As Congress asks if full-body scanners are “Effective Security or Security Theater?” we examine safety concerns at the heart of a lawsuit that seeks a freeze on the use body scanners pending an independent review. The Transportation and Security Administration has installed about 640 full-body millimeter wave and X-ray backscatter scanners at 165 airports as of January. Those who object to the full-body scans are subject to enhanced pat-downs and extremely invasive manual checks.
“Every time the TSA is pressed on [health risk concerns], they always point to studies that they have arranged with other federal agencies, [refusing] to allow independent experts to make their own evaluation,” says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which is suing the TSA. “For all of these reasons — the lack of effectiveness, the privacy invasiveness, as well as the failure of the agency to conduct a real independent evaluation — we have sued to have the program suspended.” We also speak with ProPublica reporter, Michael Grabell, author of a series of critical articles on the new scanners.