News outlets everywhere are reporting that the TSA will be removing their X-ray backscatter scanning devices due to OSI Systems, the software provider for Rapiscan, not fulfilling the terms of their contract. Apparently, OSIS was unable to write software that would obscure naked body imagery on a computer screen.
Is the TSA backing down on their scanner fetish? Is it really this simple? Not exactly.
L3 Communications is still providing millimeter-wave scanners to the TSA for implementation in airports nation-wide. In fact, the TSA is expected to replace all of their X-ray scanners with the L3 devices. The Huffington Post writes that the TSA still wants to scan you.
Worse still, decommissioning the X-ray scanners because of a software mishap is an excellent tactic from the TSA to divert attention away from the more pressing issue — the health and safety hazards of soft X-ray scanners. Christopher Elliott at HuffPo writes:
TSA’s actions means we may never know how safe, or unsafe, the Rapiscan machines were. The agency reportedly glossed over the scanners’ cancer risks, and critics claim they haven’t been adequately tested. But now that the Rapiscan units are gone, who cares?
“I believe that they are burying potential problems,” says Charles Leocha of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a Washington-based advocacy group I co-founded. Leocha serves on a TSA advisory panel.
“If all of the other studies about safety they claim were done proving the scanners were safe are valid, why not just release those results? Sadly, I have reached the conclusion that TSA has been lying to us and putting Americans’ health in danger,” he adds.
Maybe when TSA agents begin to get sick in high numbers because they worked near an X-ray scanner, we’ll have some idea of how dangerous these decommissioned machines were. I already hear from a fair number of agents, who contact me through my consumer advocacy site. But by then it will probably be too late.
We also won’t know what Rapiscan’s X-ray scanners were truly capable of. Critics have likened the machines to a virtual strip-search. Former agents have confessed that they can see almost everything, right down to the stitches in a passenger’s bra, and they aren’t shy about sharing their views about your naked anatomy.
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