Maintenance Report Shows Radiation Levels On Some TSA Scanners 10 Times Higher Than Promised

from the uh,-whoops dept

At the end of last year, we pointed to some discussions that suggested the TSA was being totally misleading in claiming that the new naked airport scanners had been shown to be totally safe when it came to radiation. While the studies the TSA used to make that claim only said that was the case if the machines were working properly, there was no evidence that the TSA was actually making sure the machines were working properly, or how easily they might not be working properly. Well, it appears that this may have been a much bigger issue than originally thought, as some maintenance on these machines has shown radiation levels 10 times the amount that they're supposed to be emitting. The TSA has now agreed to retest all of the machines -- though it still insists that these new reports were "mathematics mistakes." Uh. Yeah.

But, really, the issue goes beyond that. If it's so easy to make "math mistakes," how do we know that the original "lower" reports from these machines was accurate? Assuming these readings were accurate, how long were these machines operating at 10x the radiation levels? How easy was it for the radiation levels to get so high? How will the TSA prevent it from happening again? Honestly, though, the people who should be most upset are the TSA workers who run these machines. It makes you wonder how much radiation they're being exposed to on a daily basis.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    Gwiz (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 12:06pm

    Pay no attention to the glowing TSA workers they are simply shining with pride over keeping our sky's safe....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 12:17pm

    Rapiscan vowed to redesign its inspection forms and retrain its engineers.

    Comforting. No?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    slacker525600 (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 12:18pm

    cue class action lawsuit 10 years from now

    erin brockovich comes to mind...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 12:20pm

    Because you can trust TSA people.
    They hire them using ads on top of pizza boxes.
    They told us that theft did not happen with TSA staff, and when caught for the 10th time, they admitted maybe there were some rouge people.

    Lets install the pornoscanners on all the doors in DC and make the critters have to walk thru them like the little people. How much you want to be they would be interested in the reports a bit more?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    David Good (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 12:22pm

    Math mistakes

    Easy. No one pays attention to a result that is favorable. Why recheck your math when the result is what you were expecting?

    Rechecking your result would be an additional expense and we all know the TSA is a low-bid organization.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 12:27pm

    Wasn't there some noise in the past few months about TSA workers being permitted to unionize?

    RAD BADGES NOW! would make a great recruiting slogan.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 12:58pm

      Re:

      Wow! Actually there might be a good use for a union to fight against radiation exposure. You would think, collectively, they would want to know why their sperm counts were low and slow...unless that is typical for TSA screeners. But you see, as ChurchHatesTucker pointed out, their leadership didn't think radiation badges were an important safety measure for their members. (Double entendre FTW!)

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 12:28pm

    Surprise!

    Good thing all TSA employees are required to wear radiation badges to monitor for this kind of thing.

    Oh, wait.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Steve, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 12:32pm

    Do they use real radiation in Security Theater?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    John Doe, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 12:43pm

    I called it first!

    No, really I did. On prior posts here about the use of those scanners, I pointed out an article about a year ago about how emergency rooms were using CAT scans and the machines varied widely in how much energy they put out. Many were putting out way more than needed to do the job. If the healthcare industry can't monitor themselves and they have been using X-rays for decades, how the hell is TSA going to do it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Benjamin (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 12:53pm

    Hmmm.

    I share the concern over the scanners, and over the TSA's less-than-forthcoming tendencies, but I feel compelled to point out that without solid numbers, we really can't conclude that ten times the normal radiation emission from the machines comes anywhere close to harmful. As the current ongoing nulear power crisis in Japan illustrates, the emission of radioactive materials into the atmosphere at a rate many times that of normal can still be nowhere near a harmful dose - the US Navy has been reporting levels akin to a month of living on earth and being exposed to the sun every day.

    ...Of course, like in Japan, the issue could rapidly become much worse, and I hope to hell that it doesn't. I just want to be sure that we don't jump to conclusions on this. Yes, the TSA needs to be more transparent about these things, but if someone said they were giving me one daily dose of Vitimin d, and gave me ten, I'd still be in no danger. It's only toxic at much, much higher levels. Gotta have the numbers to know.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      John Doe, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 1:02pm

      Re: Hmmm.

      Do you really think you are going to get honest numbers from TSA or any government agency?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Atkray (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 2:09pm

      Re: Hmmm.

      "we really can't conclude that ten times the normal radiation emission from the machines comes anywhere close to harmful."

      That may be true but and since I avoid the whole thing for me it isn't a big deal.

      BUT

      For someone passing through them multiple times a week or even worse, daily because they travel for work this is downright terrifying.


      These machines have the potential to cause damage even if used properly. TSA has yet to demonstrate they can operate anything properly.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      HothMonster, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 2:34pm

      Re: Hmmm.

      "if someone said they were giving me one daily dose of Vitimin d, and gave me ten, I'd still be in no danger."

