TSA Will Retest Backscatter Scanners As Hearing Delves Deeper Into Machines

By Matthew Harwood


In early March, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) released DHS documents that showed the department's intent to deploy millimeter-wave scanning technology at U.S. mass transportation hubs and special events. Last week, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., heard EPIC's case to suspend the use of all full body scanners at U.S. airports. EPIC argues the machines are "invasive, unlawful, and ineffective." There are currently about 500 full body scanners deployed at 78 U.S. airports, TSA Press Secretary Nicholas Kimball told Security Management last month.

On Wednesday, a House subcommittee will hold an oversight hearing on full body scanners. According to Ali Ahmad, deputy press secretary for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the hearing "will examine issues associated with the use of imaging technology, including effectiveness, privacy concerns, and health risks."

Witnesses will include TSA officials, radiation experts, and full-body scanner opponents. One critic will be Alaska state legislator Sharon Cissna, who in late February refused to submit to an enhanced pat-down search after her prosthetic breast triggered an alarm after she went through a full-body scanner.

Even without Cissna's testimony, TSA officials testifying in front of the subcommittee could be in for a long day.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations holding the hearing, told USA Today last week that TSA's statement on backscatter radiation levels "sounds like an excuse rather than the real facts."

Chaffetz has been a vocal critic of full body scanners, introducing legislation in 2009 to prohibit the use of the controversial technology for primary screening.

♦ Backscatter X-ray scan by TSA


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