The full body scanner technology, which produces a semi-nude image of a persons body, has been controversial since they were first introduced. While the advocates for it called the scanners safe, that the images were not clear enough to be considered intrusive, privacy advocates have taken, at times, odd measures to protect the scanners.
What has been neglected in much of the media attention, however, is the safety of these scanners. The radiation used by the models of machines built by OSI Systems has been called into question, with serious concerns about the levels of dosage used. Late last year, OSI failed to meet critical safety requirements, and on Friday, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) announced their termination of the OSI contract. While OSI is not the sole supplier, its systems were under the most scrutiny due to the clarity and detail they provided.
This, of course, comes as a low blow to their chief lobbyist, former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff, who was the administrator who signed the deal between the TSA and OSI in the first place. His current position, acting as OSI’s main government contact and spokesperson, is now being called into question. The levels of ethics violations, of benefiting directly from a government contract he arranged and signed, has already made the OSI scanners something of a turkey in the realm of government pork. The TSA’s termination of the contract puts an end to this clear violation of ethical standards, as well as the privacy and safety concerns of the scanners themselves.
This is not the end of full body scanning technology for TSA, but it is the end of OSI’s involvement with the program. With the contract’s termination, OSI followed up with the announcement that it was eliminating the production of the software and machines entirely, in the wake of allegations that it falsified testing data in order to secure the contact with the TSA.
The assurance of safety in air travel is something that concerns everyone. The debate over which tactics work best continues to be analyzed in the halls of government. But one thing we can be certain of: we will not be seeing OSI systems in future debates over what is best in ensuring our safety when we fly.
Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Nathaniel Downes is the son of a former state representative of New Hampshire, now living in Seattle Washington.
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