      Hello Mr. TSA agent i would like my daily dose of potentially cancer inducting radiation please, and a double shot for my pregnant wife please she is radiating for two you know. Oh? I got ten times my daily does thank you ten times sir and my unborn child thanks you ten times as well.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 6:28pm

      Re: Hmmm.

      ...I feel compelled to point out that without solid numbers, we really can't conclude that ten times the normal radiation emission from the machines comes anywhere close to harmful.

      Now, where have I heard similar apologetics before? Wait, let me guess, you used to be an apologist for the tobacco industry too, right?

      "We can't conclude that smoking comes anywhere close to harmful. Anecdotal observations that seem to suggest otherwise are just coincidental correlations and do not prove causation. Smoking is perfectly safe. If it is ever prov

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    johnny canada, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 1:26pm

    It is the only glowing report TSA ever got.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 2:56pm

    TSA workers don't actually know

    I was standing in line at a major US airport less than a month ago while awaiting my opt-out grope and overhead (quite clearly) the TSA thug standing in front of me tell the woman next to me awaiting her opt-out grope that "the machines don't use radiaton".

    By the way, I have been part of the design and engineering team for a CT scanner, and "measuring emitted radiation" turns out to be a far more difficult problem than it might at first seem, doubly so when we leave the realm of "testing on the factory floor" and enter the realm of "testing at an installation 2000 miles away and 4 years later". We put enormous effort into this, as did every other maker, in our attempts to ensure that the machines were not only safe when they went out the door, but stayed safe when used in the field, even when used outside recommended operating procedures. But it's a very hard problem under the best of circumstances, and those are NOT the circumstances we are seeing with the TSA's scanners.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    plancione (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 3:22pm

    radiation doses work both ways

    The collective worry from an overcalibrated body scanner device... If one fears that passengers are getting too high of a dose from the body scanners, then what do you think the TSA drones are getting dosed with as they stand beside the machine all day every day? Personally, I believe that passengers are getting a 15-30 sec dose which is harmless. But, the TSA folk are getting hammered with dangerous doses repeatedly. Remember, radiation dosage is cumulative.

    Personally, I hope all those TSA morons are getting fatal doses. Serves them right!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 4:07pm

    Oh... they knew about the radiation...

    Here's a direct quote from the operator's manual:

    "Now that your PornoScan (PS) is fully assembled, it's time to familiarize yourself with the control panel. Let's take a look at the four (4) status lights:

    "Power" - When power is on, this button will glow bright green. Due to improperly isolated isotopes, this light will also glow bright green when the device is off. A replacement containment device is on the way. Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.

    Note: The PS puts out a shitload (metric) of radiation when fully powered. Please maintain a distance of 15-20 feet when "Power" button is lit.

    "Standby Power" - A "power saving" setting. This will allow the device to quickly "boot up" upon passenger entry. This light will glow red when activated.

    Note: This lower setting should allow you to come safely within 10 feet of the device. Be prepared to run 5-10 feet in under 0.2 seconds should a passenger enter the device thereby returning it to full power.

    "Standby" - Pretty much what passes for "Off" these days. Can still render you sterile within a diameter of 5 feet. Should you need to approach the device (for instance, to power up the PornoScan), please ensure your genitalia are covered with your hands and your body turned 30 degrees perpendicular to the egress of the machine. This button will glow orange if activated or if "Power" button is currently green.

    "PANIC" - This status light will glow red at all times UNLESS a meltdown or other catastrophic failure is detected by the onboard computer. At that point the light will switch off. DO NOT PANIC. When the PANIC light goes out, a signal is sent to the nearest TSA headquarters. Please remain calm and await further instructions. (Allow 4-6 weeks for signal delivery.)

    Note: PANIC indicator light will go out when "Standby Power" is activated. This is a normal control panel function. Do not panic unless instructed otherwise."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    plancione (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 4:25pm

    hot legs

    The collective worry from an overcalibrated body scanner device... If one fears that passengers are getting too high of a dose from the body scanners, then what do you think the TSA drones are getting dosed with as they stand beside the machine all day every day? Personally, I believe that passengers are getting a 15-30 sec dose which is harmless. But, the TSA folk are getting hammered with dangerous doses repeatedly. Remember, radiation dosage is cumulative.

    Personally, I hope all those TSA morons are getting fatal doses. Serves them right!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 6:36pm

      Re: hot legs

      Personally, I hope all those TSA morons are getting fatal doses. Serves them right!

      Or at least sterilized. We don't need them making more of the kind of people that would do this to their fellow human beings.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Hephaestus (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 7:08am

        Re: Re: hot legs

        I was thinking something similar. We should nominate the group "TSA Workers" for the darwin award when they start dying off.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 4:45pm

    Radiation meter badges everyone should buy one when going through that piece of equipment :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 4:47pm

    Risking being called an astroturfer here is one site I found selling a handheld device that measures radiation emissions.

    http://www.gammascout.com/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Benjamin (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 6:54am

    I love that I can post a comment that is *critical of the TSA* and be called an "apologist." I make no apologies for the TSA, but it's inappropriate to make assumptions about dangerous doses of anything, when there are absolutely no numbers being discussed. We all receive measurable doses of radiation every day. We also consume toxins and harmful bacteria.

