The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that it would retest every full-body X-ray scanner that emits ionizing radiation — 247 machines at 38 airports — after . TSA officials have repeatedly assured the public and lawmakers that the machines have passed all inspections. The agency’s review of maintenance reports, launched Dec. 10, came only after USA TODAY and lawmakers called for the release of the records late last year.
The TSA announced steps to require its maintenance contractors to “retrain personnel involved in conducting and overseeing the radiation survey process.” Some lawmakers remain concerned, however. The TSA “has repeatedly assured me that the machines that emit radiation do not pose a health risk,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a written statement Friday. “Nonetheless, if TSA contractors reporting on the radiation levels have done such a poor job, how can airline passengers and crew have confidence in the data used by the TSA to reassure the public?”
She said the records released Friday “included gross errors about radiation emissions. That is completely unacceptable when it comes to monitoring radiation.”
U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz also was troubled by the information posted by the TSA. Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairs a House oversight subcommittee on national security and has sponsored legislation to limit the use of full-body scans. He has been pushing the TSA to release the maintenance records.
At best, Chaffetz said, the radiation reports generated by TSA contractors reveal haphazard oversight and record-keeping in the critical inspection system the agency relies upon to ensure millions of travelers aren’t subjected to excessive doses of radiation.
“It is totally unacceptable to be bumbling such critical tasks,” Chaffetz said. “These people are supposed to be protecting us against terrorists.”
In the past, the TSA has failed to properly monitor and ensure the safety of X-ray devices used on luggage. A 2008 report by the worker safety arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the TSA and its maintenance contractors had failed to detect when baggage X-ray machines emitted radiation beyond what regulations allowed. They also failed to take action when some machines had missing or disabled safety features, the report shows.
Chaffetz said the TSA’s characterization of the maintenance mistakes “sounds like an excuse rather than the real facts.”
“I’m tired of excuses,” Chaffetz said. “The public has a right and deserves to know. It begs the question, ‘What are they still not sharing with us?’ These are things you cannot make mistakes with.” Chaffetz said he expects to address some of his concerns during a hearing Wednesday. The TSA is responsible for the safety of its own X-ray devices. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it does not routinely inspect airport X-ray machines because they are not considered medical devices. The TSA’s airport scanners are exempt from state radiation inspections because they belong to a federal agency.
As a taxpayer, I want my money back, please. Oh, and send some of these morans to prison while you’re at it, starting with Michael Chertoff.
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