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Monday, November 15, 2010

Your Choice: the Virtual Strip Search X-Ray or the TSA Grope

Taking a flight these days is like visiting the red light district in a major city and getting sexually assaulted by the local pimp. Passengers are describing being screamed at by TSA guards for opting out of the naked body scan machine and then being roughly groped during the "enhanced pat down." One poor woman, Meg McLain, was chained to a chair for refusing the machine AND the grope, had her ticket torn up, and was escorted out of the airport.

An off-duty flight attendant recovering from a hip replacement described her experience like this:
The agent went up my right leg first and then met my vagina with full force….the same on the other leg with the same result. She then used both of her hands to feel my breasts and squeezing them. At this point I was in shock.

When I came out of security my husband asked me. “What the hell was that?” I have never felt so humiliated and violated. I have gone through the stages of being a sexual assault victim…Shock,Denial,Blame,Pain,Anger…I have yet to come with the Acceptance stage.

If having your genitals groped and your breasts squeezed isn't sexual assault, there are a lot of sex abusers on the National Sex Offender Registry unfairly.

But it isn't just privacy and dignity that is being violated by the new security measures. The safety of the X-ray machines is in serious question. Four scientists at the University of California, San Francisco sent a letter to the administration last April raising red flags about the machines' dosage. Here's a portion:
Unlike other scanners, these new devices operate at relatively low beam energies (28keV). The majority of their energy is delivered to the skin and the underlying tissue. Thus, while the dose would be safe if it were distributed throughout the volume of the entire body, the dose to the skin may be dangerously high.

The X-ray dose from these devices has often been compared in the media to the cosmic ray exposure inherent to airplane travel or that of a chest X-ray. However, this comparison is very misleading: both the air travel cosmic ray exposure and chest Xrays have much higher X-ray energies and the health consequences are appropriately understood in terms of the whole body volume dose. In contrast, these new airport scanners are largely depositing their energy into the skin and immediately adjacent tissue, and since this is such a small fraction of body weight/vol, possibly by one to two orders of magnitude, the real dose to the skin is now high.

In addition, it appears that real independent safety data do not exist.
The scientists raise serious concerns about specific at-risk populations:
A) The large population of older travelers, >65 years of age, is particularly at risk from the mutagenic effects of the X-rays based on the known biology of melanocyte aging.

• B) A fraction of the female population is especially sensitive to mutagenesisprovoking radiation leading to breast cancer. Notably, because these women, who have defects in DNA repair mechanisms, are particularly prone to cancer, X-ray mammograms are not performed on them. The dose to breast tissue beneath the skin represents a similar risk.
• C) Blood (white blood cells) perfusing the skin is also at risk.

• D) The population of immunocompromised individuals--HIV and cancer patients (see above) is likely to be at risk for cancer induction by the high skin dose.

• E) The risk of radiation emission to children and adolescents does not appear to have been fully evaluated.

• F) The policy towards pregnant women needs to be defined once the theoretical risks to the fetus are determined.

• G) Because of the proximity of the testicles to skin, this tissue is at risk for sperm mutagenesis.

• H) Have the effects of the radiation on the cornea and thymus been determined?
The Allied Pilots Association has warned its members to opt out of the full body scans for health reasons as well because of their frequent exposure. Regular fliers could expect to experience the same risk.

But is it worth it for the security, i.e., health risks balanced against safety in the air? Not according to an Israeli security expert talking to the Vancouver Sun about Canada's installation of the strip search machines:
"I don't know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747," Rafi Sela told parliamentarians probing the state of aviation safety in Canada.

"That's why we haven't put them in our airport," Sela said, referring to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport, which has some of the toughest security in the world.

Sela, former chief security officer of the Israel Airport Authority and a 30-year veteran in airport security and defence technology, helped design the security at Ben Gurion.
So what's really pushing the haste to install these untested, potentially dangerous, absolutely invasive machines? Is there more than concern for safety at work here? Just opt out. And tell TSA if they sexually violate you during the pat down (If you choose to submit to it.) that you are calling a cop!

Where are all the voices warning us about safe touch? How many children will be violated for the "privilege" of flying?

Check out the We Won't Fly website.

1 comment:

Michele said...

George Soros has stock in the parent company of the company that sells these invasive machines to the Government (Washington Examiner). Why did this not surprise me...? Here is the link: