The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has announced that U.S. airports will soon discontinue their use of controversial full-body scanners which reveal nude images of passengers as they pass through the machine. According to Bloomberg News, OSI Systems, the company that makes the scanners, was unable to write a software program that would cover passengers’ genitals.
The TSA has terminated its $5 million contract with OSI’s Rapiscan unit, which was awarded to the company with a software fix in mind. Head TSA administrator John Pistole determined that the company will not be able to meet a deadline imposed by Congress to make the scans less invasive and revealing.
Privacy advocates have likened the machines to electronic strip-searches that constitute an unreasonable invasion of passengers’ privacy. In 2010, engineering professors at University of California at San Francisco sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration questioning the safety of the machines due to the type and amount of radiation they produce. The group, led by Dr. John Sedat, said that the safety of the machines had never been independently verified and that the TSA was being reckless with passengers’ health by relying on the manufacturers’ promise that the machines are safe.
The TSA removed 76 of the Rapiscan machines from the nation’s busiest airports in 2011. The remaining 174 machines will now be decommissioned. The TSA plans to switch over to scanners manufactured by a company called L-3 Communications Holdings, which use radio signals rather than X-rays to scan passengers for weapons.
Allegations have surfaced that OSI personnel faked data on the efficacy of Rapiscan’s initial software fix. In November, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) wrote to Pistole alleging that Rapiscan “may have attempted to defraud the government by knowingly manipulating an operational test.” Rogers, then head of the House Transportation Security subcommittee, said that he had received a tip that the company was falsifying test results on its initial software fix for the passenger nudity problem.
OSI CEO Deepak Chopra denied that the company has manipulated data. The decommissioned machines, he said, will be used for security in other government buildings.
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