Judge: DHS Must Release Body Scanner Safety Reports


Backscatter whole body scanner

Aside from the privacy-threatening qualities of whole body scanners, which have got the widgets dubbed "nude scanners" and "virtual strip searches," safety concerns have plagued the things, too. They emit radiation — either backscatter x-ray or millimeter wave — which the government in the form of the TSA assures us is harmless. But the tests conducted in-house by the feds often involve machines tested under ideal conditions, not much-used devices indifferently maintained as they are in the real world, so worries persist. Some prominent scientists have gone public with objections to the quality of data seen so far. Now, the Department of Homeland Security has been ordered to release two reports and a Powerpoint presentation that it's resisted producing with claims including the ever-useful "security."

Reports the Electronic Privacy Information Center:

A federal judge has granted EPIC victories in two Freedom of Information Act cases involving the controversial airport body scanners. Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington, DC held that the Department of Homeland Security must turn over two safety reports detailing radiation output by the scanners and a set of power point slides containing details on automated target recognition software. The agency previously claimed it was not required to release the documents to EPIC. EPIC has pursued several related Freedom of Information Act cases as a challenge to the deployment of the devices. In 2011, the DC Circuit of Appeals ruled in EPIC v. DHS that the agency must receive public comments on the decision to deploy body scanners for primary screening.

In terms of what EPIC sought, "[t]he first contested document is a 33-page 2006 report authored by a government official evaluating the radiation safety of a body scanning machine called the 'Dual Smart Check' produced by AS&E. … The second document is a 3-page 2008 report authored by the same government official evaluating a later version of the same machine." The reports include such minor details as "Specific Radiation Dose Levels" and "Assessments of, and recommendations for improving, radiation safety of AS&E Dual SmartCheck."

The Powerpoint presentation was prepared for a congressional committee, and so provides insight into what the TSA is telling lawmakers about its scanning equipment.

The documents aren't exactly exhaustive — they don't cover machines made by all manufacturers, and the list of manufacturers has changed. Rapiscan is out, now, having missed a deadline to make its devices less porn-y. But the reports should offer a peek at what the TSA and DHS are discussing in-house in terms of safety, and not just for public consumption.

NEXT: Michelle Obama Takes Part in Twitter Chat

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  1. “They emit radiation ? either backscatter x-ray or millimeter wave ”

    Quite frankly the millimeter wave devices don’t have any real safety issues – its ionizing radiation and the power intensity is pretty low.

    1. Its *not* ionizing

  2. Wow. Is that an actual scanner image? I’m assuming you can see the cock-n-bolls on the males?

    1. If you can’t, then that’s a good place to hide your next bomb.

    2. It’s Janet Napolitano.

      1. “It’s Janet Napolitano.”
        Not in JN’s fondest fantasies of cosmetic medical procedures…
        If it *were* JN, it would come with a warning.

    3. Been posted here before, but this is apropos.

      The guy points out that showing dangerous objects (like in the pic above) as black blobs is kind of stupid when combined with a black background. They guy gets stuff through the scanner by merely hanging it on his side so the contraband doesn’t show up.

  3. Oh, youz guyz’l love this. I’m getting an Amazon ad for a model of the MQ-1 Predator drone.

    1. I’m getting an ad for something called trannydate.com. Should I click through?

      1. Of course.

      2. Double your pleasure, Double your fun. Oh wait, that’s a gum commercial.

    2. That model don’t have comments as good as yesterdays model.

    3. Review: You’ve had a busy play day – You’ve wiretapped Mom’s cell phone and e-mail without a warrant, you’ve indefinitely detained your little brother Timmy in the linen closet without trial, and you’ve confiscated all the Super-Soakers from the neighborhood children (after all, why does any kid – besides you, of course – even NEED a Super-Soaker for self-defense? A regular water pistol should be enough). What do you do for an encore?

