Laser Based Department Of Homeland Security Scanner Removes Any Hope Or Expectation Of Personal Privacy – Can Detect Anything, Including What You Had For Breakfast, From 160 Feet Away – Expect Your Local Police To Have The Same Thing Soon – Developed With Aid Of Our Tax Dollars And CIA

July 11, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The Department of Homeland Security will soon be using a laser at airports that can detect everything about you from over 160-feet away.

Gizmodo reports a scanner that could read people at the molecular level has been invented. This laser-based scanner – which can be used 164-feet away — could read everything from a person’s adrenaline levels, to traces of gun powder on a person’s clothes, to illegal substances — and it can all be done without a physical search. It also could be used on multiple people at a time, eliminating random searches at airports.

The laser-based scanner is expected to be used in airports as soon as 2013, Gizmodo reports.

The scanner is called the Picosecond Programmable Laser. The device works by blasting its target with lasers which vibrate molecules that are then read by the machine that determine what substances a person has been exposed to. This could be Semtex explosives to the bacon and egg sandwich they had for breakfast that morning.

The inventor of this invasive technology is Genia Photonics. Active since 2009, they hold 30 patents on laser technology designed for scanning. In 2011, they formed a partnership with In-Q-Tel, a company chartered by the CIA and Congress to build “a bridge between the Agency and a new set of technology innovators.”

Genia Photonics wouldn’t be the only ones with similar technology as George Washington University developed something similar in 2008, according to Gizmodo. The Russians also developed something akin to the Picosecond Programmable laser. The creators of that scanner claim that “it is even able to detect traces of explosives left by fingerprints.”

But what makes Genia Photonics’ version so special is that the machine is more compact compared to the other devices and can still maintain its incredible range.

Although the technology could be used by “Big Brother,” Genia Photonics states that the device could be far more beneficial being used for medical purposes to check for cancer in real time, lipids detection, and patient monitoring.

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Hooker-Gate: Homeland Security Opens Second Investigation Into Secret Service Prostitution Scandal

May 1, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security is launching a separate investigation into the Secret Service prostitution scandal.

The “field work is beginning immediately,” acting Inspector General Charles Edwards said in a statement issued Monday.

The DHS review is in addition to an internal probe the Secret Service is already conducting as well as a military investigation into U.S. troops linked to the controversy.

The development comes as Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan faces a pair of deadlines Tuesday to answer dozens of questions about the issue.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-New York, submitted 50 questions to Sullivan, while House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and Rep. Elijah Cummings, the panel’s ranking Democrat, have 10 questions they want answered, including a precise time line of exactly what happened in Cartagena.

“The incident in Cartagena is troubling because Secret Service agents and officers made a range of bad decisions,” they said.

Issa and Cummings also sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta requesting details of the military investigation by May 8.

The incident last month before President Barack Obama’s trip to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia involved Secret Service and U.S. military members who allegedly consorted with prostitutes.

Twenty-four people have been linked to the scandal: 12 from the Secret Service and 12 from the military.

In their correspondence to Panetta, Issa and Cummings said security personnel showed an “alarming lack” of “character” and “judgment.”

Nine of the Secret Service members have resigned or are being forced out, and three others were cleared of serious misconduct, while a separate military investigation has yet to announce any measures against the members allegedly involved.

The U.S. Southern Command expects to finish questioning the 12 military personnel early this week before forwarding its findings to military lawyers for review, and then to Gen. Douglas Fraser, commanding general of the U.S. Southern Command, a Defense Department official said Monday.

On Friday, the Secret Service distributed new rules for its agents on assignment intended to prevent a repeat of such alleged misconduct, according to two government sources familiar with the resulting investigation.

Called Enhanced Standards of Conduct, the new guidelines given to all Secret Service personnel make clear that standards of behavior required in the United States apply on missions abroad, the sources said.

Effective immediately, the new standards require detailed briefings before each trip that will include safety precautions and any necessary designations of establishments and areas that are “off limits” for Secret Service personnel, the sources said.

Also in the new standards, foreigners are banned from Secret Service hotel rooms at all times, except for hotel staff and host nation law enforcement and government officials on official business, according to the officials, and all Secret Service personnel are prohibited from going to a “non-reputable establishment.”

The new standards specify that U.S. laws apply to Secret Service personnel when traveling, rendering invalid the excuse that specific activity is legal in the foreign country, the officials said.

In addition, the new guidelines allow moderate alcohol consumption when off duty, but prohibit alcohol consumption within 10 hours of reporting for duty or at any time when at the hotel where the protected official is staying, the officials explained.

