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TSA Eliminates Backscatter X-Ray Nude Body Scanners

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More good news:

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/01/tsa-abandons-nude-scanners/

Unfortunately, they are getting rid of only the backscatter x-ray machines, sold by Rapiscan, but not the millimeter-wave body scanners. So, we're still saddled with slow, highly expensive, and not very effective technology (*). But the good news is that X-rays are known to be dangerous; the only scientific debate is how safe the possible exposure levels are (**). So, it's good to get rid of those. Millimeter waves have not been well studied, but at least we don't know of any reason why they'd be dangerous.

The decision is apparently due not to abstract scientific safety concerns, or cost effectiveness, but because Rapiscan couldn't get their software right in time to do the automated target recognition. So, this is a win for privacy, as only a computer will see the "nude" images. I'm sure politics had nothing to do with this at all. (***)

(*) The whole "enhanced imaging device" nude scanner thing was driven by the Underwear Bomber, but the scary thing is that al Qaeda has already used a rectum bomb in an assassination attempt:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdullah_Hassan_Al_Aseery

(**) With a properly functioning and calibrated scanner, assuming the X-rays are absorbed uniformly by the body, the dosage level is tiny and poses extremely low risk. The concerns are that the backscatter X-ray frequencies tend to be absorbed concentrated in and near the skin, increasing the dose; that the machines might not always be maintained or calibrated properly (and TSA forbids agents from wearing radiation badges, reducing safety in an effort to make people feel safe); and that the software controlling the scanning might fail, resulting in a concentrated X-ray dosage.

(***) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/23/fear_pays_chertoff_n_787711.html

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