TSA’s Blogger Bob repeats unfounded claims about scanners

by Lisa Simeone on January 19, 2012

The TSA public relations representative known as Blogger Bob has once again posted an entry claiming that the airport scanners have been rigorously tested to ensure they are safe. This claim is now, as it has been every time it’s been stated in the past, false.

The Los Angeles Times article to which Blogger Bob refers is this one. It states that the TSA “plans to conduct new tests on the potential radiation exposure from the machines at more than 100 airports nationwide.”

This is actually old news. As TSA News reported on January 7th, the TSA put out an RFI (Request for Information) to vendors who sell radiation dosimeters. The RFI states:

The measurements will assist the TSA in determining if the Transportation Security Officers (TSO) at selected federalized airports are exposed to ionizing radiation above minimum detectable levels, and whether any measured radiation doses approach or exceed the threshold where personnel dosimetry monitoring is required by DHS/TSA policy.

Blogger Bob calls this RFI “basically market research, simply designed to ask industry what new technology might be available.” The implication is that the RFI doesn’t really mean anything. Apparently, instruments meant to measure radiation aren’t needed because, as Blogger Bob goes on to say, there are no unsafe levels of radiation coming out of the scanners.

This is all rather confusing. Would the TSA put out an RFI if it didn’t intend to buy dosimeters and test them, especially since, as Blogger Bob states, the agency tests its equipment all the time?

In short, I don’t understand why Blogger Bob even wrote this entry. Except, perhaps, to once again intone the false claims that the scanners have been tested and found safe, that there’s no need to be concerned about their calibration and maintenance, that the radiation emitted by the machines is less than that to which people are exposed all the time in more mundane ways, that, in other words, there’s nothing to see here, move along.

He continues to link to the TSA’s scanner info page, which still contains this paragraph:

Backscatter technology has also been evaluated by numerous third party health experts including the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).

The scanners have not been tested by the NIST or Johns Hopkins, as we have reported numerous times.

Why is this paragraph still on the TSA’s website, and why does Blogger Bob still link to it?

With almost 60,000 employees, you’d think there’d be someone in charge of keeping the site up to date. What are we to conclude?

The commenters responding to Blogger Bob proffer a few answers. Take a look.

(Photo: Mad House Photography/Flickr)

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