An additional supervisor from the Office of Professional Responsibility will now accompany the “jump teams” that bring vehicles for motorcades and other transportation, the officials said. Agents involved in the Colombia incident were part of such a jump team.

Allegations of further transgressions by agents have emerged after the initial reports of heavy drinking and consorting with prostitutes last month before Obama arrived in Cartagena.

Recent claims include an account from El Salvador described by CNN affiliate Seattle TV station KIRO as very similar to the Colombia scandal, involving members of the Secret Service and other government agencies.

The KIRO report cited an unnamed U.S. government contractor who worked extensively with the Secret Service advance team in San Salvador before Obama’s trip there in March 2011.

The source said he was with about a dozen Secret Service agents and a few U.S. military specialists at a strip club in the city a few days before Obama arrived. The men drank heavily at the club, and most of them paid extra for access to a VIP section where they were provided sexual favors in return for cash, the source told the station.

The station reported that the strip club’s owner corroborated the allegations. The owner confirmed that a large number of agents, and some military escorts, “descended on his club” that week and were there at least three nights in a row, KIRO reported.

The owner said his club routinely takes care of high-ranking employees of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador as well as visiting agents from the FBI and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, KIRO said.

The government contractor source said he told the agents it was a “really bad idea” to take the strippers back to their hotel rooms, but several agents bragged that they “did this all the time” and “not to worry about it,” KIRO reported.

Panetta said Thursday that his department is not investigating any of its troops over the reported incident in El Salvador. But the State Department is questioning its embassy staff in El Salvador about the allegations, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday.

The Drug Enforcement Administration also is prepared to look into, “in an appropriate manner and immediately,” allegations that it deems “credible” regarding its agents in El Salvador, agency spokesman Rusty Payne said. But he added that, while the DEA has seen news reports, “we are unaware of any allegations of misconduct.”

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No Bond For US Border Patrol Agent Ricardo Montalvo And Girlfriend – Charged With Smuggling Guns To Mexican Drug Cartel Members

April 19, 2012

EL PASO, TEXAS – A federal judge on Wednesday denied bond for an El Paso Border Patrol agent and his girlfriend, both accused of smuggling guns to members of a Mexican drug cartel.

Federal agents arrested Border Patrol Agent Ricardo Montalvo, 28, and his girlfriend, Carla Gonzales-Ortiz, 29, last week after their indictment on conspiracy, firearms and smuggling charges. The couple showed no emotion after the judge announced his ruling.

An investigation into the allegations began in early 2011, after a man identified in court documents only as E.P. told agents he worked as a “straw purchaser” for Montalvo, who allegedly once tried to recruit other straw purchasers while wearing his Border Patrol uniform.

A straw purchaser is a person who fills out paperwork to buy a gun from a licensed dealer but is actually illegally buying the gun for someone else.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Mesa made his bond ruling during a detention hearing Wednesday morning. After reviewing the possible maximum punishment of more than 10 years in prison, Mesa determined that both Montalvo and Gonzales-Ortiz are flight risks.

During the hearing, Special Agent Jesus Lowenberg, who works for Customs and Border Protection’s Internal Affairs, testified that in the fall of 2010, Montalvo and Gonzales-Ortiz became involved in buying weapons, ammunition and accessories destined for Mexico. Montalvo recruited straw purchasers by paying them for buying weapons and other items, and paid them extra if they delivered
the items to Mexico, Lowenberg testified.

The couple’s indictment states Montalvo bought ammunition and firearms, such as AK-47-type pistols favored by Mexican drug cartels. He also allegedly bought about 20,000 rounds of ammo, 97 high-capacity magazines — including 10 100-round magazines for 5.56-mm rifles — and four 37-mm flare launchers that drug cartels can convert to grenade launchers.

During a five-week span beginning in November, Montalvo allegedly spent $11,200 on weapons and ammunition, but his take-home pay as a Border Patrol agent was only $42,000 a year.

Montalvo made hundreds of calls to Mexico between November 2010 and January 2011 on one of two cellphones he kept — one apparently for personal use, and the other for “illicit activity” –ÊLowenberg testified. During the same span, Montalvo was considered a “frequent” border crosser, making six or seven visits a month to Mexico.

In January 2011, agents executed two search warrants at the couple’s home on Emerald Point Drive in far East El Paso. There, the agents seized nine weapons, a handwritten ledger with descriptions of the weapons and price markups, and a photo from Montalvo’s computer showing Montalvo, dressed in plain clothes, holding a large wad of money. Topping the wad was a $100 bill. The photo was titled “Pay Day.”

