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Maine Senator Wants Independent Study of TSA's Body Scanners

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the but-first-this-delicious-barium dept.

Government 335

OverTheGeicoE writes "U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the top Republican on the homeland security committee, plans to introduce a bill that would require a new health study of the X-ray body scanners used to screen airline passengers nationwide. If the bill becomes law, TSA would be required to choose an 'independent laboratory' to measure the radiation emitted by a scanner currently in use at an airport checkpoint and use the data to produce a peer-reviewed study, to be submitted to Congress, based on its findings. The study would also evaluate the safety mechanisms on the machine and determine 'whether there are any biological signs of cellular damage caused by the scans.' Many Slashdotters are or have been involved in science. Is this a credible experimental protocol? Is it reasonable to expect an organization accused of jeopardizing the health and safety of hundreds of millions of air travelers to pick a truly unbiased lab? Would any lab chosen deliver a critical report and risk future funding? Should the public trust a study of radiology and human health designed by a US Senator whose highest degree is a bachelor's degree in government?"

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335 comments

Should of done that (5, Insightful)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865395)

Isn't this something our fabulous leaders should of demanded before spending a crap load of money and deploying them all around the nation?

Re:Should of done that (4, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865417)

Isn't this something our fabulous leaders should of demanded before spending a crap load of money and deploying them all around the nation?

Nah, that would require foresight, a quality visibly lacking from our reactive society.

immense foresight was used (3, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865487)

our lawmakers and executive branch are in the pockets of large corporations. federal government buying tons of equipment increases shareholder value and provides certain benefits to those who greased the skids.

Re:immense foresight was used (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865591)

The immense foresight was they made money upon initial sale and now they'll make more money going back and making them more safe. If people continue to complain, they can rinse and repeat. The best part is if the minimize the changes, they can have minimal impact and minimal cost, so its highly profitable and more likely they'll need to circle back around for more safety measures at an even higher cost. Who wouldn't love this deal?

Re:Should of done that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865423)

Hahahahahahaha! Oh you funny funny human!

Re:Should of done that (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865439)

While I agree with you, it's "should have," not "should of."

Re:Should of done that (1, Redundant)

Spritzer (950539) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865533)

THANK YOU!!! While I try to avoid playing "grammar police" this is an increasingly common mistake which drives me crazy.

Re:Should of done that (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865711)

Get the hell over yourself.

Re:Should of done that (5, Funny)

Spritzer (950539) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865895)

Your write. I should of thought moore about weather to or knot two post this. We should all right and speak as if we have merely completionized secund grade.

Re:Should of done that (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38866155)

Its "graid" u dummy.

Re:Should of done that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865683)

Yes, please just think about what you're saying and if it makes sense. "Of" is a preposition. Prepositions require an object. What is its object in "should of done that"?

Re:Should of done that (3, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865467)

Isn't this something our fabulous leaders should of demanded before spending a crap load of money and deploying them all around the nation?

Isn't this something that's better late than never, considering that it's too late to say it should be done beforehand?

Politicians (5, Insightful)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865743)

Isn't this something our fabulous leaders should of demanded before spending a crap load of money and deploying them all around the nation?

Isn't this something that's better late than never, considering that it's too late to say it should be done beforehand?

This. Politicians are not engineers. And even if they were, when they do something right, it makes more sense to praise them for it than it does to point out how foolish they may have been not to have done it earlier. Attacking them only makes sense if you are trying to defeat them in the next election--which is probably not the right thing to do when they do something right. =)

Re:Politicians (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38866013)

I don't expect your average politician to understand that "low energy/power x-rays" (I swear I heard that term used at some point in the early conversation when the TSA was claiming that it was all safe) are still several orders of magnitude more energetic than UV and thus, also capable of leading to cancer.

I do expect your average politician to say, "Hmm. X-rays? Maybe we should have someone test this equipment."

And while it makes sense to praise the neighbor when he knocks on my door with a plastic bag and says, "See? My dog shit on your lawn and I cleaned it up," it doesn't excuse the fact that the last 200 times his dog shit on my lawn, I had to clean it up.

Re:Should of done that (1)

John Courtland (585609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865797)

The point of complaining that it wasn't done in the first place is to emphasize that the people who put this into place are not qualified to make decisions of this magnitude and should be fired (or voted out).

Re:Should of done that (4, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865541)

No. The leaders should not have demanded that the TSA choose an independent laboratory. The leaders should have suggested that the FDA or the AMA or some similar, but unaffiliated to the TSA, agency choose the lab. The TSA may just farm it out to a "Technology/Science Assessors" lab for rubber-stamping.

