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TSA Puts Off Safety Study of X-ray Body Scanners

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the we'll-get-to-it-later dept.

Security 233

zokuga writes "ProPublica reports that the TSA is backing off a previous promise to conduct a new independent study of X-ray body scanners used at airport security lanes around the country. Earlier this month, an investigation found that TSA had glossed over research about the risks from the X-rays."

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And we're surprised by this? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38078918)

Really?

Where's the accountability?

Re:And we're surprised by this? (5, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38078998)

Really?

Where's the accountability?

There's accountability and accountability.

Perhaps they're backing down because of the cost - someone wants government spending to be less liberal (Ha!)

OR

Perhaps they're backing down because the cost of revealing the dangers, and thus potential lawsuits, scare them.

Re:And we're surprised by this? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079172)

What cost? Ionizing radiation is bad for you. There, no charge. When there's a benefit, then the risk may be justified, such as in medical applications, but security theater is not a good enough reason for exposing people to ionizing radiation.

Re:And we're surprised by this? (4, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079588)

What cost? Ionizing radiation is bad for you. There, no charge. When there's a benefit, then the risk may be justified, such as in medical applications, but security theater is not a good enough reason for exposing people to ionizing radiation.

Preaching to the choir, AC.

I underwent Radiation Therapy for 6 weeks after having a malignant tumor removed. My doctors, ever since, have tried to minimize how frequently I have X-Rays taken, opting for MagRes or Ultrasound to check things. I feel I've been baked and now must be wary.

Re:And we're surprised by this? (1)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079604)

"Perhaps they're backing down because of the cost - someone wants government spending to be less liberal (Ha!)"

This type of expense, could be conducted, at 0 cost to the taxpayers, if the airline customers were made to pay for it, instead of people flying from texas to orlando for $5, courtesy government subsidized transport, so that disney can post record profits.

Sucks that people who never fly, continually pay for those that do, via these subsidies.

That said, as a taxpayer, even tho I dont fly, I'm willing to pay for someone with a fancy college degree, to stick a radiation meter inside a scanner, perform a scan, use a cheap calculator to do some quick math, and type up a report. It's not rocket science and would cost all of $100 in the private sector. But of course, since the government is involved, it'll cost $10 million.

Re:And we're surprised by this? (3, Insightful)

colinnwn (677715) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080092)

The TSA security fees alone flying from Texas to Orlando (given a connecting flight) could be $5 alone, so I don't get the snark. You'd be hard pressed to find a ticket from TX to FL for less than $140 after taxes. The Federal Government (courtesy of the TSA) enormously overspends on aviation security based on the risk of death to any particular individual versus other common risks we experience every day.

Part of this is due to the fact aviation security threats (and operational risks like crashing) can affect people on the ground who never fly. Part is due to the way an aviation problem can make the entire US populace apoplectic for some strange reason. And part is the general authoritarian streak of our government. So I don't think it is unreasonable aviation security is partly subsidized, when most transportation related infrastructure and fuels in the US are massively subsidized as well.

Re:And we're surprised by this? (1)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080208)

You make a good point about the security of the people and buildings underneath the airplane. But this doesn't explain the millions if not billions spent on rural airports that service 2 flights a week so some senator can get his name on the place and his buddies can go hunting. There must be some rational, economic, middle ground.

Re:And we're surprised by this? (1)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080238)

Now that a think about it, no. As a homeowner, my activities did not endanger my home from airplanes. It is the activity of the airline industry that endangers people and homes. Unless you want to argue that shelter is not required to support human life, but flying is.

That said, if I order something and the package is flown via airplane, then the shipping cost should reflect it.

Re:And we're surprised by this? (1, Interesting)

colinnwn (677715) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080296)

There is no excuse for the Essential Air Service Program other than to give lawmakers and rural residents a warm and fuzzy about deregulation. It was even less useful than the poorly allocated farm subsidies to society as a whole.

Re:And we're surprised by this? (1)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080368)

I don't at all disagree with you, however, I just wanted to point out, that the farm subsidies, originally, were intended to solve a problem of malnutrition, because at the time they were implemented, people in the US were in fact undernourished. Sadly, it has since been co-opted by politicians buying votes from the agricultural industry and is as bloated now as the general population is.

Rational economic actors would reduce the subsidies, as the general population became more and more obese, but, as you and I both are aware, the actors are not at all rational.

