There has been an ridiculous number of articles and news stories lately over the new TSA screening procedures that include invasive techniques including full body imaging technology and pat downs by TSA screeners. Leaving out the homophobic angle that I expected from some (and they didn’t disappoint) there are some facts that should be addressed.
The full body imagers use primarily one of 2 technologies, millimeter wave, and the more prevalent backscatter or xray technology. Current knowledge of the health risks of these devices is limited at best but a New Scientist article does a good job of explaining both the technology and the known and suspected risks.
The truth – For infrequent travelers there is likely no risks as you are exposed to more xrays during your flight than while being scanned. For frequent flyers, the jury is still out.
The latest effort by some to try to circumvent perceived invasive TSA screening procedures is having airports opt out of the TSA screening program. A little known provision of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act allows airports to opt out of the TSA screening program so that they can hire one of 4 or 5 pre-approved private screening companies. Orlando Sanford airport has decided to do just that in an effort to try and lure security procedure weary passengers to their airport.
The truth – Opting out simply changes the name of the payee on the paycheck for the screeners and has no effect on what screening passengers are made to endure. Private screening companies must follow all TSA mandated screening procedures and use all currently available screening technologies and are still supervised by the TSA. In other words pat downs and full body imaging (if units are installed) will still be done.
Don’t believe me? Anyone flying out of Sioux Falls in the past 3 years has been screened by a private screening company.
All flyers will be exposed to body imagers
Most articles discussing these new procedures would have one believe that they will certainly have to go through one of these new body scanning machines when traveling.
The truth – Currently this technology is installed in approximately 65 of the 430 or so US commercial airports with a mandate for many more to receive them in the next year meaning it all depends on where you are going. Those flying out of any South Dakota airport will not have to go through these machines and there are currently no plans for them to be installed anytime in the foreseeable future.
There seems to have been a recent surge in images being released out onto the internet of people being scanned by this technology. What is to prevent some screener from posting your body scan on the internet?
The truth – Images from these machines are only viewed by trained screeners in a room separate from the security checkpoint. While these units allow for image saving, it is only supposed to be used in a training environment and cell phones with cameras are not allowed in the image viewing room. Consider that information and decide on your own as to whether it is sufficient for your own piece of mind.
Finally just an observation. I personally have no issues with the new procedures though I might take offense if my wife and daughters were subjected to it but I must ask, where was all this 4th Amendment privacy outrage when the Patriot Act was being forced down our throats?
While I have tried to stick to only known facts regarding the new TSA screening procedures I should inform readers that while I do not work directly for the TSA, I do work with the TSA. I am in no way speaking for the TSA or my employer and any information provided here is freely available from sources not affiliated with either entity.