Posts Tagged ‘Full-body scanners’

Scanned but not searched

November 29, 2010

I flew out to California last week to visit my brother over the Thanksgiving holidays, and went through the Transportation Security Administration’s new scanners on the way out from Rochester.  Going through the scanner didn’t bother me, and the TSA seems to have learned to move people through the lines at a more rapid place.  I don’t know, and don’t much care, what the person on the other end the scan saw on the view screen.  I am a grumpy 73-year-old man, not a modest 17-year-old girl.

The “enhanced searches” of passengers who are randomly selected or opt out of the scanning process are another matter.  I didn’t experience or witness any of these, but there are a lot of reports of women being groped by men, small children subjected to intimate searches by strangers, and people with physical handicaps subject to gross humiliation.

My questions about the whole-body scanners stem from the fact that the Department of Homeland Security has adopted this expensive new technology based on manufacturers’ claims, without independent testing.  Michael Chertoff, the former Secretary of Homeland Security, now represents these manufacturers through his consulting firm; this does not increase my confidence.

I wonder how rigorously the scanners are tested to make sure passengers are not subject to excess radiation.  I once had a good friend who tested radiation equipment in hospitals, to make sure the exact required dose of radiation was delivered every time.  If he had once made a mistake, he would never have been able to work again.  Are airport scanners, which are subject to much heavier use, subject to the same rigorous testing?  I seldom travel by air more than once a year, but I would worry if I were a regular traveler.