Last year, this author reported that the TSA had minimized the risk new X-ray scanners posed to travelers. Today, ProPublica has an in-depth article detailing precisely how the government, in a fit of crony capitalism, ran roughshod over public health concerns to place the invasive technology in 250 airports – and cause an estimated six to 100 cases of cancer in travelers each year.
It begins by noting the deception involved in a September 23, 1998, meeting in Maryland to evaluate the Rapiscan Secure 1000 — the “porn scanners” now ubiquitous in American airports manned by the fearless functionaries of the TSA. At the time, there were only 20 such machines in the nation. Its inventor, Steven W. Smith, assured panelists, “I would be extremely surprised in the next five to 10 years if the Secure 1000 is sold” to or used in “lower-security facilities, particularly power plants, embassies, courthouses, airports and governments.” Despite reticence about exposing anyone to ionizing radiation for non-medical reasons, the panel, properly assured, gave its approval. Today, 250 such machines create high-quality naked photos of everyone from newborns to the elderly in airports throughout the Land of the Free.
The scanners were deployed on a mass scale thanks to the Left’s favorite bogeymen: lack of regulatory oversight and crony capitalism.
The only machine used by the TSA is manufactured by Rapiscan. Seeing the incoming Obama administration, the corporation jacked up its lobbying budget from $130,000 in 2006 to nearly $420,000 in 2008 in anticipation of massive government contracts. It steered funds to Democratic Congressmen Bennie Thompson and Jane Harman, both on the House Homeland Security Committee. When the time came, Rapiscan was poised to reap the benefits.
Obama’s big spending “stimulus” dedicated $300 million to procuring airport security scanners. Rapiscan pocketed $173 million of that and is the government’s exclusive vendor of this kind of machine.
Their production moves forward despite warnings the government has not properly tested their safety. Since these are not medical x-ray machines, the FDA cannot set their safety standards. ProPublica adds:
As for the TSA, it skipped a public comment period required before deploying the scanners. Then, in defending them, it relied on a small body of unpublished research to insist the machines were safe, and ignored contrary opinions from U.S. and European authorities that recommended precautions, especially for pregnant women. Finally, the manufacturer, Rapiscan Systems, unleashed an intense and sophisticated lobbying campaign, ultimately winning large contracts.
Both the FDA and TSA say due diligence has been done to assure the scanners’ safety.
Scientific experts beg to differ. Arizona State University physics professor Peter Rez and health physics professor Ken Mossman evaluated the technology in the November 9, 2010, issue of the Radiation Protection and Dosimetry. Unlike the analysis the TSA cites to prove any cancer risk is “tiny” and “miniscule,” this journal is peer-reviewed. According to Rez’s figures, between one and three Americans each year will develop cancer thanks to exposure to these machines.
Since last year, the experts’ estimates of needless deaths have increased. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a radiologist at the University of California-San Francisco, put the number at six. The director of Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research, David Brenner, said both vastly underestimated the danger. He believes at least 100 people a year will contract cancer.
Already, TSA workers at Boston’s Logan Airport have developed cancer say the administration blame their close proximity to the machines day-in and day-out. They are outraged the Obama administration refused to issue them dosimeters, which would have allowed them to measure their exposure to radiation. Captain David Bates, president of the Allied Pilots Association, encouraged pilots not to subject themselves to the ionizing radiation. In a letter, he blasted “the needless privacy invasion and potential health risks caused by the body scanner.”
Still, the Obama administration pretends there is no concern. Last November, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote an op-ed in USA Today entitled, “Scanners Are Safe, Pat-Downs Discreet.” Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines, she insisted, “have been independently evaluated by…the National Institute of Standards and Technology,” or NIST. However, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has received administration e-mails from an FOIA request proving that Napolitano lied. Officials at the the agency wrote an e-mail expressing “concern” at the Obama administration’s “mischaracterization” of their work and noting “NIST did not test AIT machines for safety.”
The TSA has an equally effective (read: invasive) machine, known as the millimeter wave, which uses radio frequencies to inspect passengers. It has no known health effects. Yet only about half of the machines in airports are millimeter waves.
Incredibly, Americans may not need to go to the airport to be exposed to such machines. The TSA, the Defense Department, and have purchased Z Backscatter Vans (ZBVs), vehicles that look like normal vans but are equipped with backscatter X-ray scanners attached. These roving spy machines are equipped with technology that can see through “lightly constructed” buildings, scan a vehicle in 15 seconds, and X-ray anything within a 1,500 foot radius.
The message is clear: this administration is dedicated to spying upon the American people, needlessly exposing them to the threat of a lingering death or possible sterilization, because doing so channels funds to the right kind of donor, one that gives to important Democrats.
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