At one point, Lowenberg testified, Montalvo threatened E. P., telling him, “You know what happens to snitches? Bad things happen to snitches.” Lowenberg also said Montalvo once patted down E. P. to find out whether he was wearing a wire.

During cross-examination, Montalvo’s attorney, Sib Abraham, pointed out that the ledger didn’t have any notes indicating the weapons were indeed sold to cartel members in Mexico, although Lowenberg in turn pointed out that the weapons Montalvo and Gonzales-Ortiz allegedly bought are favored by the cartels.

Lowenberg also testified that many of the statements made between E. P. and Montalvo weren’t recorded.

Abraham also pointed out that Montalvo has several family members who live in Mexico, including siblings and his father.

Gonzales-Ortiz was charged in the case after she attempted to buy two weapons in 2010 but was denied based on her expired immigrant visa status at the time. At the time the investigation began, Gonzales-Ortiz was living illegally in the U.S. with Montalvo.

She was later granted conditional permanent legal residency, and her parents are legal permanent residents who live in Ruidoso, her attorney Leonard Morales said during the hearing.

Montalvo and Gonzales-Ortiz have a 6-month-old baby, whom Gonzales-Ortiz was breast-feeding when she was arrested, Morales said.

During the hearing, Montalvo’s U.S. citizenship was also called into question but wasn’t the basis for the federal prosecutors’ request that he be detained without bond.

Lowenberg testified that in early 2011, he and two other agents visited Montalvo’s mother and stepfather in Brownsville, where Montalvo is originally from, to find out why Montalvo’s U.S. birth certificate is flagged as fraudulent by the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics.

Montalvo also has a Mexican birth certificate, Lowenberg said on the stand.

Lowenberg testified that Montalvo’s mother never verified whether Montalvo’s U.S. birth certificate is valid, but during cross-examination, Abraham pointed out Montalvo was enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2001 to 2005, when he was honorably discharged, and that Border Patrol agents are required to be U.S. citizens.

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Three Elderly Woman Strip Searched By TSA Agents

December 6, 2011

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – With age come such things as catheters, colostomy bags and adult diapers. Now add another indignity to getting old — having to drop your pants and show these things to a complete stranger.

Two women in their 80s put the Transportation Security Administration on the defensive this week by going public about their embarrassment during screenings in a private room at John F. Kennedy International Airport. One claimed she was forced to lower her pants and underwear in front of an agent so that her back brace could be inspected. Another said agents made her pull down her waistband to show her colostomy bag.

While not confirming some of the details, the TSA said a preliminary review shows officers followed the agency’s procedures in both cases. But experts said the potential for such searches will increase as the U.S. population ages and receives prosthetics and other medical devices, some of which cannot go through screening machines.
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“You have pacemakers, you have artificial hips, you have artificial knees,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “As we get older and we keep ourselves together, it’s going to take more and more surgery. There’s going to be more and more medical improvements, but that can create what appears to be a security issue.”

Prosthetic devices can set off metal detectors, and certain devices such as catheters and bags are visible on body scanners, making those passengers candidates for more thorough inspections. Metal detectors and wands can disrupt some devices such as implanted defibrillators, so those passengers must ask for pat-downs instead.

Ruth Sherman, 88, of Sunrise, Fla., said she was mortified when inspectors pulled her aside and asked about the bulge in her pants as she arrived for a flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Nov. 28.

“I said, ‘I have a bag here,'” she said on Monday, pointing to the bulge, which is bigger or smaller depending on what she eats. “They didn’t understand.”

She said they escorted her to another room where two female agents “made me lower my sweatpants, and I was really very humiliated.” She said she stood with her arms and legs outstretched, warning the agents not to touch her colostomy bag. Touching the bag can cause pain, she said.

“It’s degrading. It’s like someone raped you,” Sherman said. “They didn’t know how to handle a human being.”

The next day, agents took 85-year-old Lenore Zimmerman, of Long Beach, N.Y., into a private room to remove her back brace for screening after she decided against going through a scanning machine because of her heart defibrillator. Zimmerman said she had to raise her blouse and lower her pants and underwear for a female TSA agent.

Bruce Zimmerman, her son, said the agents “should’ve patted her down.”

“To have her pants and underpants pulled down is just beyond humiliating,” he said Monday. “This is my mother we are talking about.”

The TSA released a statement Tuesday morning, saying, “TSA screens nearly 1.8 million passengers each day to ensure the safety of the traveling public. We do not conduct “strip searches” as part of passenger screening. Our officers are committed to treating every passenger with dignity and respect and we take complaints seriously. TSA is currently reviewing recent allegations of passengers who flew out of JFK. Our preliminary review of each of these claims indicates all screening procedures were followed.”

