TSA to Shelve Controversial "Nude" Full Body Scanners, Due to Privacy and Cancer Concerns

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is shelving controversial airport body scanners (called backscatter scanners) that produce naked images of travelers, finally ending several years of endangering airline passengers through potential exposure to cancer-causing radiation and invasion of privacy that some claim violated the Fourth Amendment.

Currently, the TSA employs two types of scanners, full-body X-ray (or so-called backscatter) scanners and millimeter-wave scanners. Backscatter scanners use X-rays to produce a naked image of passengers. 

The other scanner type, built by L-3 Communications Holding, uses millimeter-wave technology and produces a cartoon-like image of the human body. L-3's scanners emit low-energy radio waves, similar to those in cell phones, and do not pose known health risks. Their drawback seems to be a greater frequency of false alarms though independent tests (23%-54% compared to 5% in backscatter scanners). The millimeter-wave scanners are staying.

Rapiscan's full body backscatter X-ray scanners were at one point active in about half of all U.S. airports. Congress has mandated that those scanners be changed or removed by June.  The TSA stated Rapiscan was unable to provide "non-imaging Automated Target Recognition (ATR) software by the congressionally-mandated June 2013 deadline” adding that the software that was supposed to replace the near-naked image on the machine with a stick figure was flawed and couldn't be used to ease privacy concerns. The TSA received many complaints from passengers who found the full body, naked images the machine produced to be invasive and humiliating, and lawsuits have been filed to stop the use of backscatter scanners on grounds they violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure without a warrant.

Also of concern is the potential link to cancer. Backscatter scanners expose passengers to a small dose of ionizing radiation, which at higher levels has been linked to cancer. TSA union representatives in Boston claimed the full-body scanners were responsible for a “cancer cluster” in airport security workers. The Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) says obtained Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents provide evidence that the government failed to properly test the safety of full-body scanners at airports, and dismissed concerns from airport agents about excessive exposure to the machines’ radiation. A study by Johns Hopkins University found that radiation zones around body scanners could potentially exceed the "general public dose limit." In 2011, the European Commission banned scanners that use X-ray technology “in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens’ health and safety.”

The TSA had removed some full-body scanners from some of the busiest airports and shuffled locations of others by October of 2012. TSA's new announcement means that all full-body backscatter scanners will be gone from U.S. airports by June 2013. After June, we may feel more free to fly.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Matt MacBradaigh

Husband, Father, Christian, Patriot, Conservative, Runner, Linux hobbyist. Lives in the Pacific Northwest & writes primarily about Second Amendment, Gun Control, Rights & Policy. Published at PolicyMic, The Brenner Brief, The Bell Towers, Vocativ and Tavern Keepers. Blog: atomiktiger.blogspot.com Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/2ndAmendmentFight Twitter http://twitter.com/2AFIght

MORE FROM

President Donald Trump turns Boy Scout Jamboree into campaign rally

The president discussed health care, Hillary Clinton, Obama, big yachts and more to 40,000 Boy Scouts and volunteers

This child kept HIV in remission for 8 years without drugs. Here’s what that really means.

More than eight years after his initial treatment, the child is still in remission.

Driver charged with human trafficking after 30-40 people found locked in fatally hot tractor-trailer

The charge against James Matthew Bradley, the alleged driver of the vehicle, could carry a punishment as severe as the death penalty.

Charlie Gard’s parents end legal fight to continue treatment for terminally ill son

The parents have withdrawn their request for Charlie to receive treatment in the U.S.

10th person dies after 38 found locked in sweltering tractor-trailer outside Texas Walmart

8 were found dead at the scene; 2 more died after being rushed to the hospital in critical or serious condition.

Dozens killed in deadly car bomb attack in Kabul

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

President Donald Trump turns Boy Scout Jamboree into campaign rally

The president discussed health care, Hillary Clinton, Obama, big yachts and more to 40,000 Boy Scouts and volunteers

This child kept HIV in remission for 8 years without drugs. Here’s what that really means.

More than eight years after his initial treatment, the child is still in remission.

Driver charged with human trafficking after 30-40 people found locked in fatally hot tractor-trailer

The charge against James Matthew Bradley, the alleged driver of the vehicle, could carry a punishment as severe as the death penalty.

Charlie Gard’s parents end legal fight to continue treatment for terminally ill son

The parents have withdrawn their request for Charlie to receive treatment in the U.S.

10th person dies after 38 found locked in sweltering tractor-trailer outside Texas Walmart

8 were found dead at the scene; 2 more died after being rushed to the hospital in critical or serious condition.

Dozens killed in deadly car bomb attack in Kabul

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.