Re:Should of done that (0)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865761)

What do you expect from a Republican? I wonder how many "independent" labs the senator is "associated" with?

Re:Should of done that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38866057)

FDA is a reasonable idea; AMA isn't a government agency (yet). However, since FDA and TSA both existed before this morning, and no doubt have some turf conflicts by now, the Senate committee would mod the cunning plan create a new "impartial" agency to contract the study.

Re:Should of done that (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865571)

Do you of any idea how annoying "should of" is?

Re:Should of done that (0)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865635)

but it generates jobs in a downbeat economy! you think nobody died at the hoover dam you fool!?!

seriously though, amazing how an american airport can have more people working the airport security than an european one yet it gets people through slower. "put your shirt in the xray machine" "umm okay, how about you don't bitch to me to push through some random guys box through to the xray and here smell my shoes, i'm off to buy some club like items with flammable liquids inside from the taxfree".

APPARENTLY.. if the shirt is made from a material that looks like it might be a hoodie, it goes to the xray machine - and the security fatso didn't think that it was her job to help the handicapped - or indeed pay any attention (why didn't I just push it without asking? because fuck, it's a security check, I'm not about to touch some random perps items and I'd rather have not other people fiddling around the box where I have to place my laptop and phone in plain sight - and I thought the security guard was paying attention).

(didn't have to remove shoes when boarding in europe either and I don't think they paid any attention to what was in the carryon bag)

Re:Should of done that (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865883)

The odd thing is, this sort of study wasn't done for the longest time because Congress had no desire to use body scanners. The technology was there, and the lobbying was there, but no one in Congress was interested. They felt it would be a lot of money and a lot of inconvenience for no real security benefit. Then 9/11 happened and _still_ no one was interested. It took the attempted shoe bombing and underwear bombing to make people seriously consider it. It was rolled out as a DHS trial program and then pushed nationwide through concerted lobbying push at the administrative level.

Re:Should of done that (2)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865923)

What do you mean?

It was pushed through by someone who owned part of the companies. He knew what he was doing in pushing to have these deployed.

As far as neutral third parties, there are plenty - it's just that the process *cannot* with honesty validate any of the devices being used in the field. Each one could be manufactured differently. They'd have to start back at the manufacturing process, and I don't think the gov't is ready for that part of the process. This is why when they tested just one and it showed it *could* but harmful but wasn't 100% confirmed, it's not even accurate. There's no way to guarantee a device in the field is an accurate representation/isn't set up to pass a test versus one randomly selected during the manufacturing process.

It was done (4, Informative)

Kludge (13653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865997)

As someone who works in radiation safety for the government, I can tell you that studies on these scanners have been done. There is virtually no risk from the scanners. You get far more additional radiation from flying in the airplane than you do from the scanner. The risk from these scanners is not the unknown value.
The unknown value is the benefit from the scanners. As far as I know, no study has ever shown that these scanners provide any benefit. Therefore even though risk is very small, benefit is even smaller, and the risk-benefit tradeoff is lopsided against the scanners.

Re:Should of done that (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866019)

They did. It might have been insufficiently independent, depending on how much you buy into a Massive Government Conspiracy to pump a few million dollars into two companies and secretly irradiate you.

The general technology has been studied extensively. Third-party labs test the specific equipment used by the TSA. I think the most comprehensive reports are done by the U.S. Army Public Health Command and available on the TSA's website.

Re:Should of done that (2)

gambino21 (809810) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866031)

At least as important, in my opinion, is an independent study to determine whether the body scanners and other security changes are effective at reducing terrorism and other criminal activity. If they are not effective at their stated goal, then we should just get rid of them regardless of whether they are safe or not.

Plenty of Studies Were Done (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866191)

Our "Fabulous Leaders" are just re-walking a well-worn path. Studies have been done on this scanning technology. But, some politician sees a chance for election-year populism by demanding *another study*. Which then leads people to say things like, "Isn't this something our fabulous leaders should of demanded before spending a crap load of money and deploying them all around the nation?"

Beats the alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865419)

Better a radiation study by someone with a BA in government than one made by someone with a master's in criminal "justice" intent on covering their ass.

You Fools! (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865427)

As a public health measure, we specifically designed our scanners to operate 95% on faith beams and only 5% on ionizing radiation(the fact that this also allowed the sleazy contractor not-at-all-definitely-not connected to our former leader, who definitely isn't a lich [wikimedia.org] save on BOM costs was unconnected with this decision...)

