The non-profit public interest research center, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), obtained documents that reveal that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intentionally misled the public about the risks associated with the full body scanners that are now in place in every major airport in the US.
EPIC filed a FOIA request (Freedom of Information Act) back in 2010, but DHS disregarded the request which led to EPIC suing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in order to make the department release the now obviously incriminating documents that they had previously and legally requested. Those documents contained the body radiation fact sheets that reveal the truth about these dangerous machines. Prior to the release of the documents, EPIC stated that the DHS’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA),
“withheld test results, fact sheets, and estimates regarding the radiation risks of body scanners used to screen passengers at airports.”
What the Fact Sheets Revealed
The documents revealed that TSA did not perform a quantitative analysis of risk and benefit prior to implementing the body scanner program. This alone should be enough to demonstrate the negligence that took place in regards to these full body scanners.
The TSA had long claimed that the backscatter x-ray body scanner emitted a low energy x-ray beam, but according to the body radiation fact sheets, it was revealed that the machine in question uses “high energy x-rays” that are much different and more powerful. These high energy x-rays penetrate materials much more than that of medical x-rays. Essentially, the machine penetrates clothing to reveal the nude body of the person being scanned. This overreach of a person’s individual privacy through such indiscreet imaging of the body, in conjunction with the equipment’s inherent security flaws and the TSA’s ability to indefinitely store these nude images, are all part of an altogether different EPIC lawsuit against DHS/TSA.
The FOIA request also uncovered some internal emails from AJ Castilla, President of Local 2617 in Boston, MA. One email was to the union members and the other was to Heather Callahan DFSD, the person overseeing the health and safety issues for the Boston, Massachusetts airport. The emails discussed concerns for the general public, as well as the employees of the airport, being unduly exposed to potential cancer risks due to the radiation emitting from these machines; specifically the “beam stop leakage.”
It was discovered that the beams of radiation from the body scanners were not ending where they thought they were going to. In fact, the beams were going beyond the machine and exposing people to potentially dangerous levels of radiation. The emails also expressed concern for the growing number of Boston TSA employees being diagnosed with cancer. Castilla notes,
“….BOS still has an alarmingly high number of cancer afflicted TSOs still working here or out while trying to address the illness.”
“Despite TSA management’s past assurances, many TSOs here do not feel safe from radiation threats that may go hand in hand with using x-ray screening technology, especially the newer [installed since TSA federalized airport security] technology that has been lesser used in our country than much older but also feared Rapiscan machines.”
The fact that this information was intentionally kept secret from the public goes beyond malfeasance and crosses over into villainy. There is no clear benefit to implementing machines with known health risks other than to profit from their use at the expense of the American people. This type of negligent and irresponsible governance is quite unacceptable and someone needs to be held accountable. Yet, this country has shown many times in recent years that those in government positions or of the elite class, subscribe to a completely different set of laws than that of the average citizen.
Whether or not these machines are found to be the source of the rising occurrence of cancer in TSA employees, the fact that there was a potential risk that was known to those in the position to take action, yet they chose instead to hide these risks, shows where their loyalties truly lie. Yet sadly, this is far from the first time a government official has chosen to profit instead of carrying out their sworn duty to oversee the well-being of their constituents.
For more insight on how the use of these machines came to be, and who profited due to their rise, take a look at the video below from Spiro:
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