Saturday, March 13, 2010

And the TSA actually reponds

In the blog entry The TSA Wants you Dead, strong accusations were made against the TSA based upon this blog entry at the TSA blog. The accusations were quite harsh, and quickly picked up on by critics of the TSA in the comments section of that entry of the TSA blog as well as on the Flyer Talk Forums Travel Safety and Security forum. The general harshness of the response has prompted a rapid response by the TSA.

The argument made by the TSA is that the dosage of X-Ray in an X-Ray backscatter is so low that it is safe. This ignores a couple of scientific facts: first, no level of ionizing radiation is actually safe, merely that some doses are safer than others, and also that ionizing radiation is cumulative so even safe doses contribute to a lifetime unsafe level.

The TSA spokesperson Blogger Bob tried to make this argument by referencing many experts who argued that the dosage was relatively safe if it provides a definite benefit. There are constitutional and practical arguments about the security benefits of backscatter X-Ray, but the most telling is that all the arguments are based on the option being the choice between not having the security at all or having backscatter X-Ray along with the risks. That is not a true choice.

Putting aside the constitutional arguments (it doesn't), putting aside the argument over whether this device actually increases security in the first place (it doesn't) there’s still one safety argument not made.

All of the supporting information that was made available, on the links that worked and didn’t require a fee to access, said that the dosage was relatively safe, but didn’t say it was absolutely safe. The supporting information didn’t comment on the safety of Backscatter X-Ray as compared to Millimeters Wave. It appears that the TSA, when seeking supporting information, presented the choice of "backscatter or no security" when the choice is actually "backscatter or mmw or no security".

With millimeter wave technology, the only problems are that it is unconstitutional and that it provides minimal security in exchange for the cost of implementation. In terms of the health of the traveler, millimeter wave technology is completely safe at the dosages required.

So given that a completely safe equivalent alternative exists why then is the TSA going ahead with backscatter instead of millimeter wave?

It has been a suggested that the choice to use backscatter has to do with greasing the right palms, that it has something to do with who currently employs Chertoff. Is simple corruption the reason the TSA is using hazardous procedures and putting the health of the traveling public at risk?

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