If you allow skeptics to get near the machines, they'll jam the faith rays and force us to either face further terrorist attacks or turn up the radiation!

Re:You Fools! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865881)

I can't get over how good an Emperor Palpatine he would make.

Twits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865433)

Perhaps other aspects [businessinsider.com] of their service-mindedness need looking into also?

I missed the part... (5, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865447)

...where whathername insisted on "designing the study".

As opposed, of course, for calling for a study to be done - not the same at all.

lol (2)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865457)

A bachelor's in government, is that like a minor in plant psychology?

Re:lol (1)

MollyB (162595) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865985)

Cute snark, but following your thought don't you imply that we the electorate can be effectively dealt with as if we were potted palms?
If true, I shiver down to my roots...

Too late... (4, Interesting)

SengirV (203400) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865459)

TSA must have gotten their marching orders recently. They have been pretty strict about pushing as many people through those radiation machines as possible for that last couple of months. Prior, you could pony up to the metal detectors without much hassle. Now, you are told to stand in the long imaging line. And this is the case at several airports I travel through.

Re:Too late... (4, Insightful)

lazycam (1007621) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865551)

TSA must have gotten their marching orders recently. They have been pretty strict about pushing as many people through those radiation machines as possible for that last couple of months. Prior, you could pony up to the metal detectors without much hassle. Now, you are told to stand in the long imaging line. And this is the case at several airports I travel through.

You know, you can still decline to go though the scanners. In recent months I have traveled through many busy airports. I watched as TSA agents push people (including myself) x-ray 'branding' line. No matter how busy (or how light) the travel loads have been, I have and always will opted out. Until they pass federal rules suggesting we no long have the right to opt out, I will be standing safely outside of the range of any body scanner for the foreseeable future.

In this country it's still legal not to do something if you feel uncomfortable. Get a pat down and move on with your travel day...

Re:Too late... (5, Interesting)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865819)

The problem is that opting out of the radiation dosing machines means opting into the government authorized groping line. And if you don't like that option, you are either kicked out of the airport (if you are a politician) or arrested for not cooperating with the TSA (for everyone else).

But at least all of these TSA measures have caught tons of terrorists right. *checks the Terrorists Caught By The TSA counter* *sees it reading zero* Oh, wait... Never mind.

Re:Too late... (2)

willaien (2494962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866015)

Ahh, yes, but in the groping line, you can make them feel just as uncomfortable as you are. Just do so subtly, so that you don't get to experience the billy club for a 'perceived threat'.

Re:Too late... (3, Insightful)

NiteMair (309303) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866185)

I too always opt out of the body scanner - I'd rather have the temporary psychological stress of another guy putting his gloved hands on my thighs than permanent damage to my physical body from a machine that some "security company" lobbied to have placed in every airport in the U.S. under the guise that it miraculously makes us safer.

I wouldn't be surprised if the stress of dealing with the TSA and other privacy violations in a post-9/11 world has killed more people than terrorism ever did.

Re:Too late... (1)

Mitreya (579078) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865995)

I have and always will opted out. Until they pass federal rules suggesting we no long have the right to opt out, I will be standing safely outside of the range of any body scanner for the foreseeable future.

Have you had to travel with a laptop though? Last time I opted out, I had to wait next to the moving line for 5-7 minutes while they found a patter-down for me. At the same time my brand-new (out of the bag) laptop was sitting on the other side, somewhat outside of my view. It's a miracle no one stole it.
But yes, I always opt out of the damn machines and find it sad that others just file in like sheep. Not sure what the plan is for the day they decide that only terrorists opt out from being sent into X-ray machines.

Re:Too late... (3, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866103)

In this country it's still legal not to do something if you feel uncomfortable. Get a pat down and move on with your travel day...

What if the pat down makes you feel uncomfortable? This is like saying you don't have to get punched in the face, you could get kicked in the balls instead. Your choice...

Re:Too late... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865587)

Magic words - "Opt Out".

I've done this about 15 times now and have yet to be pushed through one of these microwaves. It's amazing to see the others around you marvel at the fact that you do not HAVE to go through these things - most don't know. Sure, it takes more time and in one instance I had to let the TSA agent doing the search know that they skipped part of the procedure (I've done it THAT many times!) but it's not that bad and it's more thorough than the machine is anyway IMO. It annoys my travel companions that I do this and slow them down but oh well, I need more radiation like a hole in the head. Radiation is cumulative, the less the better for me given a choice...

Re:Too late... (3, Funny)

stillnotelf (1476907) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865771)

in one instance I had to let the TSA agent doing the search know that they skipped part of the procedure (I've done it THAT many times!)