      That’s where the US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator from Maisto comes in. Let’s say that Dad has been labeled a terrorist in secret through your disposition matrix. Rather than just arrest him and go through the hassle of trying and convicting him in a court of law, and having to fool with all those terrorist-loving Constitutional protections, you can just use one of these flying death robots to assassinate him! Remember, due process and oversight are for sissies. Plus, you get the added bonus of taking out potential terrorists before they’ve even done anything – estimates have determined that you can kill up to 49 potential future terrorists of any age for every confirmed terrorist you kill, and with the innovative ‘double-tap’ option, you can even kill a few terrorist first responders, preventing them from committing terrorist acts like helping the wounded and rescuing survivors trapped in the rubble. Don’t let Dad get away with anti-American activities!


      1. (cont.)
        Show him who’s boss, whether he’s at a wedding, a funeral, or just having his morning coffee. Sow fear and carnage in your wake! Win a Nobel Peace Prize and be declared Time Magazine’s Person of the Year – Twice!

        This goes well with the Maisto Extraordinary Rendition playset, by the way – which gives you all the tools you need to kidnap the family pet and take him for interrogation at a neighbor’s house, where the rules of the Geneva Convention may not apply. Loads of fun!

        1. Awesome:) Does it come with plausible deniability?

        2. Some of the funniest shit ever posted here at H&R, or anywhere. The first time I saw this, was yesterday, linked by RBS. I don’t know who wrote that, but it’s damn good.

    4. Only four left in stock! More on the way! To your house!


  4. But, but, seein them nekked images was the best part of the job! I quit!

  5. Department of Homeland Security has been ordered to release two reports and a Powerpoint presentation

    Silly question: When and where can the public read them?

    1. Answer: Your home has been targeted by the REDACTED.

      1. “Why does anyone *need* an answer to that question?”

      2. And are YOU going to sit through a PP presentation?!

  6. In a better world all of congress would have been hanged for allowing those fucking things in the first place.

  7. WHY on earth would TSA NOT just release the fucking reports and presentation? Cause “TERRSSSTZZ!” might learn something? Deep secrets that woudl jeopardize the US’ security if revealed?

    Oh, duh – of course not! What ’em I thinking?


    God, I hate our federal gummint and all its offshoots…

  8. Didn’t DHS already say they were pulling all of the back-scatter machines out of the airports? Or was that just some BS propaganda that I was gullible enough to believe?

    1. No. That was the story.

    2. They’re gone from SFO. If that’s any comfort.

  9. This is the most open administriation EVER. Why would they hesitate to release these reports? Cmon, we are talking the Obama administration.

    With all the privacy concerns, it never even occurred to me there might be safety concerns as well. Yet another reason to skip the rapeyscan and go for a good old fashioned groping!

    1. Capitalization? I approve.

    2. Yet another reason to skip the rapeyscan and go for a good old fashioned groping!

      Don’t forget the probing. If there’s anything Area 51 has taught our government, it’s the value of good probing technique.

      1. No! We’ve learned all we can from rectal probing. This is a mission of conquest!


    Strange v. Spokane County, ___ Wn. App. ___, 287 P.3d 710 (Div. III, Oct. 30, 2012)

    1. A Spokane County sheriff’s deputy stopped a car for accelerating rapidly and making several improper turns during the early morning hours of January 22, 2006. The car had two occupants, the female driver and a male front seat passenger. The deputy later learned that the passenger was Daniel Brian Strange, the driver’s boyfriend, and that Strange owned the car. The deputy approached the driver. She opened her door instead of rolling the window down.

      During the initial contact, Strange became belligerent in arguing with the officer over whether Strange had been wearing his seatbelt. The officer collected the identifications for both occupants, instructed them to remain in the car, and closed the driver’s door with some force. Strange got out of the car, took two steps forward, and yelled, “Don’t slam my door.”

      The officer drew his firearm and called for backup. He repeatedly ordered Strange to get back into the car. The officer eventually holstered his firearm and pulled out his Taser. He advised Strange that if he did not get back into the car he would be arrested. The officer heard Strange say something in response and understood it to be defiant and challenging.

      1. The officer then told Strange that he was under arrest and ordered him to turn around with his hands behind his back. Strange instead started to re-enter the car. The officer discharged his Taser into Strange’s back. The officer arrested Strange for resisting arrest (a misdemeanor) and obstructing a public servant (a gross misdemeanor).