Re:And we're surprised by this? (2)

ajlitt (19055) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080264)

Incidentally, I flew from Austin to DFW last week, and all the gates I saw were using millimeter wave scanners.

Re:And we're surprised by this? (1, Funny)

Samalie (1016193) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079012)

Accountability? In Government?

bwahahahahahahahaahaa

Of course (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38078948)

We wouldn't want them to figure out that the scanners are hazardous until the contract to buy all those scanners has been fulfilled. You just know that some lucky contractor will make boatloads off of this.

Re:Of course (4, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079022)

We wouldn't want them to figure out that the scanners are hazardous until the contract to buy all those scanners has been fulfilled. You just know that some lucky contractor will make boatloads off of this.

Not to mention all those happy cancer clinics, eh? eh?

We've known for decades that every X-Ray you undergo incrementally increases your odds of a malignancy.

Re:Of course (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079606)

People call me malignant all the time and I hardly ever get X-rayed.

Re:Of course (0)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080330)

That would matter if these were X-Rays. They are not, however.

Re:Of course (5, Insightful)

residieu (577863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079078)

Once they have paid for all the scanners, just think of how much the NEXT lucky contractor will make when we have to replace all the dangerous ineffective scanners with the new big thing that is just as untested as the last one was.

Re:Of course (2, Insightful)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080030)

This NEW scanner works by vaporizing the air travel candidate with high temperature plasma and shooting the remains through a mass spectrometer. It follows the same basic principle as dunking suspected witches in the river: survivors are obviously witches.

Re:Of course (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079534)

They must not risk their ability to fight tourism. Just think if they ran their new independent study and prove these machines are safe then we might have all kinds of dirty tourist passing through the airport without a care what so ever. We must win the war on tourism.

Re:Of course (4, Interesting)

tragedy (27079) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079670)

Just like the scanners in the first place, who wants to bet that the lucky contractor also has financial ties to someone currently or formerly in a position of authority at the TSA or Dept. of Homeland Security?

Re:Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38080136)

That contractor is DONALD RUMSFELD!

4 words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38080210)

You are being sterilized.

Re:Of course (4, Informative)

brillow (917507) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080284)

Oh yeah, and who does consulting for Rapiscan (the people who sell these things)? Michael Chertoff! Former DHS secretary who, while in office, said it would be just great if we bought a bunch of these things!

I think they are a little scared because even if the company sells these things, it might not protect them from some giant class-action suit.

Safety? (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38078950)

I'm sure the radiation is totally safe. After all Curie died of old age after decades of labwork amirite?

Re:Safety? (4, Informative)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079196)

While I'm sure your tongue was firmly in cheek: "Curie died in 1934 of aplastic anemia brought on by her years of exposure to radiation."

However her husband fared better: "Pierre Curie died in a street accident in Paris on 19 April 1906. Crossing the busy Rue Dauphine in the rain at the Quai de Conti, he slipped and fell under a heavy horse drawn cart. He died instantly when one of the wheels ran over his head, fracturing his skull."

Re:Safety? (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079310)

While I'm sure your tongue was firmly in cheek: "Curie died in 1934 of aplastic anemia brought on by her years of exposure to radiation."

However her husband fared better: "Pierre Curie died in a street accident in Paris on 19 April 1906. Crossing the busy Rue Dauphine in the rain at the Quai de Conti, he slipped and fell under a heavy horse drawn cart. He died instantly when one of the wheels ran over his head, fracturing his skull."

As morbid as it sounds, his death was probably less painful.

Re:Safety? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079454)

I'm confused by your argument. Are you saying that radiation wasn't a problem back then because of the dangers of horse drawn carriages? But there are no more horse-drawn carriages (and therefore no threat of being killed in an accident with one). It still seems like we should avoid radiation. ?? Can anyone please explain what this man's argument is?

Re:Safety? (1, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079828)

I'm confused by your argument. Are you saying that radiation wasn't a problem back then because of the dangers of horse drawn carriages? But there are no more horse-drawn carriages (and therefore no threat of being killed in an accident with one). It still seems like we should avoid radiation. ?? Can anyone please explain what this man's argument is?

You're gonna die.

Get over it.

meanwhile, Europe bans the farking things. (5, Informative)

crowlogic (940856) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079034)

meanwhile, Europe bans them. A lot smarter than these fools running the US, g*d damn them. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=europe-bans-x-ray-body-scanners [scientificamerican.com]

Re:meanwhile, Europe bans the farking things. (3, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079092)

meanwhile, Europe bans them. A lot smarter than these fools running the US, g*d damn them.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=europe-bans-x-ray-body-scanners [scientificamerican.com]

You must bring that up.

