Body Scanners

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Body Scanners

Chances are, you’ve heard about the full-body scanners that the TSA is rolling out across the country. This latest move from the TSA brings up three main concerns: health, privacy and security.

Currently, there are two types of full-body scanners out there. One is a millimeter-wave scanner that uses high-frequency radio waves to create 3D images. The more controversial of the two is the backscatter scanner that uses small doses of ionizing radiation.

How dangerous is this scanner? In reality, the radiation dose is minimal. In fact, you get more radiation from flying on the plane than the scanner.

But the real concern is the cumulative effect for frequent fliers. That’s one of the reasons pilots and flight attendants campaigned against it, pointing out that they have already gone through thorough FBI checks. (And really, if a pilot wants to take down a plane, removing tweezers isn’t going to make any difference). The TSA ultimately backed down and exempted pilots and flight attendants from full-body scanners and pat-down procedures.

Which brings me to the privacy concerns. Although the TSA claims that the full-body images it captures during the screening process can’t be stored or printed, there has been evidence to the contrary.

If you’re not comfortable going through a scanner, opt for a pat-down. Though this method is admittedly invasive, you have the right to be screened in a private room with a witness of your choice

If you feel uncomfortable with how the screener is handling the procedure, stop, and ask for a supervisor.

Last, but not least, there’s the question about security. Are these new procedures making us any safer since 9/11? The short answer: no. What the TSA needs is to spend its budget on behavioral training for its agents. Remember the underwear bomber who flew from Nigeria to Detroit on Christmas Day? Even security experts say that a full-body scanner may not have caught the explosives in his shorts.

Yet this terrorist has no checked bags and wasn’t wearing a winter coat…to DETROIT. Had a TSA agent been allowed to use intuition and common sense, he would have at least been questioned. But that didn’t happen. Bottom line: even the most expensive technology in the world can’t ever replace basic intelligence and intuition.