        Strange sued the officer and Spokane County for excessive use of force in violation of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. ? 1983 (the Civil Rights Act). He contended that the officer misused his law enforcement powers when he used a Taser to effect a misdemeanor arrest.

        Strange also claimed that Spokane County was liable under the Civil Rights Act as an agency on the rationale that the County knowingly maintained a custom and policy of deliberate indifference to the rights and safety of its citizens. On this issue, the trial court granted the County’s motion to reject this theory. The trial court ruled that there was no official policy or policy maker that chose to use such force, no program-wide failure to train the officers on how and when to use force, and no affirmative decision by the County to ratify the deputy’s conduct.

        1. Strange also had a theory that his arrest was unlawful under State law on the rationale that Washington officers may not use force to arrest for a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor. The trial court rejected that theory.

          A jury then found that the officer did not use unreasonable force, and that the officer made the arrest with probable cause.

          ISSUES AND RULINGS: 1) In light of the Ninth Circuit’s grant of qualified immunity to the law enforcement officer in the case of Bryan v. McPherson, 630 F.3d 805 (9th Cir., November 30, 2010) involving a 2005 application of a Taser, was the law not clearly established against the use of a Taser under the 2006 circumstances of the Strange case such that the deputy should be granted qualified immunity? (ANSWER: Yes);

          2) Does Washington law authorize use of reasonable force in order to make an arrest for a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor? (ANSWER: Yes, as to both classes of crimes)

          3) Is there evidence supporting Strange’s theory that the County should be held liable based on agency custom and policy? (ANSWER: No)

          Result: Affirmance of Spokane County Superior Court judgment for Spokane County and a named Spokane County deputy sheriff.

          1. Imo, the courts are starting to draw some very reasonable lines vis a vis tasers. They are certainly reigning in the excesses (see: McPherson) while recognizing an officer’s discretion to use the taser in situations such as this. Good ruling.

            1. Wow, just from reading the account of what happened I’d say the office over-reacted and was looking for some excitement.

              I might get excited too, if a cop came over to me after I was pulled over and said “why are you not wearing a seatbelt”, if I had JUST removed it after the car stopped.

              I might also have said something if the cop had slammed the door really hard in my girlfriend’s face. (Actually I doubt I would since I have somehow known from an early age that many cops are assholes. And my Dad never gave me this impression so I must have picked it up from noticing things). Then pulling a gun because someone said “don’t slam my door” ?? Fucking ridiculous. Then when the guy starts to respond to the first order to get back in the car, he gets tased because he did not obey the 2nd order to put his hands on the car. That said, this guy must be an idiot, not to get in the car when he has a gun pointed at him by someone with a license to kill and maim.

            2. So, using a taser on someone who is (a) not posing any threat to the officer and (b) slow in complying with an order, but is complying nonetheless, is a “good shoot”?

              Doesn’t sound reasonable to me. This is use of force for no better reason that “respect my authoritay”. Bad shoot. IMO.

              1. This is why it’s instructive to post on stuff like this, because you clearly sorely miss key points in your analysis, points that I understand because this is what I do, testify on, train people on, etc.

                What was the suspect DOING when he was tased? Yes, he was trying to re-enter the vehicle. That is significant. What could he do upon re-entering the vehicle – gain access to weapons? Possibly. Entice, force the driver to drive off and then we’d have a pursuit which is dangerous and not desirable.

                Once he was under arrest, it is incumbent on the officer not to give him opportunity to escalate the situation by re-entering the vehicle.

                That’s a critical point you miss.

                This is an example of why reasonoids so often disagree with UOF case law, and the kind of questions you need to ask.

  11. My favorite story of 2013 – Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) complained Monday she was subject to a very uncomfortable screening by the Transportation Security Administration.



    1. “?Today in my airport screening, test on my hands was positive”

      Not only is the Senator “uncomfortable”, she’s also now in The Database as an active gun owner.

    2. “In 2011, McCaskill referred to TSA pat-downs as “love pats” that she said made her not look forward to flying.”

      Yeah, well, dipshit, you might be able to do something about that, and you haven’t.
      I hope they probe your ass with something very large and pointed.

  12. It’s for your own safety.

    1. And that’s all that matters.

  13. So, who comes up with all that crazy stuff man?


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