The agency insists that security concerns come first, even if it means getting into passengers’ drawers. In 2009, a Nigerian man tried to blow up a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day with explosives in his underpants.

“Terrorists and their targets may also range in age,” the agency argued in a blog post after Zimmerman went public. It cited the November arrest of four Georgia men, ages 65 to 73, on charges of plotting an attack with the poison ricin. Prosecutors said the men were part of a fringe militia group.

Last June, the daughter of a 95-year-old woman said TSA agents wouldn’t let her mother board a flight from Fort Walton Beach, Fla., to Detroit because her wet adult diaper set off alarms.

A TSA screener said Lena Reppert had a suspicious spot on her adult diaper, according to her daughter, Jean Weber. Weber ultimately took off the wet diaper so Reppert could be cleared in time for their flight.

The TSA said its inspectors handled the situation correctly and didn’t ask Reppert to remove her diaper.

Such cases raise serious privacy questions, said Chris Calabrese, a legislative expert with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It’s a pretty fundamental invasion of privacy when you have to take your clothes off,” Calabrese said.

Even lawmakers have complained about their treatment. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who has an artificial knee, told fellow members of a congressional committee that she dreads running into a certain TSA agent when it comes time for a pat-down at the St. Louis airport.

“I see her coming … I like, you know, just tense up, because I know it’s going to be ugly in terms of the way she conducts her pat-downs,” McCaskill said.

The TSA says it has been trying to tailor its screening procedures for different types of passengers. In September it eliminated pat-downs for most children under 12 because of complaints from parents. In October it began testing an express screening program for frequent fliers at four airports.

The agency has formed an advisory committee of 70 disability groups to help adapt its screening techniques.

TSA chief John Pistole has said the agency is trying to train screeners to more quickly identify medical devices, such as catheters, to save passengers from embarrassment. He also said the agency might give preference to senior citizens going through the screening lines.

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Department Of Homeland Security Funds Pissed Away On Snow Cone Machines

December 6, 2011

STANTON, MICHIGAN – The United States is fighting terrorism – one snow cone at a time.

Montcalm County recently received a $900 Arctic Blast Sno-Cone machine.

The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission (WMSRDC) is a federal- and state-designated agency responsible for managing and administrating the homeland security program in Montcalm County and 12 other counties.

The WMSRDC recently purchased and transferred homeland security equipment to these counties – including 13 snow cone machines at a total cost of $11,700.

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US Government Glossed Over Airport Scanner Cancer Concerns

November 1, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Look for a PBS NewsHour story on X-ray body scanners, reported in conjunction with ProPublica, to air later this month.

On Sept. 23, 1998, a panel of radiation safety experts gathered at a Hilton hotel in Maryland to evaluate a new device that could detect hidden weapons and contraband. The machine, known as the Secure 1000, beamed X-rays at people to see underneath their clothing.

One after another, the experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration raised questions about the machine because it violated a longstanding principle in radiation safety — that humans shouldn’t be X-rayed unless there is a medical benefit.

“I think this is really a slippery slope,” said Jill Lipoti, who was the director of New Jersey’s radiation protection program. The device was already deployed in prisons; what was next, she and others asked — courthouses, schools, airports? “I am concerned … with expanding this type of product for the traveling public,” said another panelist, Stanley Savic, the vice president for safety at a large electronics company. “I think that would take this thing to an entirely different level of public health risk.”

The machine’s inventor, Steven W. Smith, assured the panelists that it was highly unlikely that the device would see widespread use in the near future. At the time, only 20 machines were in operation in the entire country.

“The places I think you are not going to see these in the next five years is lower-security facilities, particularly power plants, embassies, courthouses, airports and governments,” Smith said. “I would be extremely surprised in the next five to 10 years if the Secure 1000 is sold to any of these.”

Today, the United States has begun marching millions of airline passengers through the X-ray body scanners, parting ways with countries in Europe and elsewhere that have concluded that such widespread use of even low-level radiation poses an unacceptable health risk. The government is rolling out the X-ray scanners despite having a safer alternative that the Transportation Security Administration says is also highly effective.

A ProPublica/PBS NewsHour investigation of how this decision was made shows that in post-9/11 America, security issues can trump even long-established medical conventions. The final call to deploy the X-ray machines was made not by the FDA, which regulates drugs and medical devices, but by the TSA, an agency whose primary mission is to prevent terrorist attacks.

