Tuesday, November 23, 2010

GNU-Darwin Action: Fourth Amendment Violation: Airport full-body X-ray image scanners - Rapiscan Systems

Some facts in response to the misinformation that is out there regarding the airport X-ray scanners.

It is incorrect to say that X-rays bounce off the body.  X-rays are noted for their ability to penetrate the body, and a small fraction bounces off.  The exposure numbers that have been produced by the current crop of public scanner defenders are absurdly low, and they are also inconsistent with the TSA commissioned study, which indicates that the X-ray dose is low but significant.  Critics have countered further that the exposure in the study was underestimated, and I am inclined to agree.  The level of radiation that is required to resolve a backscatter image is not insignificant, and likely amounts to a substantial dose.  Further study is indicated, but we should not forget that the aim is to eliminate the scanners from our airports. 

If you have a comparable exposure from in-flight radiation, this is another reason not to fly.  If the in-flight exposure is higher, then you have more reason not to fly.  There are many good reasons not to fly, which have been building up over the decades, such as the pollution, the fuel cost and utilization, the greenhouse effect, the terrorist threat, and the adverse reaction that we see in US foreign and domestic policy.  All of this to say nothing of the Fourth Amendment violation, which is a daily occurrence in our airports.  Much has been made of the fact that the machines are not configured to save images.  Is the operator monitored to be sure that he is not taking a picture of the screen with his cell phone?   Do we really believe that modifying the software could resolve the underlying privacy issue? 

Supporters of the scanner technology tend to dodge the question of long term effects, and this is no surprise.  If I were them, I would dodge it too.  The long term effects are likely to be devastating for the unlucky few who get various cancers and other maladies from these scanners, to say nothing about vulnerable subpopulations, such as smokers, pregnant women, children, and people with pre-existing conditions such as; cancer and thyroid problems.  What about the male germ-line cells, which can be expected to receive a larger dose than the rest of the body.  X-rays are known to be mutagenic.

The truth is that this technology was promoted by vocal and powerful wealthy minority that values airport security over our health and safety.  Their aim is that we take all the risk, and they enrich themselves by taking all the benefit.  The rest of us should band together and put a stop to these outrages now.   I am seeing widespread opposition to the new security measures across a very wide base which transcends many other issues.  Act now, and we can stop this.  Act now, or you will see the scanners in schools, banks, and other public places. Act now, or else they will become ubiquitous and unavoidable, everywhere.

If you are ready for action, here are some suggestions that you may not have thought of.  If you must continue to fly, complain to the TSA and Homeland Security, and ask them to stop these practices.  Voice your opposition to TSA officers.  Stop flying altogether and send the right message to the airlines.  Don't be fooled by the false dichotomy between scanning and groping.  Refuse both.  If you are TSA officer, stop what you are doing, because it is a Fourth Amendment violation.  Refuse to indulge in this wrongful and unpopular act.  If you are a federal officer, obey your oath and defend the Constitution against this outrage.  Everyone should spread their dissatisfaction to everyone else that they know.  THINK, and come up with your own actions.  Act now, not later.


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