Why we should refuse the full body scanners at the airport

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Full body scanners create an image of a person’s naked body through their clothing to look for hidden objects.

1. Full body scanners increase the risk of cancer. The Transportation Security Administration claims that the radiation from backscatter X-ray scanners is very low, but the Center of Radiological Research at Colombia University found these scanners emitting up to 20 times the radiation claimed by the scanner manufacturers. Researchers at UC San Diego note that the radiation is concentrated in the skin and surface tissues, increasing the radiation risks beyond what the TSA claims. The International Atomic Energy Agency and Nuclear Energy Agency recommend against using ionizing radiation on certain populations like pregnant women and children. The unions of pilots for American Airlines and US Airways have urged its members to avoid the full body scanners due to health concerns. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_body_scanner#Health

2. Millimeter scanners are thought to be safer (although less precise) than the backscatter X-ray machines because they produce less radiation, but they may also pose health risks. Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory discovered in 2009 that the terahertz waves used by millimeter scanners can unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles which can interfere with gene expression and DNA replication. See: “DNA Breathing Dynamics in the Presence of a Terahertz Field”, Physics Letters A, Volume 374, Issue 10, 2010, http://arxiv.org/abs/0910.5294v1, Summary: http://www.technologyreview.com/view/416066/how-terahertz-waves-tear-apart-dna

3. Full body scanners are less effective than traditional metal detectors. The backscatter x-ray and millimeter wave scanners installed by the Transportation Security Administration are unable to adequately detect security threats inside casts, prosthetics, loose clothing, turbans, hijab and burqas. There are videos online demonstrating how explosives and metal objects can be sown into your clothing to avoid detection by full-body scanners. See: https://tsaoutofourpants.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/

4. The TSA procurement specs require that all its full body scanners be able to store and transmit images for “testing, training, and evaluation purposes.” Although the TSA says that image storage is not enabled by default, it can be easily activated and there is no guarantee that the government won’t save nude images of your body in its databases. It was reported in August 2010 that thousands of scanner images were saved by the US Marshals Service and Gizmodo leaked 100 of these images on the internet.
See: http://news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-20012583-281.html

5. The TSA violated the law by refusing to allow the public to comment on the full-body scanners. On July 15, 2011, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the agency had violated the Administrative Procedures Act by implementing body scanners as a primary screening method without first undertaking public notice and comment rulemaking. The Court ordered the agency to “promptly” undertake the proper rulemaking procedures and allow the public to comment on the body scanner program, but the TSA has refused to comply with the Court’s order. See: http://epic.org/privacy/body_scanners/epic_v_dhs_suspension_of_body.html

6. The scanners raise privacy concerns and are violations of the 4th Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches without probable cause. Complains have been filed at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport by women who felt they were singled out to be scanned for the ogling of male security officers.
See: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/02/female-body-scans/

7. Each full body scanner costs between $130,000 and $170,000 and requires 10.7 additional security personnel to operate around the clock. It is predicted that the full body scanner program will cost the US tax payer $1.4 billion per year by 2014. cf: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/805595

You have the right to refuse to go through the full body scanners and ask for a pat-down search instead. If enough people refuse the full body scanners, the TSA will be forced to abandon this costly and hazardous boondoggle!


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