TSA milks scanner story, scanners still in airports, our rights still violated

UPDATED BELOW.  Of course the TSA is getting PR mileage out of its recent (forced) decision on the strip-search scanners, and the credulous media are only too happy to play along.

Story after story in the mainstream media gives misleading headlines:

TSA: No More Graphic, Full-Body Airport Scans

TSA removes body scanners criticized as too revealing

TSA eliminates all invasive X-ray machines

We’ve reported on this till we’re blue in the face. But let’s repeat: the strip-search scanners aren’t being removed. Scanners are now and will continue to be used in American airports.

The only scanners that are being removed are the radiation-emitting backscatter (x-ray) scanners, and not because they’re untested and unsafe. Those particular scanners are being removed only because the TSA hasn’t been able to fit them with so-called “privacy software” (bogus software, as we’ve also reported), which software is installed on the millimeter wave (MMW) scanners.

Again, there are two types of scanners: backscatter and millimeter wave. Both are deeply flawed. The European Union banned backscatter scanners years ago over safety concerns, and won’t use the MMW scanners because they’re worthless. MMW scanners have a high false-positive rate: 54%. They falsely alarm on more than half the people who go through them.

That means, again, that just because you go through a scanner doesn’t mean you won’t also be hauled aside for a grope. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, as tens of thousands of people can attest.

Also again, all scanners, of whatever type — no matter if one is ever invented that is 100% safe — all scanners are a violation of the 4th Amendment. Scanners do a search of your entire body. By stepping into a scanner, you are acquiescing to being treated like a criminal. The fact that you might still get groped is just icing on the cake.

The TSA is making this move and touting it as some kind of progress only because it was forced to, because it finally, finally, after two years, did what Congress and the courts ordered it to do — hold a public comment period on the scanners, which public comment period, as you can see at that link, is showing the scanners to be despised and the TSA to be the most loathed agency in the U.S.

And if you believe that the MMW scanners with their so-called “privacy software” aren’t recording and storing naked images, then I have a bridge to sell you.

(Photo: daquella manera/Flickr Creative Commons)

UPDATE: A few months back, Bill Fisher put together an excellent timeline on the scanner saga that readers might find helpful.

  • Sam Enwere

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  • World Source

    These scanners are just as bad. It alters our DNA when you go through it..EVERYONE should line up and get groped, the gropers will get sick of doing it..as you fart in their faces

  • Jill_Ion

    Thank you! People think the gov’t isn’t taking and storing naked pictures anymore, but they are wrong. And Pistole only says the current scanners are “capable” of hiding the nude pictures.

    We need to keep watch and keep speaking out.

  • Susan Richart


    “It was around this time, in 2011, that I began planning to separate from federal employment. I had to find another career path, but in the meantime could not remain silent on the many absurdities that I was witnessing from an insider’s vantage point; could not continue to watch quietly from the sidelines as citizens waged legal battles against the TSA, while my TSA co-workers and superiors hid from the public what we knew to be the truth: that the scanners were only superficially effective, at best, and completely ineffective, at worst.

    Good ideas for last-minutes comments for the comment period.

  • anc1entmar1ner

    Speaking of the comment period, here is the latest tally:

    Comments posted so far: 2619
    Opposed to scanners: 2403 (91.75%)
    Favoring scanners: 200 (7.63%)
    Neutral or undetermined: 16 (.061%)

    3921 comments have been received, but only 2619 have been posted. According to regulations.gov, “All comments received may not be posted at this time including bulk
    submissions; therefore, the total comments received and posted may

    • EdB

      I remember hearing something awhile ago about the TSA saying they hadn’t received any negative comments on the scanners or something to that effect. Based on these number, it’s clear they were looking at something else. 🙂

      • RonBonner

        No, just lying as usual.

  • Fisher1949

    This debacle is costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. So who is the genius at TSA who said “Hey, let’s take naked pictures of people and their kids” and who is getting fired for buying these things in the first place?

  • Susan Richart

    Not to nitpick, but Congress never ordered the TSA to have a comment period. That came about as a result of EPIC’s lawsuit against the scanners.

    Congress did tell the TSA to develop ATR for all scanners. Rapiscan, the makers of backscatter machines, could not do that so the TSA began pulling backscatter out of airports and ended its contract with Rapiscan. However, TSA tried to do an end-around Congress and initially moved some of those backscatter machines to small, backwater airports. However, TSA got caught in that maneuver and finally agreed to remove all the backscatter machines.

    BUT, the TSA has contracted with American Science and Engineering to produce a backscatter machine with ATR.

    So if AS&E can come up with ATR for its backscatter machine, we will still be faced with having to fight the radiation-emitting machines.

    The fight to remove ALL these machines from airports has only just begun.

    • RonBonner

      Congress didn’t have to order TSA to have a comment period.

      The Administrative Procedures Act required TSA to conduct a public comment period and that was legislation that Congress passed and was signed by the President at that time.

      TSA just ignored the law again.

      • Susan Richart

        That old law from the 40’s (or was it the 50’s)? Pshaw, we at the TSA don’t pay no attention to that stuff.

    • Yes, Susan, quite so. This is all actually covered in the stories at the links. It just gets wearying having to repeat everything again and again and again, especially all the inside-baseball stuff.

      • Susan Richart

        I guess I didn’t make my point which was that neither the current Congress nor the previous one ordered the TSA to hold a comment period.

        • RonBonner

          But the point remains that they did not have to. The law was already on the books and TSA violated the law.

          • Susan Richart

            That’s it, plain and simple: TSA violated the law.

  • RonBonner

    Oh, how can you accuse TSA of dishonesty?