide in a lead-lined booth. TSA agents don't even get film badges to monitor how much they are getting exposed to.

I try to get in the lines without the scanners and opt out and get groped if I can't.

Re:How many TSA cancers? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37919434)

If all the TSA agents die of cancer, there will be no more TSA. I am personally for this solution that will make everyone happy.

Therac 25 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918762)

Every time I see these machines, I'm reminded of the Therac-25, and wonder if the scanning beam in the backscatter devices has ever gotten 'stuck', and what sort of exposure people get from that.

There's a reason we regulate these devices.

There's also a reason we don't expose people to X-rays for non-medical reasons.

Re:Therac 25 (2)

blueg3 (192743) | about 2 years ago | (#37919084)

We expose people to X-rays for non-medical reasons all the time, just not in very large quantities. Like stepping outside.

Therac-25 illustrates that design failures can be fatal. While that could be true in an X-ray scanner (it would take about 5 minutes to expose you to a dangerous, not lethal, amount of radiation in such a scanner), it's also true in, for example, the airplane you're about to get on.

Is that all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918846)

My safety is a small price for someone else to pay so that I may live a little longer. I am glad my neighbour is such a self sacrificing person

Occupy Wall Street (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918880)

This corporate greed at the expense of the rest of us is exactly why the Occupy movement was born. There is no longer a sense of the greater good, only a sense of me me me.

The answer is simply (2)

kurt555gs (309278) | about 2 years ago | (#37918906)

The US government is acting in the interest of both the insurance companies and the politicly connected makers of the X-Ray machines. They never cared about the safety of the people. They never do. The insurance industry does not want to pay out for airplane crashes, and will roast every traveller like popcorn bags in order for those greedy bastards to keep their money.

Simple.

Oh please.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37918932)

These people should be thanking the TSA for being allowed to die such a noble death -- for their country, safeguarding the lives of others.

It's all about profit. (1)

mbone (558574) | about 2 years ago | (#37918940)

These machines were rolled out because of lobbying. People are going to die because of security theater.

By the way, most of those people will be TSA agents. Whatever the general public is getting, they are getting as well.

6 to 100, smells like bad statistics to me (1)

MonkeySpaceCapsule (1314937) | about 2 years ago | (#37919256)

One linear model purports 6 incidents of cancer, though no standard deviation on the maximum likelihood is given. Another model suggests 100 incidents of cancer, again without a stddev. The wild difference in the maximum likelihoods of the different models, combined with the fact that the 1st model's lower bound is at zero incidents suggests that the two models don't agree.

So, will this cause more cancer, yes. Do they have any idea how much, not really. Does the media do an accurate job of reporting statistics, almost never. Should we draw hard legislative conclusions from the numbers in this study, probably not (unless we want to do so in ignorance of science and statistics).

Not as bad as other statistics. (3)

Kludge (13653) | about 2 years ago | (#37919468)

The point is that these numbers are better than the numbers that justify the existence of the scanners. What cost/risk/benefit analysis has been done to demonstrate that these scanners are useful? The answer is none.

So, will this cause more cancer, yes.

So will these scanners save any lives? No.
End of analysis.

I didn't know they WERE mandatory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37919374)

I don't believe they actually have ever been made mandatory. It's just one of those "repeat the lie often enough" scenarios. As to why we put up with them being there, I suppose it's because most Americans simply enjoy being slaves. There's really no other explanation.

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