Can't you just quietly eat your hamburger made with a GMO wheat bun and hormone & antibiotic loaded meat?

Re:meanwhile, Europe bans the farking things. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079906)

Europe bans them

Then again, Europe bans a lot of things. Don't get me wrong, they should be banned, but citing something Europe does is like citing the diet of your crazy hippie neighbor who is also afraid of microwaves as a rational for not eating trans fats...right conclusion, wrong reason.

Re:meanwhile, Europe bans the farking things. (4, Insightful)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080022)

"A small number of cancer cases would result from scanning hundreds of millions of passengers a year. For some, that's a health issue"

Specifically, it is a health issue for the "small number" who DIE OF CANCER.

Re:meanwhile, Europe bans the farking things. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38080234)

Who bets the TSA's efforts will kill more people from cancer than it saves form terrorism?

Heck, it already kills more people from traffic accidents. (People avoid the TSA by driving instead of flying, driving is less safe than flying, and it adds up.)

Besides, just about every attempted plane hijacking/bombing that's stopped, is stopped by the passengers onboard. The terrorists sneak past security, get ready to set off their bomb on the plane, and then--the passengers maul them.

Small risk (4, Interesting)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079052)

Here's my favorite bit:

Earlier this month, a ProPublica/PBS NewsHour investigation found that the TSA had glossed over research that the X-ray scanners could lead to a small number of cancer cases.

Because cancer is clearly not a big deal. From another perspective, I wonder what dosage TSA agents get when they stand around those devices all day. I'm not particularly fond of them, but I wouldn't wish cancer on anyone. And these scanners are probably increasing their chances significantly. I wonder if anyone is up for conducting a large-scale clinical trial to show the low-level employees that these devices are hazardous and that they too should be against them.

Re:Small risk (5, Informative)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079136)

>> I wonder if anyone is up for conducting a large-scale clinical trial to show the low-level employees that these devices are hazardous and that they too should be against them.

You mean based on reports like this?

http://news.slashdot.org/story/11/06/27/2012226/Cancer-Cluster-Possibly-Found-Among-TSA-Workers [slashdot.org]

Re:Small risk (3)

MrDoh! (71235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079240)

Yeah, I find it very odd the staff aren't making much more of this. Anywhere else, there's strict regulations about being near radiation emitters. Does the TSA have a union? And if so, why aren't they bashing the door down on this issue?

Next, actual testing? Not a chance, they took the manufacturers own testing as proof it was all ok. Even CATSA does more testing in this regard than the US. They WANT to know the risks, and does it actually do what they're told it'll do instead of lining the guy's pocket who was in charge of purchasing them.

Truly amazing that the profiteering going on here to the detriment of citizens.

Re:Small risk (3)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079436)

Truly American that the profiteering going on here to the detriment of citizens.

FTFY.

Re:Small risk (1)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079802)

Truly American that the profiteering going on here to the detriment of citizens.

FTFY.

Cute, but didn't the UK use the totally untested Pandemrix H1N1 w/ special adjuvant vaccinne made by GSK (a UK) company? Of course germany was even more wacked by buying standard vaccinee for the govt officials and Pandemrix for everyone else. Apparently America doesn't have a monopoly on private profiteering to the detriment of citizens... Goverenments of the world unite ;^)

Re:Small risk (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079304)

Yes, the TSA is currently conducting a large-scale study of the cancer risk involved in standing next to x-ray scanners all day. We expect results in a few decades, maybe sooner.

Re:Small risk (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079936)

Yes, the TSA is currently conducting a large-scale study of the cancer risk involved in standing next to x-ray scanners all day. We expect results in a few decades, maybe sooner.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what it would take. The machines likely do spill some radiation, but it's going to rather low. Not Madame-Curie-glows-in-the-Dark levels. This takes years of following people and is very, very difficult to do well. From what I've seen of TSA front line troops, it's not exactly a career move so people will be moving in and out of exposures and therefore risks, people move between airports and therefore scanners making it even harder. People move and don't follow up on emails and letters and get lost to follow up. People get run over by horses.

This would be a difficult study for even the best of intentioned researchers. Count on government inefficiency and general bungling to really make it useless.

Then they'll have to try it again.

Re:Small risk (4, Insightful)

jasno (124830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079926)

Ain't it great?

