Last year, we noted that the TSA appeared to be misleading the public
in stating that its new more intrusive scanners were safe. This didn't mean that the machines weren't safe -- but that the TSA was, at the very least, massively exaggerating the claims that they had scientific support to say that the machines definitely were safe. Earlier this year, there were further worries, when reports came out showing that some of the machines were giving off much more radiation
than they were supposed to.
Now, EPIC, which is in an ongoing lawsuit
to try to get these scanners banned, is claiming that via a FOIA request, they have new evidence that the TSA has been misleading people about the risks
of the scanners. The documents show that Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano blatantly misrepresented a NIST study in a USA Today OpEd, to claim that the scanners were safe. NIST, however, quickly contacted DHS, saying that it was "concerned" about the piece misrepresenting what it had said:
- NIST does not do product testing
- NIST did not test AIT machines for safety
- NIST measured the dose of a single machine and compared it against the standard
Apparently, NIST told DHS to stop misrepresenting its work, and suggested that if DHS agreed, then it wouldn't call for USA Today to run a correction on the piece.
Separately, another document shows that TSA employees in Boston raised serious concerns to officials, claiming that there was evidence of a "cancer cluster" among TSA agents in Boston. The union asked the TSA to provide agents with dosimeters that could be clipped onto uniforms in order to measure the radiation to make sure the machines were safe. Agents in Atlanta apparently also expressed concerns and asked for dosimeters. The TSA refused, noting that it was already running some tests, and the tests showed no radiation problems.
This document is receiving a lot of attention, but I don't find it quite as damning as most. People just claiming that they believe there's a heightened cancer risk is not really evidence or fact. It would be more interesting if there was actual data to support that, rather than just anecdotal evidence. Still, I think it's becoming increasingly clear that the TSA, at the very least, exaggerated the claims of how much scientific support there is that these machines are safe. That's the part that bugs me. They could easily allow for much more testing of the machines, but don't seem that interested in it, preferring instead to mislead the public, a la Napolitano interview.