by Steve Watson
Machines will be able to see through more layers of clothing
They were expensive, they didn’t work on a security level, they shredded privacy, and they carried significant potential safety risks, yet that didn’t stop the TSA from rolling out full body scanners without consulting Congress or the public – now the agency wants to roll out more enhanced versions of the imaging technology.
nextgov.com reports that Homeland Security is seeking “next-generation body imagers”, that will have the ability to scan through heavy coats and shoes, and not require agents to monitor video screens.
“Detection should occur through a minimum of 2 layers of clothing concealment where those layers are composed of cotton, cotton-polyester, wool, silk and leather materials among others,” DHS officials said.
A Market research survey released by the agency also notes that fliers should not have to stop and wait at security points, but should be able to walk straight through.
“People being scanned should not be required to significantly alter walking paths or divest beyond current procedures. An ultimate goal is to significantly reduce divesting of personal items such as shoes and reach a ‘screen-while-walk’ operational capability.” the document notes.
The document notes that the machines should have the capability to detect concealed explosives, homemade bombs, shrapnel, small handguns and knives.
Without going into any specifics, it says that the proposal should have “privacy protection features”. Presumably this means adding the software that masks people’s naked images. As we have previously noted, however, this does not prevent naked images being obtained by the machines. Indeed, recently a former TSA employee turned whistleblower noted how agents regularly checked out naked images of people, and had a good old laugh about it.
The document does not mention anything about the radiation-firing aspect of the scanners, merely noting “This program will incorporate recent scientific discoveries in imaging technology into commercial people screening systems for eventual deployment to DHS operational components.”
The original backscatter X-ray body scanners were much criticised over the potential health risks, yet these enhanced scanners would presumably require a higher level of radiation in order to see through more layers of clothing, unless new technology is employed.
Contractors have been afforded until March 11 to submit proposals for such a system.
Last year, the TSA came 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 some of the machines were removed from airports is because of allegations that the manufacturer 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.
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.
Multiple other security experts have gone on record saying that the scanners are ineffective. Without a significant change in technology, any new generation of body scanners will carry the same problems.