Earlier this month, Homeland Security officials finally acknowledged that their machines were producing much higher radiation levels than the government originally reported. In assessing the results of “contractor administered testing procedures,” a TSA spokesperson admitted miscalculations but claimed that these errors did not “raise alarms in terms of safety.”
“It would appear that emissions are ten times higher,” the spokeswoman said, blaming prior inaccuracies on a “calculation error.”
New safety tests are scheduled for May, but in the meantime the government has no plans to replace any of the scanners.
Even if we assume that these machines are safe, though – do they actually work? That point is also up for debate. According to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), it’s unclear whether the scanners would have detected the explosives concealed in the underwear of would-be “Christmas Day bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
The GAO report also concluded that pentaerythritol tetranitrate explosives “would be invisible to this technology,” as would “a wire or a box-cutter blade taped to the side of the body, or even a small gun in the same location.”
Not exactly a vote of confidence, is it?
“Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty,” Thomas Jefferson once wrote – a statement we can now apply to our nation’s skies, as well.
Government has no business trampling over our liberties in the name of enhancing our security – yet as we have seen with warrantless searches and domestic wiretapping, it clearly has no problem resorting to such means.
Let’s hope that in addressing legitimate concerns over the safety and effectiveness of these scanners, government will also be compelled to re-evaluate the freedoms it is eroding in its effort to “secure the homeland.”