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 maintenance records on some of the devices showed radiation levels 10 times higher than expected. 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.

Read about adverse effects of ionizing radiation here.

  1. eighthnote says:

    Like this is news. How many times do people have to be kicked in the face by the government to know that whatever they say is biased in favor of positive PR? Whether or not it’s the truth is a completely different matter.

  2. deowll says:

    What comes across loud and clear is that the government is telling you to use an X-ray machine when they don’t have a clue if the bloody thing is working within spec. or not.

  3. Ah_Yea says:

    That would make a great cover for an episode of No Agenda.

  4. Animby - just phoning it in says:

    Hidden well away in the article (and two others I’ve read on the subject) is that the maintenance “contractor” were mostly the manufacturer’s employees. Tell me they had any interest in telling the truth about their machines.

    Okay. So the damned things only give you a little bit more radiation. Ever hear of the straw that broke the camel’s back?

  5. bobbo, military harware is HARD--just knock on it and see says:

    Looks like the best gift for Christ Mass this year for your frequent fliers is a life time film badge dosimeter. If I were a Pilot, I would have had one a long time ago. Not that it would change much, but knowledge is power, after the leading cause of depression.

    Ha, ha.

  6. EmenyOfTheState says:

    “I’m telling ya there is no heart in there.”

    Oh, my bad I thought this was one of those “Caption This” photos…

  7. dcphill says:

    I remain skeptical about this too. I don’t know when to believe any thing I read,see or hear. It seems that we are all being fed a load of crap. Either they knew about the radiation hazard or they are all a bunch of
    nimbrods. Lets hear some truth about this.
    But can we believe it even then?

  8. nobody says:

    #5 interesting point – I used to work in a lab where I had to wear a dosimeter (and a film badge in those days) people working in the ‘hot’ areas had to wear a badge off site as well to measure their total dose.

    I wonder if you are allowed to wear your TLD through this thing?

  9. bobbo, still pro-god huh? says:

    nobody–good catch. Let me amend: knowledge is power, after the leading cause of depression, and a short cut to the no fly list.

    Thank you.

  10. 1873 Colt says:

    Don’t fly.
    Don’t care.
    Don’t fly.
    I don’t care.
    La La La La la.

  11. Animby - just phoning it in says:

    #8 nobody – great minds. I guess. Before med school I ran the technical end of a cardiac catheterization lab. Since we were often standing right there next to the fluoroscope tube, we were required to wear two badges – one just for the lab and a second we were supposed to carry at all times. Like you said, to measure total exposure. (I wonder if THAT’s why my son has three eyes?) So, I, too, was wondering if you could wear your badge through the scanners. I’m betting you would not be allowed to. And, if you insisted, I’m betting you would not be allowed to fly. Who would win a mud wrasslin’ match between OSHA and TSA? Next time I fly home, I think I’ll grab one of the all-plastic badges (not even a metal spring in them) and see what happens.
    Double bonus: if they don’t stop me, I’ll be able to get an idea of how many rads they’re firing at my gonads. And, if they grope me instead, maybe my gonads will fire back!

  12. sargasso_c says:

    A fraction of the output of a drive-by car scanner. Those things can see inside of vans.

  13. Dallas says:


    Even I object to this intrusion of privacy of Dick(less) Cheney.

  14. Uncle Patso says:

    Caption from Dr. Suess
    “His heart was two sizes too small.”

  15. Yankinwaoz says:

    I thought I read somewhere that the TSA has banned their own staff from wearing dosimeters. Does anyone know if this is true? I know that if I worked for the TSA near one of these, I would want to know how much radiation I am being exposed to. I mean what if the machine is broken? How long before that gets detected and repaired? Days? Weeks? Months? Years?

  16. Hmeyers says:

    That pic is hilarious.

  17. Chrisbap says:

    Naturally, as a member of the public that flies a few times a year, I am concerned about how much radiation I am being exposed to. What surprises me is that more of the TSA workers aren’t screaming about this. They’re the one’s who have to stand next to the machines all day long. Are they that cowed by management to not complain, or is there some legal reason (vague security/classification concern) that they are not allowed to voice their complaints? Is OSHA allowed to get involved or does the government block them out with “security” rationalizations?

  18. Benjamin says:

    How would they detect a dosimeter? I wore one in the Navy and it was basically a plastic square the size of a compact flash disk. Put it in your pocket or tuck it into the top of your sock and no one could see it until after you got through the x-ray scanner. I bet the TSA goons would even know what one is.

  19. william graeve says:

    OMG… that woman in the photo is my MOM! I can’t blieve it???


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