I also always get chosen for the cancer box scanner, and always opt-out. It usually goes like so:

ME: stands on marker, puts arms out

HIM: "Sir, you don't have to put your arms out."

ME: puts arms down.

HIM: "Sir, I'm going to pat you down, blah blah blah, can you put your arms up?"

ME: rolls eyes, puts arms back up...

Re:Too late... (3, Funny)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866061)

Watch, the study gets done and finds out that the scanners have almost no harmful radiation on the inside but fires loads of it outside in all directions and hits those who opt out.

Re:Too late... (1)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866189)

The radiation is used for taking the image. You can be assured that more goes into the machine than out of it.

Re:Too late... (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865667)

I've flown recently.

PHL still randomly flags, though short lines tend to include almost everyone.

BNA doesn't even use metal detectors any more (they actually have them, but they're off), either pat-down or millimeter wave. Their pat-down was far less thorough than PHL, and there was a pat-down area that had at all times 3 people in it being patted down.

Both are millimeter wave, and not backscatter.

How independent? (5, Insightful)

Pirulo (621010) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865471)

<quote>TSA would be required to choose an 'independent laboratory'</quote>

How independent if the TSA has to choose it?

Re:How independent? (2)

Atomus (2500840) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865737)

How independent if the TSA has to choose it?

I was thinking the same thing. Don't get me wrong, it's a step better than taking TSA's word for it, but I can see this turning into a "confidential" study and TSA stating this study will not be publicly availabe due to "national security" reasons UNLESS it states that the machines are safe, which therefore would be made available to the public. My bet is that this study will never make it to the public....

Re:How independent? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38866121)

Not very.

As an example, I've provided a link and excperts from what you get when you permit another government Administration (agency) to control its own peer review of suspect investigation and analysis.

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FAA-2005-22997-0066 (sorry, you have to click through the PDF link to get meaningful information)

The short version is this. The agency in question suppressed and redacted critical data from the docket materials during the period of the peer review. Much of the redacted materials indicated that the system in question met the current standard, which the proposed Rule change did not systemically address. Needless to say the "peer review" was predisposed to produce the desired result, going so far as not even permitting peer reviewers to find the report unacceptable.

The following is one of my favorite parts, the permitted recommendations of the peer review.

"Recommendations:
Based upon your reading and analysis of the information provided, please identify and
submit an explanation of your overall recommendation for the Fuel Tanks Safety Study.
1. Acceptable as is
2. Acceptable with minor revision (as indicated)
3. Acceptable with major revision (as outlined)"

You'll note that there is no unacceptable option. To convey some element of what our tax dollars bought, here is an excerpt from one of the peer reviewers recommendations.

"This reviewer categorizes the report as Acceptable with a need for major revisions to
account for the following"...

And then there is this conclusion from another peer reviewer.

"Clarification is needed as to what the (redacted) risk level contained in the Conclusions
Section of the Executive Summary of the Sandia Report relates to. It clearly
does not reflect the probability per flight hour of a center fuel tank explosion
occurring on a western built transport category aircraft prior to AD application
which is assessed to be in the region of 10.8 per flight hour as suggested by the
ARAC Fuel Tank Inerting Harmonization Working Group.

This issue requires reconsideration since as written the Sandia report seems to
be stating that the current risk of Catastrophic center fuel tank explosion to
aircraft is of the order of (redacted) per flight hour which is not the case.

Furthermore, the Sandia report states on pages 35-36 "The overall event
probability of a tank explosion, given the limitations, may be systematically off."

On this basis it cannot be concluded by the reviewer that the assumptions used
in determining the effectiveness of SFAR 88 in reducing the potential for ignition
sources causing future center fuel tank explosions and the quantitative and
qualitative methods and analyses in this report are adequately developed."

It makes me so proud that my children, who have not even entered the work force yet, are already in debt over a $100K to pay for this quality of governance...

Health issue is a red herring (3, Interesting)

sir_eccles (1235902) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865479)

The real investigation should be who got rich from all this.

Re:Health issue is a red herring (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865545)

George Soros - major Obama backer.

But it's OK folks, Obama is different, he's not like all the other politicians.

SUCKERS!!!! - Each and every one of us who actually think that politicians stand for anything other than their own self interests.

Re:Health issue is a red herring (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865577)

That would be Michael Chertoff [wikipedia.org]. Next question, please.

Re:Health issue is a red herring (3, Informative)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865637)

Michael Chertoff (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Chertoff#Body_Scanners) is the #1 suspect.