  - you get to pay for the useless clusterfuck that is the TSA.
  - in 20 years you get to pay for the cancer settlement arranged with the TSA union.
  - By then, I'm sure we'll have socialized medicine... so you get to pay for their care.

I'm a contractor, so I understand fully how the government gets paid to fuck-up, and then gets paid again to fix the fuck-up.

This is what happens... (5, Insightful)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079068)

When we let fear control us into letting an "elected" official create a cabinet department called the Commission for State Securit--err I mean Department of Homeland Security, even though WE ALREADY HAVE A NATIONAL GUARD AND A CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY. Seriously, did someone miss the possibility of alterior motives when it was announced we were reinventing the wheel?

Re:This is what happens... (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080218)

even though WE ALREADY HAVE A NATIONAL GUARD AND A CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY.

Note that the CIA is not allowed to operate in the USA. Yes, I know that it does anyway. It is, nonetheless illegal.

Note also that the National Guard is neither trained nor equipped (nor sufficiently manned) to handle internal security.

That said, we have plenty of normal police plus the FBI to handle that sort of thing.

And THAT said, the Department of Homeland Security is nothing more than a coordination office between the diverse rival agencies that normally handle this sort of thing, but hate each other's guts enough that they wouldn't piss on an agent from another bureau if he were on fire....

Shocking (5, Informative)

itchythebear (2198688) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079098)

I'll have to find some sources, but didn't they refuse to allow the TSA employees to wear radiation exposure badges or something like that? (To determine if they were being over exposed)

They probably don't need to do any studies on if the scanners are safe or not, seems like they already know the answer.

Re:Shocking (2)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080040)

Why ask a question if you know you won't like the answer?
And people say the government is stupid..

Re:Shocking (4, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080354)

I'll have to find some sources, but didn't they refuse to allow the TSA employees to wear radiation exposure badges or something like that?

If airport personnel starts wearing radiation exposure badges the number of travelers will drop down to 1% (if not 0.1%) of what it was before.

TSA wants to banish the thought that anything dangerous might be occurring in those booths. Because of that no outward signs of such danger will be ever allowed. TSA drones will be gladly sacrificed.

Dear USA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079100)

Thank you for yet another reason to never visit your country.

Re:Dear USA (1)

jbell730 (1586063) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079532)

I don't blame you.

Signed, an American.

Give me the security I traded my privacy for (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079118)

Weren't these scanners put in place for safety reasons? I.E. protecting people from harmful terrorists? Why do they want to protect us from harmful terrorists and not harmful cancers?

Re:Give me the security I traded my privacy for (2)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080024)

Because terrorists are more shocking than cancers. Just like gun control propaganda focuses on danger to children, when in reality swimming pools are responsible for more deaths.

Re:Give me the security I traded my privacy for (1)

ncohafmuta (577957) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080176)

Because it's easier to kill terrorists than to kill cancer

Personally, i'd be ok with everybody bringing an uzi on flights if i never had to walk through another security checkpoint for the rest of my life.
They should hand out guns at security checkpoints, like bags of peanuts. 1 terrorist with a gun onboard versus 200 of us passengers with a gun. i'll take those odds.
I'm joking of course. mostly.

allergies (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079132)

That's rude of the TSA. I have x-ray allergies you insensitive clods!

Re:allergies (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079696)

Isn't that called cancer?

Re:allergies (1)

Lokitoth (1069508) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080032)

That's just the symptom.

Purchasing requirements should have had limits. (5, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079134)

Why were the radiation levels not a purchasing requirement? I would expect any radiation unit to have the exposure level very clearly identified.

Either specify that all units supplied must be under a maximum exposure (at all points in their operating life) set by the TSA or the supplier is liable.
Or the supplier can specify an exposure level when delivering the unit and the TSA can decide to accept or decline the purpose.

In either case the design limit should be easily available. And publishable as a start.
If the design limit is not available, then on what criteria where the purchases authorized and who authorized the purchases without strict exposure limits. Because it would just be sheer stupidity to operate like that. (Of couse I expect a governemnt agencey to be operating within the stupidity realm).

Re:Purchasing requirements should have had limits. (5, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079202)

Because this was not a program put in place to increase traveler safety.

This was a program put in place to shove money into the pockets of Michael Chertoff, the former head of the DHS. [gawker.com] It is doing remarkably well at that, and the TSA is appropriately doing its damnedest to cover for the fact that they owe their existence to a scumbag with a horrible conflict of interest who is continues to take this country for a ride.