Research suggests that anywhere from six to 100 U.S. airline passengers each year could get cancer from the machines. Still, the TSA has repeatedly defined the scanners as “safe,” glossing over the accepted scientific view that even low doses of ionizing radiation — the kind beamed directly at the body by the X-ray scanners — increase the risk of cancer.

“Even though it’s a very small risk, when you expose that number of people, there’s a potential for some of them to get cancer,” said Kathleen Kaufman, the former radiation management director in Los Angeles County, who brought the prison X-rays to the FDA panel’s attention.

About 250 X-ray scanners are currently in U.S. airports, along with 264 body scanners that use a different technology, a form of low-energy radio waves known as millimeter waves.

Robin Kane, the TSA’s assistant administrator for security technology, said that no one would get cancer because the amount of radiation the X-ray scanners emit is minute. Having both technologies is important to create competition, he added.

“It’s a really, really small amount relative to the security benefit you’re going to get,” Kane said. “Keeping multiple technologies in play is very worthwhile for the U.S. in getting that cost-effective solution — and being able to increase the capabilities of technology because you keep everyone trying to get the better mousetrap.”

Determined to fill a critical hole in its ability to detect explosives, the TSA plans to have one or the other operating at nearly every security lane in America by 2014. The TSA has designated the scanners for “primary” screening: Officers will direct every passenger, including children, to go through either a metal detector or a body scanner, and the passenger’s only alternative will be to request a physical pat-down.

How did the United States swing from considering such X-rays taboo to deeming them safe enough to scan millions of people a year?

A new wave of terrorist attacks using explosives concealed on the body, coupled with the scanners’ low dose of radiation, certainly convinced many radiation experts that the risk was justified.

But other factors helped the machines gain acceptance.

Because of a regulatory Catch-22, the airport X-ray scanners have escaped the oversight required for X-ray machines used in doctors’ offices and hospitals. The reason is that the scanners do not have a medical purpose, so the FDA cannot subject them to the rigorous evaluation it applies to medical devices.

Still, the FDA has limited authority to oversee some non-medical products and can set mandatory safety regulations. But the agency let the scanners fall under voluntary standards set by a nonprofit group heavily influenced by industry.

As for the TSA, it skipped a public comment period required before deploying the scanners. Then, in defending them, it relied on a small body of unpublished research to insist the machines were safe, and ignored contrary opinions from U.S. and European authorities that recommended precautions, especially for pregnant women. Finally, the manufacturer, Rapiscan Systems, unleashed an intense and sophisticated lobbying campaign, ultimately winning large contracts.

Both the FDA and TSA say due diligence has been done to assure the scanners’ safety. Rapiscan says it won the contract because its technology is superior at detecting threats. While the TSA says X-ray and millimeter-wave scanners are both effective, Germany decided earlier this year not to roll out millimeter-wave machines after finding they produced too many false positives.

Most of the news coverage on body scanners has focused on privacy, because the machines can produce images showing breasts and buttocks. But the TSA has since installed software to make the images less graphic. While some accounts have raised the specter of radiation, this is the first report to trace the history of the scanners and document the gaps in regulation that allowed them to avoid rigorous safety evaluation.

Little research on cancer risk of body scanners

Humans are constantly exposed to ionizing radiation, a form of energy that has been shown to strip electrons from atoms, damage DNA and mutate genes, potentially leading to cancer. Most radiation comes from radon, a gas produced from naturally decaying elements in the ground. Another major source is cosmic radiation from outer space. Many common items, such as smoke detectors, contain tiny amounts of radioactive material, as do exit signs in schools and office buildings.

As a result, the cancer risk from any one source of radiation is often small. Outside of nuclear accidents, such as that at Japan’s Fukushima plant, and medical errors, the health risk comes from cumulative exposure.

In Rapiscan’s Secure 1000 scanner, which uses ionizing radiation, a passenger stands between two large blue boxes and is scanned with a pencil X-ray beam that rapidly moves left to right and up and down the body. In the other machine, ProVision, made by defense contractor L-3 Communications, a passenger enters a chamber that looks like a round phone booth and is scanned with millimeter waves, a form of low-energy radio waves, which have not been shown to strip electrons from atoms or cause cancer.

Only a decade ago, many states prohibited X-raying a person for anything other than a medical exam. Even after 9/11, such non-medical X-raying remains taboo in most of the industrialized world. In July, the European Parliament passed a resolution that security “scanners using ionizing radiation should be prohibited” because of health risks. Although the United Kingdom uses the X-ray machine for limited purposes, such as when passengers trigger the metal detector, most developed countries have decided to forgo body scanners altogether or use only the millimeter-wave machines.