Re:Health issue is a red herring (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38866141)

Shouldn't he be called a "person of interest" rather than "suspect" so we can detain him indefinitely (for his own safety), put him on some kind of "watch list", and otherwise make his life a living hell without actually having any legal obligation to either charge him or let him go? It would be more fitting.

Re:Health issue is a red herring (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865929)

Agree this is a red herring to distract from the fact the machines do intentional false positives to keep the pat-downs frequent and visible. A far better approach would be to eliminate TSA entirely and turn over security to the carriers. Maybe give them a "block grant" to cover the cost. I bet they would be able to make that grant a large profit center gives what TSA blows through right now and the efficiency of the private sector.

This is to distract from the experience Rand Paul recently had and went on national TV to disclose and discuss.

JJ

Re:Health issue is a red herring (2)

ifrag (984323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866035)

The real investigation should be who got rich from all this.

And who will also get rich building the replacement scanners? Declare it a health risk, then money can go to replacements and another study to find out if the replacements are safe.

We apologise again for the fault in the subtitles. Those responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked have been sacked.

What does her degree have to do with it? (4, Insightful)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865525)

Can't we judge the experiment on its merits (good or bad)? What does the educational background of the person proposing it have to do with anything? The scientific method doesn't break just because someone without a PHD proposes the experiment.

Re:What does her degree have to do with it? (4, Interesting)

sporkboy (22212) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865589)

I'd imagine there is a staff member who consulted scientists in determining the proposed experimental protocol. Or at least I hope there is.

Not all legislation is driven by Hollywood lobbyists, is it?

Re:What does her degree have to do with it? (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865817)

Not all legislation is driven by Hollywood lobbyists, is it?

Not at all! You forgot about defense lobbyists, telecom lobbyists, and IP lobbyists. Pretty much anyone with lobbyists, actually. Note that this almost certainly does not include you or me.

Re:What does her degree have to do with it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865733)

Should it be a 'black box" or 'white box' test? In other words, should we test for any possible radiation, not knowing what kind is being emitted, or would it make m ore sense to measure the specific radiation emitted. The first case would look for ANY radiation, and measure it, while the latter would require knowledge of the machine design.

Both approaches have advantages. A 'black box' approach might detect radiation that no one expected. A 'white box' approach could be much more specific, and owuld probably be faster and more accurate.

Re:What does her degree have to do with it? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865759)

In other words, to answer the (stupid) rhetorical question at the end of the summary: heck, yes, if the proposal has merit. Not only that, but a politician who knows when to call in independent experts to evaluate a matter of public health should be applauded, not subjected to snide insults.

There is no qualification to be a politician other than listening to the public opinion they are supposed to represent. Sounds like this guy is better qualified for the job than usual.

TSA should not chose (2, Interesting)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865527)

Each state should be entitled to pick their own lab to conduct the study on the scanners. Yes, that means 50 independent studies by local labs. More if we go counting DC and other territories.

Also, should they find any negative effects; any citizen of the state that has been exposed to the scanners should be entitled to an exponential sum for each exposure (since any additional exposure would not just additively increase cancer risks.)

THAT would be a responsible law to go for. But who am I kidding, the TSA now controls too much money, enough to lobby its way into doing anything they want.

In related news... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865605)

...the TSA just bought and activated their first full body scanners at the Portland, ME airport (PWM).

Re:In related news... (1)

sjwaste (780063) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865871)

I just flew out of PWM this weekend. I saw the new EHF scanner but didn't see it in use at all. I wouldn't be shocked if they never even turn the thing on at PWM. I'm also much more okay with the millimeter wave machines than x-ray backscatter. Non-ionizing radiation, but I would like to see a proper study on the effects of whatever dose of EHF that emits on people.

Re:In related news... (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865967)

And why would they do that? PWM has already been used in an attack, it is therefore either MORE likely to be used again, or NOT AT ALL likely to be used again.

Apparently, the latter is the theory in use at this time.

Education (3, Insightful)

ljhiller (40044) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865609)

This nation worked very hard to elect a vice-president whose highest degree was a bachelor's degree in communications, and she had to transfer 4 times to get it. I don't think the people really care.

Re:Education (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866007)

This nation worked very hard...

Well, to be fair, only about a third of Americans are Republicans (the only ones likely to "work hard" to make this person VP) and I would venture that less than 5% of them did any actual campaign work at all.

As for your latter observation (i.e., people caring)? Yeah, that's about right.

Re:Education (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866147)

And we elect Presidents with degrees in Political Science [answers.com].