I'd spit in this man's face if I met him in person.

Re:Purchasing requirements should have had limits. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079996)

Somehow I read that as "...if I met him in prison".

Re:Purchasing requirements should have had limits. (4, Insightful)

DM9290 (797337) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079226)

Why were the radiation levels not a purchasing requirement?

The point is that ANY ionizing radiation increases the risk of cancer, and therefore, statistically speaking, over a large population these scanners WILL kill people, its just a matter of how many lives are we willing to sacrifice for the facade of security.

Re:Purchasing requirements should have had limits. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079780)

I'm willing to risk every TSA agent's life - sit them in a locked room with the scanner on full, wide-angle. Let's see how long it takes for em to roast in their own-juices.
Please leave seats available for the TSA officers that reside in offices downloading porn all day and the senators and congressmen that continue to fund this Terrorist organization.

Re:Purchasing requirements should have had limits. (1)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079852)

It's not the agents' faults. The ones locked in should be the congresscritters that voted for this crap.

Re:Purchasing requirements should have had limits. (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080084)

That's a bad idea. Most of the agents aren't bad people, they are just taking the best job available to them. Congress would be a more deserving test population.

Re:Purchasing requirements should have had limits. (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080060)

They aren't after the facade of security, they are after control. Considering history there is no limit upon the number of people sociopaths are willing to kill in order to gain and maintain power.

Re:Purchasing requirements should have had limits. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38080236)

When considering "how many lives are we willing to sacrifice for the facade of security", I hope everyone will keep in mind that the radiation exposure from one of these scanners is considerably less than the elevated cosmic-ray dose you get from putting yourself above 30,000 feet of atmospheric shielding for a few hours as you fly to your destination.

Safety? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079192)

What the arse fuck is that?

Choose yer poison (2)

evil_aaronm (671521) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079228)

Cancer risk, or terrorism... I mean, what's the harm in increasing - hypothetically, of course; they haven't proven it yet - a person's cancer risk when compared with the risk that, by not scanning everything and everyone, a terrorist will get on the plane and, absolutely, positively, undeniably cause that plane to crash into the building that causes the most deaths and financial damage?

Let's be reasonable, people... /snark

This might shock you, but... (2)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079296)

...There is such a thing as a middle ground.
These body scanners are on one end, having nothing is the other. I'd prefer something in the middle.

Re:This might shock you, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079676)

So you feel safer? Or do you want to be safer?

I'm resisting noting how apropos your username is.

Re:This might shock you, but... (2)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079842)

We had something in the middle - xray the carry-on luggage and do a metal check on the passengers. As a bonus we don't even need any expensive new equipment or training, which is why it's so hard to convince the right people to go back.

Re:Choose yer poison (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079572)

The problem is not that we are reducing the risk of terrorism at the cost of increasing the risk of cancer. The problem is that the backscatter X-ray scanners do not reduce the risk of terrorism. If we got something in exchange for the cancer risk, then we could have a discussion about whether it's a fair trade.

Re:Choose yer poison (2)

Xphile101361 (1017774) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079642)

a terrorist will get on the plane and, absolutely, positively, undeniably cause that plane to crash into the building that causes the most deaths and financial damage?

Or light their underpants on fire.......

Re:Choose yer poison (2)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080282)

Absolutely certain to crash the plane eh? Maybe you missed it when the last two people to get a bomb on a plane epic failed. Just getting a device past security is not enough you also need to have a device that works, which is harder that we thought

Re:Choose yer poison (2)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080294)

Well, the formula is different when you choose for a population than when you choose as a member of the population.

As a member of the flying public, your considerations are dominated by two very immediate things: the indignity of being scanned or the indignity of being patted down. And because you *must* submit to one or the other, these certainties are likely to be more meaningful to you than any remote improbability, like being on a plane that is hijacked or receiving a cancer-causing mutation from the scanning machine.

If you're somebody who sets policy for the flying public, what is a remote improbability for any individual becomes a near certainty you have to deal with. That is to say, it is *certain* that somebody is plotting to hijack a plane somewhere and you've got to do something about it, even though it won't affect the vast majority of people who are flying. Suppose it is ALSO nearly certain that the gazillion radiation exposures you're mandating cause a certain number of cases of cancer, including deaths. You ALSO have to deal with that, even though it's no big deal to the vast majority of fliers.