While the research on medical X-rays could fill many bookcases, the studies that have been done on the airport X-ray scanners, known as backscatters, fill a file no more than a few inches thick. None of the main studies cited by the TSA has been published in a peer-reviewed journal, the gold standard for scientific research.

Those tests show that the Secure 1000 delivers an extremely low dose of radiation, less than 10 microrems. The dose is roughly one-thousandth of a chest X-ray and equivalent to the cosmic radiation received in a few minutes of flying at typical cruising altitude. The TSA has used those measurements to say the machines are “safe.”

Most of what researchers know about the long-term health effects of low levels of radiation comes from studies of atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By charting exposure levels and cancer cases, researchers established a linear link that shows the higher the exposure, the greater risk of cancer.

Some scientists argue the danger is exaggerated. They claim low levels stimulate the repair mechanism in cells, meaning that a little radiation might actually be good for the body.

But in the authoritative report on low doses of ionizing radiation, published in 2006, the National Academy of Sciences reviewed the research and concluded that the preponderance of research supported the linear link. It found “no compelling evidence” that there is any level of radiation at which the risk of cancer is zero.

Radiation experts say the dose from the backscatter is negligible when compared to naturally occurring background radiation. Speaking to the 1998 FDA panel, Smith, the inventor, compared the increased risk to choosing to visit Denver instead of San Diego or the decision to wear a sweater versus a sport coat.

Using the linear model, even such trivial amounts increase the number of cancer cases. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a radiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, estimated that the backscatters would lead to only six cancers over the course of a lifetime among the approximately 100 million people who fly every year. David Brenner, director of Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research, reached a higher number — potentially 100 additional cancers every year.

“Why would we want to put ourselves in this uncertain situation where potentially we’re going to have some cancer cases?” Brenner asked. “It makes me think, really, why don’t we use millimeter waves when we don’t have so much uncertainty?”

But even without the machines, Smith-Bindman said, the same 100 million people would develop 40 million cancers over the course of their lifetimes. In this sea of cancer cases, it would be impossible to identify the patients whose cancer is linked to the backscatter machines.

How the scanners avoided strict oversight

Although they deliberately expose humans to radiation, the airport X-ray scanners are not medical devices, so they are not subject to the stringent regulations required for diagnostic X-ray machines.

If they were, the manufacturer would have to submit clinical data showing safety and effectiveness and be approved through a rigorous process by the FDA. If the machines contained radioactive material, they would have to report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

But because it didn’t fit into either category, the Secure 1000 was classified as an electronic product. The FDA does not review or approve the safety of such products. However, manufacturers must provide a brief radiation safety report explaining the dose and notify the agency if any overexposure is discovered. According to the FDA, no such incidents have been reported.

Under its limited oversight of electronic products, the FDA could issue mandatory safety regulations. But it didn’t do so, a decision that flows from its history of supervising electronics.

Regulation of electronic products in the United States began after a series of scandals. From the 1930s to the 1950s, it was common for a child to go to a shoe store and stand underneath an X-ray machine known as a fluoroscope to check whether a shoe was the right fit. But after cases arose of a shoe model’s leg being amputated and store clerks developing dermatitis from putting their hands in the beam to adjust the shoe, the practice ended.

In 1967, General Electric recalled 90,000 color televisions that had been sold without the proper shielding, potentially exposing viewers to dangerous levels of radiation. The scandal prompted the creation of the federal Bureau of Radiological Health.

“That ultimately led to a lot more aggressive program,” said John Villforth, who was the director of the bureau. Over the next decade, the bureau created federal safety standards for televisions, medical X-rays, microwaves, tanning beds, even laser light shows.

But in 1982, the FDA merged the radiological health bureau into its medical-device unit.

“I was concerned that if they were to combine the two centers into one, it would probably mean the ending of the radiation program because the demands for medical-device regulation were becoming increasingly great,” said Villforth, who was put in charge of the new Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “As I sort of guessed, the radiation program took a big hit.”

The new unit became stretched for scarce resources as it tried to deal with everything from tongue depressors to industrial lasers. The government used to have 500 people examining the safety of electronic products emitting radiation. It now has about 20 people. In fact, the FDA has not set a mandatory safety standard for an electronic product since 1985.

As a result, there is an FDA safety regulation for X-rays scanning baggage — but none for X-rays scanning people at airports.

Meanwhile, scientists began developing backscatter X-rays, in which the waves are reflected off an object to a detector, for the security industry.

The Secure 1000 people scanner was invented by Smith in 1991 and later sold to Rapiscan, then a small security firm based in southern California. The first major customer was the California prison system, which began scanning visitors to prevent drugs and weapons from getting in. But the state pulled the devices in 2001 after a group of inmates’ wives filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the prisons of violating their civil liberties.