That would be a better qualification for overseeing the TSA?

Actually, would that be a better qualification for leading the nation? Would being ASA certified make you a better racecar driver? More desireable?

Re:Education (1)

dfenstrate (202098) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866183)

No one is really too interested in the academic career of our great president either- not his transcript, his thesis, his publications (or lack thereof), or any of the other career markers you would expect of such a lauded academic.

Political Theater (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865665)

No to all questions.

It would be much more effective to abolish both the TSA and the Department of Homland Security.

Measure Cost Efficiency (5, Interesting)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865671)

The single most significant missing component in all our security efforts is a cost analysis. Are we spending too much, too little, or about the right amount? Some say that measuring that is hard, and it is. But measurement is inherently approximation (there is no such thing as a ruler that is exactly twelve inches long). Once you accept that, it becomes much easier to measure lots of things (see also: How to Measure Anything).

Can we begin with a very rough boundary estimate? I think we can. Here's one I did in my head while driving through the desert recently:

I am willing to accept having two of my one thousand closest lifetime United States citizen acquaintances die in terrorist attacks. That is an acceptable risk level. If we can get there, I feel we have done all we need to do. By the same token, if we are spending any significant amount of money to go beyond that level, I am less supportive. I don't think it is worthwhile to catch every terrorist any more than it is worthwhile to catch every speeder or jaywalker. Two in one thousand, lifetime, sounds like about the right number.

OK, so, how does that work out as an annualized US death toll? (please note: I did this in my head, and am mostly just regurgitating it here -- please correct me if the math is off)

Desired Death Rate: 0.002 per lifetime
Lifetime Length: 80 years
Annualized Rate: 0.00002 risk per-annum per-person (equals 0.998 chance each person will reach 80 before dying from terrorism)
United States Population: 300,000,000
My Maximum Acceptable Annual U.S. Terrorism Deaths: 6,000

I think we should be trying to stay under 6,000 United States citizens dying from terrorism every year. It is the acceptable rate, to me, in terms of the risk of my acquaintances dying. Any significant spending we do to get under that number is -- to me -- emotionalism, not rationalism. Given we haven't reached 6,000 in the past 20 years, I suspect we are spending too much.

Re:Measure Cost Efficiency (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865899)

Would your "My Maximum Acceptable Annual U.S. Terrorism Deaths" be less if one of those deaths were yours?

Re:Measure Cost Efficiency (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866097)

Would your "My Maximum Acceptable Annual U.S. Terrorism Deaths" be less if one of those deaths were yours?

If I could know in advance? Yes. (it would be irrational, but since I am agnostic and do not know if there is an afterlife, I will pay anything/everything to not die)

If I could not know in advance? No. I also do not drive a Volvo, despite the fact that it is safer than what I do drive.

I cannot know in advance, so I have to go with the probabilities.

Re:Measure Cost Efficiency (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866059)

I don't think it is worthwhile to catch every terrorist any more than it is worthwhile to catch every speeder or jaywalker.

I think this is a big problem with many issues. The government tries to catch every terrorist. If one slips through, they are afraid that the people will cry out "Why were you so concerned about protecting our liberties instead of deploying the Ultra-See-You-Naked-And-Give-You-Cancer Terrorist Detection Machines?!!!!" Then, they fear, they will be tossed out of office in favor of someone willing to deploy the USYNAGYCTDMs.

Meanwhile, in the copyright world, the music/movie industry are obsessed with stopping all piracy. They are convinced that every pirate that they don't stop will rob millions of dollars from their pockets each and every day.* So the government puts more restrictive (though not effective) security measures in place because "better safe than sorry" and the music/movie industry lobbies for more stringent (and big media tilted) copyright laws to get every single pirate to stop.

The problem is that something will always slip by the system. A clever terrorist will always slip through. A clever pirate will always find a way to obtain music/movies without paying the requested price. You can't stop these people. We need to just accept that a certain amount of "bad things" happen. We need to find a way to stop the vast majority of it with as little impact on honest, law abiding citizens as possible.

In the case of pirates, this means providing easily available, reasonable cost digital options. The more people with these options, the less people will pirate. Yes, some people would always pirate, but those people would be in the vast minority. In the case of terrorists, pre-911 airport security for passengers, random scanning of checked bags, and locked/reinforced cockpit doors (with instructions to land ASAP should something happen, ignoring any passengers getting killed in the back) would solve 99% of all terrorist attacks.

* Don't think that I'm equating piracy to terrorism. It's more the response of the government to terrorists and the response of the music/movie industry to pirates that I'm equating.

