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Brett Emison
Brett Emison
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Airport Body Scanners… Will You Opt Out?


Opponents of new airport x-ray "backscatter" screening devices are preparing for a National Opt Out Day tomorrow Wednesday, November 24, 2010. The day before Thanksgiving is typically the busiest travel day of the year.

Critics of the new security measures complain that the backscatter x-ray machines invade privacy by posting images of naked bodies and the radiation used may cause serious health risks including genetic disorders and cancer. Others, Like Michigan resident Tom Sawyer, complain of invasive personal searches for those who opt out of the new scanning devices.


Opponents of the high-tech security scanners want travelers to refuse to be screened using the backscatter machines and, instead, to opt for the manual pat down. A Phoenix Fox affiliate reported that Ernest Hancock helped to organize the event in Phoenix:

"I am more concerned about the abuses of my freedom form my very own government than from any terrorists," he says. "I think that they’re dangerous. And a lot of people have a personal abhorrence to being scanned naked…. I don’t think they’re effective in doing what they say they’re doing.

Some — including airline pilots — worry that the backscatter x-ray machines may pose serious health risks. The TSA just announced that pilots will no longer need to use the backscatter machines. These "virtual strip" machines use x-rays to see through passengers’ clothes and reveal their naked bodies. According to the Health Freedom Alliance, these x-rays may cause cell damage, genetic mutations or other problems while passing through the body. One study by the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico found that nonlinear resonances in this kind of radiation could literally unzip DNA strands and cause significant problems with gene expression and DNA replication.

What will you do the next time you travel? Will you pass through the new x-ray machines or will you opt out for the pat down? In either event, you should allow yourself some additional time when traveling through the airport this holiday season.

[Other posts: Size of Package Joke After Full Body Scan Leads to Arrest]

(c) Copyright 2010 Brett A. Emison


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  1. Brad says:
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    The pilots’ union of which I am a member has advised against going through the backscatter machines primarily because of the health concerns they may present. They have further encouraged us to let other travelers know of the health risks associated with these machines and to inform them they have the right to opt out of screening.

    The long-term effects of repeated exposure to this type of x-ray is uncertain, but the potential for DNA damage, genetic mutations and cancer are enough to convince me that it is not in my own personal interest to repeatedly expose myself (pardon the pun) to these machines.

  2. claire says:
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    Remember–TSA and FDA say that the scanners leach less radiation than flying for two minutes, however–cosmic radiation is not X radiation. these scanners are illegal in MN. and TSA has no legal enforcement powers as long as they are in our airports or on our runways. Our own police do, and these machines should be shut down permanently.

  3. claire says:
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    We just came back from Mexico Sunday. In Mexico, our checked luggage was subject to a hand search, in our presence, every bag for every passenger. We went thru the metal detector and our carry-on’s were scanned. No need to take off shoes. At the gate, every piece of hand carried baggage was opened and hand checked. The lines went fast, very thorough and fast.

    In Dallas, we went through the metal detectors with our shoes off. Only about one in twenty of us was selected randomly to go through the body scanners. Of course there was no hand check of anyhone’s carry on luggage. All of the poor people singled out for body scans are treated like convicts. Assume the stance. One lady was standing in the scanning machine. The TSA agent said, “You moved. Now I am going to run my hand up your leg as far as it will go.” She started to cry, and continued to cry.

    It doesn’t take a genious to figure out which system is workable. All a terrorist has to do in the US is go with a buddy, and one of them will get through without a body scan.

  4. Brett Emison says:
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    Brad and Claire — thank you for your comments.

  5. claire says:
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    It doesn’t take a lot of smarts for a terrorist to outsmart this sytem. The hand luggage scanners can’t detect powders. Only a syringe full of liquid is needed to explode it. If more than three ounces is needed, a passenger can put it in separate bottles.

  6. claire says:
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    It doesn’t take a lot of smarts for a terrorist to outsmart this sytem. The hand luggage scanners can’t detect powders. Only a syringe full of liquid is needed to explode it. If more than three ounces is needed, a passenger can put it in separate bottles.

  7. claire says:
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    Chertoff is paid by both TSA and Rapiscan–he has been trying to get these dangerous Xray machines into airports for years. It is just about money–he was on TV the same day as the underwear bomber, even though he was no longer HSA chief, saying we needed his company’s scanners–was this a news item–or a commercial?

    Rapiscan spent $300,000 lobbying congress to buy scanners. Rapiscan was rewarded with $41 million in contracts so far. Rapiscan says it is approved by TSA and FDA–and provides a link to safetyact.gov. This safety act simply says that if it is too hard on your bottom line, you can ask for an exemption from doing safety tests and reports on your equipment, witht the goal of making the public safe from terrorists by not delaying the manufacture of these machines.

  8. claire says:
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    Solution? In customs in Dallas we saw a sign saying to go online to globalentry.gov to get approved to bypass customs lines in every country. Why doesn’t TSA do this with “trusted travelers?” Just use the enormous TSA budget for sensible things instead of ridiculous ones–better to pay people to do background checks instead wasting money on worthless and dangerous machines, and treating law abiding citizens like criminals.

  9. B Elginus says:
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    Fishing for a law suit?
    The scanners are nothing. Even the pat downs are done professionally.

  10. Brad says:
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    Please share with us the basis for your assertion that the “scanners are nothing”. I’d be very interested since every single pilot union in the US has urged their members to avoid them. Thanks in advance

  11. Brett Emison says:
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    B — you’re joking right? How is it that you know better than airline pilots, security personnel and scientists at the Los Alamos laboratory?

    Have you not heard of Google? Type in “airport scanner complaints” right now and you’ll get more than 1 million hits.

    Thanks for reading anyway.

  12. Barry says:
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    We should opt out absolutely. There’s radiation, an invasion of privacy, also touching private parts of children and people in wheelchairs. Not to mention this is child pornography. If they’re so worried about security how did 30 million illegal aliens get into the country? Please let’s all stick together on this people and not give in to the tyranny. Get the facts from Alex Jones at infowars.com

  13. byebyeamerica says:
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    Obviously folks have not been tuning in to the news where American civilian. Yes, those that could be living next to you and me that have crossed alliansas and are now extremist. Like so many other confused American that claim to love this country as long as someone else does the fighting for them. Okay, so for all of those folks that persist on opting out perhaps they should be the first ones sent to the front lines to defend our liberties and the freedoms we do have. For you women try living in another country where you can still be mutilated for looking at another man, or perhaps walk three steps behind a man and say nothing because you have no rights! Try that for opting out…oops I’m sorry in other countries you can’t opt out! The bottom line is what does a terrorist look like now…what does a child molestor look like or a rapist.

  14. Brad says:
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    You seem to think “opting out” means you don’t get screened at all. This is not the case. Opting out means you don’t expose yourself to the dangerous backscatter x-ray machine that may cause many long-term health problems. If you want to get on an airplane you are always going to have subject yourself to security screening and, now that the TSA is in the business of theatrics rather than security, that means you’ll get groped and fondled before you’re cleared to fly on an airplane.

    Yes I did say TSA is in the business of security theatrics. These new enhanced measures do NOTHING to enhance security. For example, what if some extremist wants to smuggle something in their rectum? This machine does nothing to detect objects inside a persons body. There are plenty of threats to aviation security but these new measures do nothing to address them – would every pilots union in the country oppose these measures if they were thought to be effective?!