The U.S. Customs Service deployed backscatter machines for several years but in limited fashion and with strict supervision. Travelers suspected of carrying contraband had to sign a consent form, and Customs policy prohibited the scanning of pregnant women. The agency abandoned them in 2006, not for safety reasons but because smugglers had learned where the machines were installed and adapted their methods to avoid them, said Rick Whitman, the radiation safety officer for Customs until 2008.

Yet, even this limited application of X-ray scanning for security dismayed radiation safety experts. In 1999, the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors, a nongovernmental organization, passed a resolution recommending that such screening be stopped immediately.

The backscatter machines had also caught the attention of the 1998 FDA advisory panel, which recommended that the FDA establish government safety regulations for people scanners. Instead, the FDA decided to go with a voluntary standard set by a trade group largely comprising manufacturers and government agencies that wanted to use the machines.

“Establishing a mandatory standard takes an enormous amount of resources and could take a decade to publish,” said Dan Kassiday, a longtime radiation safety engineer at the FDA.

In addition, since the mid-1990s, Congress has directed federal safety agencies to use industry standards wherever possible instead of creating their own.

The FDA delegated the task of establishing the voluntary standards to the American National Standards Institute. A private nonprofit that sets standards for many industries, ANSI convened a committee of the Health Physics Society, a trade group of radiation safety specialists. It was made up of 15 people, including six representatives of manufacturers of X-ray body scanners and five from U.S. Customs and the California prison system. There were few government regulators and no independent scientists.

In contrast, the FDA advisory panel was also made up of 15 people — five representatives from government regulatory agencies, four outside medical experts, one labor representative and five experts from the electronic products industry, but none from the scanner manufacturers themselves.

“I am more comfortable with having a regulatory agency — either federal or the states — develop the standards and enforce them,” Kaufman said. Such regulators, she added, “have only one priority, and that’s public health.”

A representative of the Health Physics Society committee said that was its main priority as well. Most of the committee’s evaluation was completed before 9/11. The standard was published in 2002 and updated with minor changes in 2009.

Ed Bailey, chief of California’s radiological health branch at the time, said he was the lone voice opposing the use of the machines. But after 9/11, his views changed about what was acceptable in pursuit of security.

“The whole climate of their use has changed,” Bailey said. “The consequence of something being smuggled on an airplane is far more serious than somebody getting drugs into a prison.”

Are Inspections Independent?

While the TSA doesn’t regulate the machines, it must seek public input before making major changes to security procedures. In July, a federal appeals court ruled that the agency failed to follow rule-making procedures and solicit public comment before installing body scanners at airports across the country. TSA spokesman Michael McCarthy said the agency couldn’t comment on ongoing litigation.

The TSA asserts there is no need to take additional precautions for sensitive populations, even pregnant women, following the guidance of the congressionally chartered National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements.

But other authorities have come to the opposite conclusion. A report by France’s radiation safety agency specifically warned against screening pregnant women with the X-ray devices. In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration’s medical institute has advised pregnant pilots and flight attendants that the machine, coupled with their time in the air, could put them over their occupational limit for radiation exposure and that they might want to adjust their work schedules accordingly.

No similar warning has been issued for pregnant frequent fliers.

Even as people scanners became more widespread, government oversight actually weakened in some cases.

Inspections of X-ray equipment in hospitals and industry are the responsibility of state regulators — and before 9/11, many states also had the authority to randomly inspect machines in airports. But that ended when the TSA took over security checkpoints from the airlines.

Instead, annual inspections are done by Rapiscan, the scanners’ manufacturer.

“As a regulator, I think there’s a conflict of interest in having the manufacturer and the facility inspect themselves,” Kaufman said.

Last year, in reaction to public anger from members of Congress, passengers and advocates, the TSA contracted with the Army Public Health Command to do independent radiation surveys. But email messages obtained in a lawsuit brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil liberties group, raise questions about the independence of the Army surveys.

One email sent by TSA health and safety director Jill Segraves shows that local TSA officials were given advance notice and allowed to “pick and choose” which systems the Army could check.

That email also suggests that Segraves considered the Army inspectors a valuable public-relations asset: “They are our radiation myth busters,” she wrote to a local security director.

Some TSA screeners are concerned about their own radiation exposure from the backscatters, but the TSA has not allowed them to wear badges that could measure it, said Milly Rodriguez, health and safety specialist for the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents TSA officers.

“We have heard from members that sometimes the technicians tell them that the machines are emitting more radiation than is allowed,” she said.