Re:Measure Cost Efficiency (1)

Mitreya (579078) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866101)

I think we should be trying to stay under 6,000 United States citizens dying from terrorism every year. It is the acceptable rate, to me, in terms of the risk of my acquaintances dying.

There is an easier way to do this analysis. What you are doing assumes some acceptable death-toll and that is hard(er) to argue.
Suggestion -- consider the money being spent on TSA and evaluate whether they can be applied elsewhere to save more than 6,000 United States citizens. Or, better yet, the number of terrorism related deaths prevented by TSA (which is likely much closer to zero than to 6000). Investing in road/vehicle safety is the favorite example, but I bet that even a campaign to educate more people on proper bathtub and electric device use will save more than a few people a year and cost a lot less.

Not a family man? (1)

rossjp (688204) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866125)

I'm not going to evaluate whether or not you have the math wrong because I think you have the premise wrong. You may accept the death of 2 of your 1000 closest friends, but tell me, how many times will you accept your wife's death in a terrorist attack? Or your children's? Or your own (although technically this would be unacceptable)? Or do you (because of some evolutionary hiccup) place equal value on these lives as you do others?

Re:Measure Cost Efficiency (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866197)

I think that your maximum annual acceptable U.S. terrorism deaths number is too high. While that may be what you find acceptable, it is higher than what the American people would find acceptable. I believe that a study of the reactions of the American people to various traumatic events indicates that the number is somewhat less than 3,000. The fact that acts of terrorism which result in deaths tend to be high profile, lowers the acceptable annual death toll.
That being said, I agree with your conclusion that we are spending too much. Especially when you consider the fact that the episode which triggered our current security theater regime would not be repeatable even if security procedures had not changed.

Are we missing the point? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865685)

I keep seeing these things that seem to be attempting to show that these naked scanners are unhealthy. But is that really a distraction from what we should be considering?

1. Doesn't human dignity require that we treat travellers as people and not the same way that we treat convicts?

2. Don't these security measures do more harm than good by forcing people to accept a microcosm of "police state" for no discernable benefit?

Re:Are we missing the point? (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866105)

Yes and yes. Sorry, but the TSA has yet (as far as I'm aware) to stop a motivated terrorist from getting through. If they have, they don't advertise it. All the attempts seem to have been stopped by ordinary people.

The whole process seems 1984-ish, and now we can stop blaming Bush and blame politicians who largely happily accept the overbearing regulations and the immense cost. Of course, there's a candidate who'd work to put an end to it, but he's just some crazy guy, apparently.

Wasn't this already mandated? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865715)

I thought the TSA already had orders to perform an independent review, and were stonewalling on it.

Living in Maine... (5, Informative)

rinoid (451982) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865721)

I have never supported Susan Collins for other issues.

But I have to ask why the OP decided to belittle the Senator's formal educational credentials? This seems like a distraction for the real question here: are these full body scanners actually safe, and, that's the question the Senator has introduced to be studied.

The Senator has asked a good question here. I praise her for asking a question in a time when the knee jerk response has been a resounding YES to police state control. The OP has held up a straw man in questioning her education.

Re:Living in Maine... (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866113)

I have never supported Susan Collins for other issues.

But I have to ask why the OP decided to belittle the Senator's formal educational credentials? This seems like a distraction for the real question here

Yes, that's a common tactic in politics for inserting bias and/or influencing someone's opinion in a non-obvious way.

"While some say CmdrTaco shows a clear Communist bias and favoritism towards Red China, I personally think that these rumors are false."

Very good points indeed. (1)

jonnat (1168035) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865725)

Being the technocracy that we are, I think we should wait for a the public to elect a Senator with a PhD in Physiology and, then, demand that he/she write a sensible proposal to address these health concerns.

Unfair to Criticize Education (4, Interesting)

Koreantoast (527520) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865753)

I think it's unfair to dismiss a suggestion by a member of Congress just because their educational and experience background doesn't match up with every possible legislative issue that could possibly cross their desk. This is why Congressmen have staffs with more diverse educational backgrounds, and I'm 99% certain that whatever he proposes is going to have been written by one of his staffers. Of course, if you're a cynic, then it was written by a lobbyist, vetted by a staffer then proposed by the Representative from Maine, but hey, I don't think what he's proposing is all that unreasonable.

Re:Unfair to Criticize Education (2)

dfenstrate (202098) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866139)

If it were a democratic senator proposing the same, the submitter would have praised it as forward-looking and thoughtful, defending the people's right to know what they're being exposed to.

