The airport scanner scam Part 2: Radiation levels should NOT be a mystery

A barrel full of safety inspectors

A few days ago I suggested that an airport pat-down might not be such a bad alternative to a full-body x-ray scan.

Here’s a better suggestion: INSIST on a pat-down. Then put as much distance as possible between you and the scanning devices.

I have new details for you about the long-overdue radiation inspection reports from the Transportation Safety Administration. And now it’s suddenly clear that a team of monkeys could have done a better job safety-checking radiation equipment.

Can we get a do-over?

Quick recap: A couple of weeks ago, congressmen were steaming over the TSA’s inexcusable delay of radiation reports. A TSA spokesperson told reporters that the agency was still reviewing the reports to make sure they didn’t reveal sensitive security information.

Turns out, that was deep hogwash. Of course.

Just a few days after that statement, the TSA came back with a completely different story. Forget all about those inspection reports! They’ve ordered a re-testing of every radiation- emitting full-body scanner in the U.S.

See, there were just a few little “record-keeping errors” with the original reports.

According to CNN, an internal review turned up the following:

  • Calculation errors
  • Missing data
  • Paperwork discrepancies

And believe it or not, that’s the candy-coated version.

When CNN talked to Senator Susan Collins, she noted that more than one-in-four of the reviewed reports found scanner problems, “including gross errors about radiation emissions.”

Gross errors! And at this moment, airline passengers all over the U.S. are stepping into those very scanners and getting dosed with who-knows-how-much radiation. Obviously the TSA doesn’t know!

Meanwhile, the people at the very top of this bureaucratic chaos pile are drinking their own Kool-Aid. Two days before the TSA admitted that the first round of radiation testing was a fiasco, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate committee that the scanners are “more than safe.”

Now how do they manage to be MORE than safe?

That simple phrase reveals someone trying to oversell this imagined safety. And why WOULDN’T she try to oversell it? She knows that within 48 hours the TSA will announce that they completely botched the one simple thing they were asked to do: Test each machine and reassure us they’re safe.

MORE than safe? They can’t even tell us the scanners are safe, much less MORE than safe.

The TSA gave it a try. They couldn’t do it. Do you really trust them to suddenly pull it together and do it right the second time?

As I said before, when you get to the airport and it’s time to step forward to the scanner, ask the TSA personnel what type of scanning device is in use. If they’re using electromagnetic wave, step right up. But if they’re using radiation-emitting scanners, you have to answer this one for yourself: Pat-down, or unknown radiation levels?

I don’t want to make either choice, but only one has zero risk of radiation overexposure.

“TSA orders ‘re-tests’ of radiation levels on airport body scanners Washington” CNN, 3/12/11,

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