by Steve Watson
TSA employees won’t be the only ones worrying about “cancer clusters”
Government employees are set to be bombarded with radiation on a daily basis if a plan to move x-ray firing TSA body scanners into office buildings goes ahead.
When the TSA announced last month that it was ending its contract with Rapiscan, makers of the controversial backscatter x-ray body scanners, the mainstream media uniformly announced that the federal agency was “removing” the scanners from use altogether.
However, it was blatantly clear that this would never be the case. The TSA is already under strict scrutiny from Congress over the mothballing of £14 million worth of body scanners. All in all, the 250 backscatter scanners the agency now has are worth a combined total of $40 million.
The real reason the machines are starting to be removed from airports is because of allegations that Rapiscan manipulated operational tests on the machines, and the company was never able to develop the “stick man” software that masks naked images produced by the scanners.
While this is a problem in airports where the machines are used on the general public, it is not so much a problem in government offices manned by federal employees.
The Federal Times reports that the TSA is attempting to sell off the scanners to other government agencies.
“We are working with other government agencies to find homes for them,” TSA spokesman David Castelveter said. “There is an interest clearly by DoD and the State Department to use them — and other agencies as well.”
“Hopefully we will be able to deploy them within other government agencies,” he said.
Rep. Bennie Thompson has objected to the plan, noting that if the machines cannot be upgraded to prevent “photographing of nude images,” then they should not be used in federal facilities at all.
“The American public must be assured that these machines will not be used in any other public federal facility,” Thompson said.
If the machines are moved to government offices, it could have a knock on effect and spur other offices and buildings, even privately owned ones, to install such devices.
In addition, this does not spell the end for backscatter scanners at airports. Indeed, the TSA already secured a contract months ago, worth almost 50 times its previous deal, for a separate company to provide the very same machines. The agency signed a much larger $245 million dollar contract with American Science and Engineering, Inc. back on October 9, 2012.
The press release concerning the contract outlines how AS&E will provide the TSA with “SmartCheck® Advanced Imaging Technology.” One look at AS&E’s website confirms that the technology is primarily used in “backscatter” x-ray body scanners for airports that emit “ionizing radiation.”
A promotional video posted on YouTube also shows AS&E Vice President Joseph Reiss talking about how the company has perfected “back-scatter imaging” using x-rays and is also providing the Department of Homeland Security with backscatter vans that can roam highways and conduct drive-by scans, which was also reported by Forbes in 2010.
As we have exhaustively documented, numerous prestigious health bodies have indicated that the backscatter x-ray devices will statistically cause an increase in cancer, including Johns Hopkins, Columbia University, the University of California, and the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety. To put that in perspective, the probability of dying in a terrorist attack is the same as the probability of getting cancer when passing through the x-ray scanner just one time.
Johns Hopkins’ biophysics expert Dr Michael Love warned that, “statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays,” after conducting a study of the naked body scanners.
Scrutiny over radiation exposure was heightened recently following apparent efforts by the TSA to cover-up a “cluster” of cancer cases amongst scanner operators at Boston-Logan airport. According to FOIA documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), when Union representatives in Boston discovered a “cancer cluster” amongst TSA workers linked with radiation from the body scanners, the TSA sought to downplay the matter and refused to issue employees with dosimeters to measure levels of exposure.
The documents indicated how, “A large number of workers have been falling victim to cancer, strokes and heart disease.” If the federal government shares out the scanners among agencies, TSA workers won’t be the only ones.
In addition, further documents obtained by EPIC show how the TSA “publicly mischaracterized” findings of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in stating that the agency had positively confirmed the safety of full body scanners in tests.
It has also been proven that the scanner can be fooled by sewing a metallic object into the side of one’s clothing, rendering the entire fleet of machines virtually useless.
A recently discovered Homeland Security report also noted that federal investigators have “identified vulnerabilities in the screening process” involving the scanners.