The submitter, and the editor who approved and posted it, are leftist hacks, and are using any platform they can get to belittle republicans. This is because they are so cock-sure of their position that this sort of behavoir seems legitimate.

Unfortunately, they pushed it a little too far this time, as their blind partisanship made them out to be the fools they are.

Use the GAO!!! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865765)

Letting the TSA pick an organization to do this is ridiculous, the GAO should be the one in charge of figuring out if this is harmful. You need a completely unbiased third party, not the guys who fouled up the "evaluation" in the first place.

Missed the Mark (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38865837)

So this study is in relation to public health when the real study should be the scanners violation of personal rights.

To answer your questions: (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865971)

Is this a credible experimental protocol?

Probably not, but I would say it depends on the details of how the study will be performed and interpreted: i.e. there can be a perpetual debate as to whether what we see actually 'is' cellular damage, or 15 more years are needed for verification --see the fudge factors on those never-ending ever-inconclusive cellphone tower 'studies' and the whole 'carbon neutral' and 'global warming' hype. And see how little consequence they have had (excluding "green" marketing) because all humans need to move around and ramble on cellphones.

Is it reasonable to expect an organization accused of jeopardizing the health and safety of hundreds of millions of air travelers to pick a truly unbiased lab?

I have NO IDEA (and probably nobody else does) why on Earth is it the TSA that will pick the lab. On what grounds? By what means? Unless we are looking for a "bureaucratic enough" approach. But seriously, it makes no sense other than someone choosing their own lawyer, and maybe that's the message this senator wants to deliver: "putting TSA on the stand".

Would any lab chosen deliver a critical report and risk future funding?

Depends what kind of lab it wants to be: the lab that does lab work, or the lab that is someone's bitch. Both kinds get funding at one point or another, albeit for different reasons.

Should the public trust a study of radiology and human health designed by a US Senator whose highest degree is a bachelor's degree in government?

That is a moot point: the public already 'trusts' heads of state that are bankers, department heads that are lawyers .. when was the last time you saw engineers and scientists in governing positions?

It this credible ? Probably (2)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865993)

You can't tell from a press release if what they are planning to do is credible, but the basic outline is, and long overdue. There are certainly enough labs who do, e.g., medical or nuclear power radiology who would not be tied to the TSA's purse strings, so finding an independent lab shouldn't be hard if they want to.

If I was running this study, I would know is going to get attacked every-which-way, so I would do my best to make
sure it was credible. Anything less would be a waste of time. But, maybe that's just me.

Opt Out. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38866027)

I travel frequently and opt out of the scanner every time. There are typically two lines, one for the metal detector and one for the Millimeter Wave Scanner. If I am pushed into the Millimeter Wave Scanner, then I opt out. It's no big deal really. Most people don't know you can opt out. Even if these things aren't safe, you think that the Government will come clean and say...oh yeah sorry, these were not good for you...I highly doubt it!

not just health... (1)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866045)

plans to introduce a bill that would require a new health study

How about studying their efficacy while we're in there, since it seems to be dubious?

So here's the real question? (1)

raikoseagle (855141) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866065)

This sounds like a pissing contest between TSA and Senator Collins. So what's the end game here, if she wins, and an independent study occurs and finds that the X-Ray based scanners are risky (very likely), does the TSA dump those machines in favor the EM backscatter machines or do they fall back to pat-downs and the metal detectors. In either case the TSA will have to handle more work, which will raise our costs, which supposedly the GOP is trying to fix (how I don't know). So the real question comes down to, how does Senator Collins profit from advocating for an independent review, she clearly believes the TSA is lying about the safety of the X-Ray scanners, and wants change, but how does this change help her. That's the real question!

No no no no no. |: (2)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866137)

TSA would be required to choose an 'independent laboratory'

They should not have a choice in the matter. They're just going to pick the cheapest "laboratory" that gives them a green light.

Cosmic radiation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38866165)

If people are worried about radiation dosage from backscatter X-ray machines they shouldn't be flying in the first place. An hour of flight will expose a passenger to something like a week's worth of background radiation... vastly more than they are exposed to by these machines.

OSHA (2)

metrometro (1092237) | more than 2 years ago | (#38866187)

We already have a government agency tasked with evaluating workplace hazards. It doen't need to be independent of government itself. Just TSA. Inter-agency conflict can be useful here, in that OSHA might be happy to bust TSA for radiating their employees.

Also, the issue we should be worried about is not whether the claimed dose is dangerous. The more urgent issue is whether these things, as deployed, are dosing people at the correct level, which is easy to evaluate, and no one currently is doing so.

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