The law of large numbers doesn't let you off the hook here; in fact it puts you *on* the hook. A tiny marginal difference in cancer probabilities summed over all the radiation exposures amounts to a number of people who get sick or die *as a result of actions you have taken*.

This doesn't mean you don't take action. It means you act *responsibly*.

Suppose the expected number of people to die from terrorism is 10, but the expected number of people to die from cancer is 3; you take the cancer and 7 more people (net) get to live. It's a no-brainer. But suppose because of your sloppy work the number of people who get cancer is actually *6*. That's still better than 10, but you don't get to pat yourself on the back for saving 4 people. On the contrary, you're responsible for 3 deaths that wouldn't have happened if you'd done your job properly.

I fly for business about every other week (5, Informative)

Gordo_1 (256312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079340)

And yet in all the months I've been running into these damn X-ray machines, I think I've only seen one other person opt out in favor of a pat down/groping session.

The rest of this country seems to be full of sheep.

Re:I fly for business about every other week (1)

PracticalM (1089001) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079550)

I opt out all the time, but at the airports I go to they are not always running. But I also rarely see people opt out.

Re:I fly for business about every other week (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079618)

Speak for yourself. I've opted for the pat down twice and have seen others do so. It will delay for about 3-5 extra minutes total, maybe less if they have the extra officer nearby. Despite all the hype about rubber gloves and cavity searches it's quite tame and reasonable. Unless you are in severe danger of missing your plane try it, you'll feel better about the small moral victory and the hassle is minimal.

Re:I fly for business about every other week (2)

Patent Lover (779809) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079668)

I opt out every time I fly. I've resorted to flying in shorts and a t-shirt (changing clothes later) in order to demonstrate the idiocy that is the TSA rub-down.

Re:I fly for business about every other week (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079806)

This would actually be a good poll question for /.

I opt out of the X-Ray machines at the airport:

1) Always
2) Never
3) When I am not in a hurry
4) When I am not wearing underwear
5) I live in a country where we don't use these useless, cancer causing, pseudo strip searching machines.

Friendly er, service... (2)

spopepro (1302967) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079956)

It's odd... I opt out and when I do the TSA employees are very, very helpful and friendly. I know that they have a strict script to stick to, but I also get the impression that they are not all that happy about the exposure risk, and are happy when others recognize the risks as well.

Re:I fly for business about every other week (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38080080)

I've only been asked to go through one of those machines once, at the New Orleans airport. Every other airport I've been at (which isnt many) it seems optional. They weren't sending everything through them either. There were two lines -- one for metal detector and one for the machine, and a TSA agent alternated people between the two lines randomly. I opted out -- but didn't see anyone opt out either. The TSA agent was nice enough, but he didn't buy me dinner afterwards :(

Re:I fly for business about every other week (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38080146)

I fly at least twice a month for business reasons. I also opt out every time, but like yourself, I rarely see others opt out. it is rather sad.

Re:I fly for business about every other week (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38080348)

And yet in all the months I've been running into these damn X-ray machines, I think I've only seen one other person opt out in favor of a pat down/groping session.

I am also a frequent flyer.

So far, most US airports only have the nude-o-scopes at some of the checkpoint lines. Experienced travelers like myself simply select the lines that still lead to the conventional metal detectors.

Re:I fly for business about every other week (0)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080396)

You actually run the machines, but you have the gall to call other people sheep? How much radiation do you think you've been exposed to sitting next to one all day?

Because Michael Chertoff said so (1)

EMG at MU (1194965) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079342)

If they actually did the study then Chertoff and Rapiscan would have to mount another FUD campaign to create a need for some other product that Rapiscan would make and Chertoff would convince all his friends in the government to buy.

The science experiment is on the passengers (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079372)

And the theoretical safe levels would only apply if these machines are set up properly. There have been cases where xray machines have been mis-calibrated and put out much higher levels than were safe. And that was in a medical facility dedicated to safety.

Of course I am sure that the TSA calibration records and maintenance records are a matter of public record on these powerful sources of radiation, and that scientists have been allowed access to these machines to confirm the governments assurances... They aren't? And they haven't?

Science is not about taking someone in powers word for the truth, it is about confirming the truth independently. It is inconceivable to me that these machines were deployed without any independent testing and with complete secrecy about dosage, calibration and maintenance records. It stinks and it stinks bad.