    The TSA needs to come clean with the numbers. I too, suspect that it won't, and more alarmingly, I suspect that the reason that it's not doing so is that it would have to admit some pretty serious mistakes, and no arm of our government readily does that.

    So yes, anonymously argue on the internet, but my point (had you bothered actually thinking about it) is that when we throw up our hands and panic about a number that is ten times another number, we are being hysterical until such time as we know both what the numbers are, and what they mean. Expressing concern over a safety issue is one thing. Acting as if we know that there is a cover-up of eminent danger is another. Show me that the TSA is knowingly hiding evidence of harmful radiation exposure, and I'll be the first one at the barricades.

    Tobacco companies, as with everyone else, knew for decades that their products were harming and killing. We don't know that about these machines, but hell, I'll opt for the pat down anyway, because I *don't* know - not because I *do.*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 8:48am

      Re:

      Tobacco companies, as with everyone else, knew for decades that their products were harming and killing.

      Show me the evidence for that.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Rwolf, Apr 11th, 2011 @ 11:55am

    DHS Scanners To Secretly Search Your Body, Vehicle and Home—X-ray Deaths Next?

    Department Homeland Security and Police intend to use hundreds of new X-ray Back Scatter Vans and other scanners with long-distance capability to secretly scan and search lawful persons’ bodies—when driving, walking and X-ray Citizens in their homes. DHS plans to mount X-ray scanners on buildings and utility poles to monitor groups of pedestrians. Citizens that drive or walk to work or lunch in monitored areas may be radiated several times a day.

    There is nothing to stop government agencies and police repeatedly targeting (persons of interest) on the street and in their homes with X-ray scans that may cause cancer or induce other medical problems—including individuals afflicted by poor health. DHS new scanning will record eye and facial features of pedestrians, so subjects can be identified for covert X-ray scanning. Consequently some Americans may be X-ray scanned every time they set foot on the street.

    How could anyone prove his or her cancer was caused by repeated government X-ray scans? Can you think of one U.S. Government agency you would trust to limit the number of times and duration secret Government scanners can penetrate a person’s body with X-ray radiation, when walking, driving; inside their home? Citizens driving or walking to work, that must pass DHS X-ray scanners on buildings and utility poles, could be exposed to radiation several times a day. The press recently reported that X-ray scanners now used at airports are 10-times greater that what U.S. Government told the American People.
    Currently Citizens can purchase small sensitive radiation detectors on key chains that set off different sounding alarms for each radiation level detected. Key Chain radiation detectors sell for about $160.00 and some appear capable of detecting government X-ray scanners penetrating their home, or their body when walking or vehicle when driving. It should be expected more pedestrians might start carrying radiation key chain detectors to learn if X-ray scanners on buildings and utility poles are targeting their neighborhood, the streets they drive or walk. Radiated pedestrians and drivers should protest, especially if they are being hit everyday with X-ray scanners.
    The U.S. can’t become a total Police State until the 4th Amendment is either terminated or so watered down it has no legal effect. That will be the result if government / police are allowed (without probable cause or warrants) to expose the public to covert X-ray scans and scans at airports; train and bus stops and other check points.
    One can’t help wonder if today’s outspoken Americans that lawfully defend the Constitution, e.g., writers and bloggers will be deemed combatants by U.S. Government; constantly stopped, searched, and questioned by TSA and police; forced to endure no warrant searches of their car, body and forced cancer causing X-ray scans. The Nazi Military and Police repeatedly searched and delayed Citizens labeled politically undesirable boarding trains and buses and driving to work to cause targeted Citizens to lose their jobs. Citizens were placed on (Nazi do not hire lists) similar to the lists U.S. Homeland Security started in 2010.

    See: TSA, DHS plan massive rollout of mobile surveillance vans with long-distance X-ray capability, eye movement tracking and more at:
    http://www.naturalnews.com/031603_surveillance_police_state.html#ixzz1GGDd24RG

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Steve, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 8:58am

    10x what they were supposed to doing is still 1/10 a normal X-Ray and utterly harmless. I'm not a fan of these machines ether, but for good reasons. Their radiation output is truly minuscule, and absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    steve2, Sep 8th, 2011 @ 10:14pm

    radiation

    The TSA is trying to make the scanners more acceptable by saying the new machines don't show you naked like the old ones. The radiation alone makes the scanners unacceptable and a danger to your health. If you fly a lot, you've got to be worried. I don't know why the airlines don't complain. This could lead to a lot less people flying.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This