Archive | November 21, 2010

The Scandal of Body Scanners

The Scandal of Body Scanners


By Hwaa Irfan


If you are traveling, and happen to pass through any of these airports:


Australia: Melbourne (trial),


Canada: Calgary, Edmonton Int’l, Greater Moncton Int’l, Halifax, Kelowna, Montreal-Trudeau, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Regina, Toronto Pearson Int’l, Vancouver Int’l,


France: Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris- Orly,


India: Delhi Int’l Airport


Italy: Mailan-Mapensa, Leonardo da Vinci, Fiumicino, Venice Marco-Paulo,


Japan: Narita Int’l,


Korea (South): Gimpo, Gimhae, Incheon, Jeju,


Nigeria: Abuja, Kano, Lagos, Port Harcourt,


Russia: Moscow Demodedovo,


Scandinavia: Amsterdam-Schipol


U.K: Glasgow, London-Gatwick, London –Heathrow, London-Luton, Manchester,


U.S: Alburquerque International, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, Baltimore-Washington Int’l, Boston Logan Int’l, Charlotte Douglas Int’l, Chicago-O’Hare, Cincinnati/North Kentucky Int’l, Cleveland, Corpus Christi Int’l, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver Int’l, Detroit Metro County, El-Paso, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Int’l, Fort Wayne Int’l, George Bush Houston, Indianapolis Int’l, Jacksonville Int’l, John F. Kennedy Int’l, Kansas City Int’l, Las Vegas-McCarran, LAX, Miami, Minnesota St. Paul Int’l, Minnesota San Jose Int’l, Oakland Int’l, Omaha Int’l, Phoenix Sky Harbor, Port Columbus Int’l, Raleigh-Durham Int’l, Richmond Int’l, Salt Lake City Int’l, San Diego Int’l, San Jose Int’l, Tampa Int’l, Tulsa Int’l, Washington DC’s Reagan, and one of the courthouses in Florida!


…you would have been checked at the airport by a body scan, which basically screens you devoid of clothing by bouncing high frequency ionized radio waves off your body. If you wearing a colostomy, catheter, or prosthetics it will be seen, and because it is believed that one can “hide” things in these prosthetics, a hands-on body search might be enforced. The image from the body-scan can even be used for pornographic use, as has been the case.


By right, body scans are supposed to replace a strip search which is carried out when suspicion is raised. Because of the invasion of privacy, one has the right to refuse, but this is not always the case. In the U.S. one person who opted not to be scanned was “obliged” to undergo an invasive strip search which involved having their private area probed. Another was obliged to have the kind of strip search whereby 4 fingers from both hands were used to go around the inside waist of the passengers trousers, reaching to their private parts. Employees at Lagos Airport, Nigeria, were caught using the images from body scans for pornographic purposes. In some parts of the states if you do concede to a body scan you will not be allowed to board the plane. Passenger John Tyler has a better idea, under TSA scrutiny Tyler switched on his mobile camera, and threatened to have them arrested, the evidence of which can be found on Youtube. If you were unfortunate to have attended the Florida federal courthouse, you might have been illegally body scanned by U.S. Marshals. Well, that is what happened and discovered because those images were leaked. Gizmodo discovered those 35,000 illegal images of public and private citizens were saved, and not destroyed.


The Rights of the Body

In mid-2010 the Electronic Privacy Information Center, EPIC, filed a lawsuit to suspend the full-body scanner at U.S. airports on the basis of violation of the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by subjecting ordinary citizens to a virtual strip search without any evidence of wrongdoing – a violation  of The Administrative Procedures Act, the Privacy Act, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This violation is the natural extension of not allowing women to cover their bodies according to religious belief in public. In the U.K., the Equality and Human Rights Commission argue on the basis of human rights, and that the act of full body scanning breaks the law, and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea want all full-body scanners removed.


A Matter of Health


Someone will see how you look without your clothes on whether you know that person or not. If you were fortunate, you would have been scanned by a low resolution model, unlike the x-ray backscatter which not only reveals all, but emits harmful levels of radiation. One of the arguments for continued use is that the dose of ionized radiation that one is subjected to is too low to be of any risk. Ionized radiation from backscatter X-ray scanners is focused on the skin and underlying tissues. But the underlying tissues contain blood vessels therefore making ionized radiation to enter the blood stream. It has unwisely been compared to going for an X-ray or CT scan, when a 2009 investigation published in the Archives of Internal Medicine have proven that 2% of cancer cases in the U.S. are a result of CT scans. These forms of ionized radiation that has entered into everyday life has been found to cause mutation of the chromosomes, DNA, and damage the arteries as well as leads to misdiagnosis. Reports of radiation toxicity, skin burns, holes in the body that will not close, wounds that will not heal, bone death, and organ damage mount as a result of ionized radiation in U.S. hospitals i.e. X-rays and CT scans!


Despite evidence elsewhere on the affect of ionized radiation on the human body, the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, the American College of Radiology, The Health Physics Society.The International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency only recommend excusing pregnant women and children from ionized radiation. The European Commission, and the U.K.-based Health Protection Agency argue there is no danger as the level of radiation dose is low.


What we are left with is a legacy from Michael Chertoff, former chief of Department of Homeland Security. Rapiscan was awarded the contract worth US$160mn by the mentioned department to produce these scanners. One of the clients of Rapiscan is the security consultants the Chertoff Group of which Michael Chertoff is the chair – he did not even have the decency to change his or the company’s name – well… he is after all continuing a tradition!


As Manchester Airport, U.K. introduce eye-scannners, which can track the movements of anyone within the airport, the Allied Pilots Association – the largest association of pilots vote for a ban of body scanners on the basis of health with reports stating that scanners produce 20 times the amount of ionized radiation than officially stated. Now the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety (European Commission, International Atomic Energy Agency, the Nuclear Energy Agency, and the World Health Organization have asked for:

  • Passengers to be informed of health risks 
  • Governments must inform their public as to why they are being exposed to high levels of cancer-causing radiation
  •   For children, and pregnant women to be excluded.


More than that, they should be banned otherwise members of the public will have to re-think about traveling, be more selective about which airports to use, and/or find alternative means as only those who say “Well heck! I’m gonna die anyway” will go ahead without thinking of what method of death they would prefer!

The Transport Security Administration, TSA, has earned itself a bad reputation when it comes to the safety and security of passengers. Recently, reprimanded by Obama’s Administration for their abuse of power at U.S. airports. Texan congressman, Ron Paul has proposed an “American Traveler Dignity Act” on top of all the other Acts that do or do not consider the welfare of its people, however do migrants who are American citizens, and foreigners traveling to the U.S. qualify? Given that TSA seem to have little discretion, have no intention of changing their policy, and seem to be an Administration unto themselves, New York, New Jersey, and Idaho looking to replace TSA with the private security firms. Maybe employees of governmental private security contractors like Blackwater USA, CACI Int’l and Titan Corp, which were behind the abomination that took place in Abu Ghraib, Iraq will be up for grabs!



“Airports with Body Scanners.”

Deane, A. “World’s Largest Association of Pilots Boycotts Body Scanners.”

Gizmodo. “One Hundred Naked Citizens.”

Manchester Airport to Introduce Eye Scanners to Track Passenger Movements.”

Mercola. “High CT Scan Radiation is Deadly.”