Only time will tell how deadly these machines are. I will bet anyone a crisp clean hundred dollar bill that these machines are at a minimum 3 orders of magnitude more harmful than the government is admitting (6,000 deaths from cancer). I am hoping they are no more harmful than 4 orders of magnitude more harmful (60,000 deaths from cancer) but fear 6+ orders of magnitude more harm (600,000 additional deaths from cancer).

But is anyone else worried that even at the levels the government admitted to that they are willing to kill 6 Americans with cancer for security theater?

Re:The science experiment is on the passengers (4, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080026)

Of course I am sure that the TSA calibration records and maintenance records are a matter of public record on these powerful sources of radiation, and that scientists have been allowed access to these machines to confirm the governments assurances... They aren't? And they haven't?

They don't need to be public record. They just have to be followed like every other x ray emitting device which are regulated by the states. You want to put an x ray machine in your office? Fine, put it in then call the state radiation physicist before you light it up. They come out and check it to make sure the public is safe (you're on your own).

Guess what doesn't happen since the airports are considered federal enclaves?

well... (1)

rish87 (2460742) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079404)

I'm not pro TSA by any means but if you look at the amount of ionizing radiation they are talking about being covered up " is extremely low, equivalent to the radiation a person would receive in a few minutes of flying" (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=europe-bans-x-ray-body-scanners) I don't think quibbling over an amount of radiation literally 100's of times less than what each and every person is about to be exposed to anyway is the correct way to fight the TSA on this matter. When attacking this detail it is too easy for the government to say "so what?".

Re:well... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079614)

I often see airport workers walk through the x-ray rather than going through the scanner. When I asked why they did not have to go through the scanner, I was told by a TSA employee that they go through security so many times each day that it would not be safe. But if it really is the same radiation as 2 minutes of flying, then the equivalent of a 4 hours flight would cover 100 trips through security....so, is it really that safe? Of course, my feeling is just that they know its theater and don't want to deal themself.

news flash (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079482)

Questionable agency with questionable methods disapproves of mandate to test the questionable efficacy and questionable safety of their questionable equipment.

Seriously, is this a surprise? The public support for the intrusiveness of the tsa is dwindling rapidly, and a bombshell like "airport and transit station scanners linked with cancer" would set fire to that particularly nasty powderkeg.

Of course they want to ostritch headplant and hum to themselves rather than operate reputably! Their entire operation is a farce all the way down!

We're all black conscripts now (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079568)

Back in the days of Tuskeege, the government thought it only get away with conducting deadly experiments on blacks. Later it figured it could get away with doing it to conscripted troops.

Now it has no problem doing it to us all.

Re:We're all black conscripts now (1)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079882)

Well, duh. It's only discrimination if you do it to a protected class. It's fine if you do it to everyone.

Stop Flying (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079632)

Stop flying until the TSA is gone. Seriously.

Having to show your papers, take off your shoes, and choosing between having nudie pictures taken or having your genitals groped is what the U.S. has fallen to. It's no longer airlines. The TSA is beginning to make appearances at train and bus stations. If you don't take a stand now, when will you take a stand? When there's a uniformed officer standing in your bedroom feeling between your legs to make sure you're not a terrorist?

Since they're clearly safe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079658)

I propose that John Pistole demonstrate his faith in these systems by being scanned one hundred times per day, until such time as the study is completed.

Where can I buy a dosimeter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079684)

Why is it that I can't just put one in my pocket and go through the machine to find out?
You know, For Science!

Re:Where can I buy a dosimeter? (1)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079910)

Does it include any metal? Sorry, bud, contraband. Off to the strip-search before Gitmo.

Hiding from Americans (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38079686)

Given these machines have been BANNED in Europe for health concerns, let's put off doing the right thing....
Any one remeber Lead Based Paint? Banned in Europe in the 40's becuase of brain dammage... took till 1976 for the US to ban the crap...
I guess our Government has been eating some of those paint chips.

Where can I buy a Dosimeter? (2)

Symbha (679466) | more than 2 years ago | (#38079702)

Repost cuz I can't stand being a coward:

Why is it that I can't just put one in my pocket and go through the machine to find out?
You know, For Science!

Re:Where can I buy a Dosimeter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38080008)

Because when you take it on the plane you'll be getting a much larger dose.

Results are in, it's a pleasant surprise! (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#38080276)

It appears that the more of the X-ray body scans you go through, the bigger your penis becomes and also the boobs become bigger.

Strangely enough both effects are detected in both genders.

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