Thursday, July 21, 2011


One of the main complaints about the X-ray booths at airport security has been the perception that a realistic nude image of the person being scanned is viewed by TSA personnel.  Frankly, it's one of the reasons I've kept myself and the rest of my family away from flying, especially since the alternative is to be groped by a TSA agent.

Now, the TSA has announced that new software will only show a generic picture of a person and highlight anything unusual on them.  So you see a blocky humanoid figure with alerts for non-normal things, which could range from terrorist weapons and narcotics to prosthetics and insulin pumps.

If it works as advertised, I suppose this will alleviate one of the arguments against the perv-o-tron scanners.  And that's a big 'if'.  I want to see it in action.  It would help if a projection of what the TSA guy can see is put up on a screen so that the scanned passenger can see what the TSA is looking at.  Something as simple as a mirror reflecting the agent's monitor to the passenger would work.

On the other hand, there are unanswered questions about the amount of radiation the scanner puts out. Before I get down off of my soapbox and stop railing against this technology, the TSA is going to have to come across with independent documentation about the dose of radiation that thing puts out.  For someone like me who flies infrequently, it might be like having one extra chest X-ray over the course of my lifetime. For someone who flies all the time, such as OldNFO or flight crew, it could be a huge problem.

So I look at this as a start.  As to why they didn't just put up blocky cartoon graphics instead of the more lifelike images in the first place, we will probably never know.  Someone had to have known there would be an outcry over it, but probably didn't care.  If the TSA is being honest about the new images and provides some verifiable documentation about radiation doses, then I will probably drop my opposition to their use.  Mind you, I won't be holding my breath.


Weer'd Beard said...

Then there's the little quibble about the TSA not being able to catch a cold, and only "detecting" things they want to steal, or rape.

Sorry the whole agency is Tits-on-a-turtle AND a serious affront to the 4th Amendment.

Fuck them, fire them, and disband the agency!

Ruth said...

EPIC has got ahold of documents showing that the TSA has denied dosimeters to employee's who work with the machines, and also that although the radiation blasted at the passengers is low (how low we don't know as they blacked out the actual figures, which makes no sense in my mind), there is supposedly a 14ft tall "beam" of radiation that is periodically emited from the top (excess was my understanding) and THAT was an extreamly high dose. No biggy at airports like my local one with no 2nd floor above the scanners, possible massive dosage for anyone who works in an airport that does have a floor above the scanners. I'll have to find the link, I keep think I ought to blog about it.

DaddyBear said...

Weerd, I'm not going to argue with you on how the TSA has morphed into the Traveller Intimidation Squad. But now that the technology is out there, even if we disbanded the TSA and gave responsibility for passenger screening back to the airlines, they'd probably continue to use the machines. What I want to know, now that the perv factor has been mitigated, is whether or not they're safe.

Ruth, if you blog about this, feel free to drop a link here. If you don't, if you have links to the information you have, please feel free to leave them here as well.

Ruth said...


Documents I referenced are down at the bottom under Freedom of Information Act Documents.

If you get a blog post up before I do go for it, the heat has give me a headache from hell at the moment and although bits and pieces of a post are floating around they're refusing to connect at the moment

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