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

by Lisa Simeone on May 31, 2013

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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.

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