TSA Gropes, Hurts, Chains Girl; Rips Her Ticket

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(Thanks to Travis Holte and Free Talk Live)

UPDATE from Jason Gonella:

I applaud your efforts against the TSA.  I have insight to offer you, though. The picture used in this blog entry is dated.  There are two distinct technologies used in the electronic strip search.  One of them is millimeter wave, and the second is backscatter x-ray.  Speaking as an engineer, the distinction is crucial.

Millimeter wave (MMW) is physically safe.  It uses non-ionizing radiation, similar to radio waves.  The only danger is in intensity.  The best analogy for this is putting your hand in a bowl of warm water, hot water, or scalding water.  It is translated into heat energy by your skin.  Non-ionizing radiation is non-cumulative and non-lingering, the effect ends as soon as the radiation does.  A worst case scenario involves the negative effects of overheating, including damage to eyes.

Backscatter x-ray (BXR) is physically UNSAFE.  It uses ionizing radiation, the radiation that disrupts our DNA.  It is cumulative, so every time you are exposed to it that adds to all previous exposures.

There is one more difference.

When the program of electronic strip searches was first introduced, it relied exclusively on MMW in order to calm any fears about radiation, because science was actually on their side.  But once the program started they switched to purchasing BXR because Chertoff is part of the company that sells them.

The TSA insists backscatter is safe.  They link to reports published on the subject.  As an engineer I can tell you what is wrong with the reports: they all say “relatively safe.”  The TSA failed to inform those who were evaluating the BXR units that there was a completely safe alternative.  No scientist would ever declare BXR safe knowing there is a safe alternative.

Constitutionally and morally, MMW is wrong.  But BXR is also physically dangerous.

I would hope that the TSA would get rid of all of the electronic strip search technology, but I am downright horrified that they continue to favor BXR.  I have expressed that opinion many times on the comments to the TSA blog, but they never get addressed.

12:40 pm on November 10, 2010
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