McCarthy, the TSA spokesman, said the machines are physically incapable of producing radiation above the industry standard. In the email, he said, the inspections allow screeners to ask questions about radiation and address concerns about specific machines.

The company’s lobbying campaign

While the TSA maintains that the body scanners are essential to preventing attacks on airplanes, it only began rolling them out nine years after 9/11.

After the attempted shoe-bombing in December 2001, the federal government conducted a trial of a Rapiscan backscatter at the Orlando International Airport. But the revealing images drew protests that the machines amounted to a virtual strip search.

The TSA considered the scanners again after two Chechen women blew up Russian airliners in 2004. Facing a continued outcry over privacy, the TSA instead moved forward with a machine known as a “puffer” because it released several bursts of air on the passengers’ clothes and analyzed the dislodged particles for explosives. But after discovering the machines were ineffective in the field and difficult to maintain, the TSA canceled the program in 2006.

Around that time, Rapiscan began to beef up its lobbying on Capitol Hill. It opened a Washington, D.C., office and, according to required disclosures, more than tripled its lobbying expenditures in two years, from less than $130,000 in 2006 to nearly $420,000 in 2008. It hired former legislative aides to Rep. David Price, D-N.C., then chairman of the homeland security appropriations subcommittee, and to Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss.

It started a political action committee and began contributing heavily to Price; Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., then head of the homeland security committee; Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., also on that committee; and Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., the top Republican on the Senate appropriations committee.

In addition, it opened a new North Carolina plant in Price’s district and expanded its operations in Ocean Springs, Miss., and at its headquarters in Torrance, Calif., in Harman’s district.

“Less than a month after U.S. Senator Trent Lott and other local leaders helped officially open Rapiscan Systems’ new Ocean Springs factory,” Lott’s office announced in a news release in late 2006, “the company has won a $9.1 million Department of Defense contract.”

But Rapiscan still hadn’t landed a major contract to roll out its X-ray body scanners in commercial airports. Indeed, in 2007, with new privacy filters in place, the TSA began a trial of millimeter-wave and backscatter machines at several major airports, after which the agency opted to go with the millimeter-wave machines. The agency said health concerns weren’t a factor.

But with the 2009 federal stimulus package, which provided $300 million for checkpoint security machines, the TSA began deploying backscatters as well. Rapiscan won a $173 million, multiyear contract for the backscatters, with an initial $25 million order for 150 systems to be made in Mississippi.

Three other companies — American Science & Engineering, Tek84 Engineering Group and Valley Forge Composite Technologies — make X-ray scanners, but none are used by the TSA.Peter Kant, executive vice president for Rapiscan, said the company expanded its lobbying because its business was increasingly affected by the government.

“There’s a lot of misinformation about the technology; there’s a lot of questions about how various inspection technologies work,” he said. “And we needed a way to be able to provide that information and explain the technology and how it works, and that’s what lobbying is.”

The lawmakers either declined to comment or said the lobbying, campaign contributions and local connections had nothing to do with the TSA’s decision to purchase Rapiscan machines. The TSA said the contract was bid competitively and that the winning machines had to undergo comprehensive research and testing phases before being deployed.

While the scanners were appearing in more and more airports, few passengers went through them, because they were used mostly for random screening or to resolve alarms from the metal detector.

That changed on Christmas Day 2009, when a Nigerian man flying to Detroit tried to ignite a pouch of explosives hidden in his underwear.

Following the foiled “Great Balls of Fire” suicide bombing, as the New York Postdubbed it, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ramped up plans to roll out body scanners nationwide. Members of Congress and aviation security experts also pushed heavily for the TSA to install more machines that could detect explosives on passengers.

Harman sent a letter to Napolitano, noting that Rapiscan was in her district.

“I urge you to expedite installation of scanning machines in key airports,” Harman wrote in the letter, which was first reported by the website CounterPunch. “If you need additional funds, I am ready to help.”

Michael Chertoff, who had supported body scanners while secretary of Homeland Security, appeared frequently on TV advocating their use. In one interview, he disclosed that his consulting firm, Chertoff Group, had done work for Rapiscan, sparking accusations that he was trying to profit from his time as a government servant.

Despite the criticism, little has been revealed about the relationship. Rapiscan dismissed it, asserting that the consulting work had to do with international cargo and port security issues — not aviation.

“There was nothing that was not above board,” Kant said. “His comments about passenger screening and these machines were simply his own and was nothing that we had engaged the Chertoff Group for.”

In a statement, the Chertoff Group said it “played no role in the sale of whole body imaging technology to TSA” and that Chertoff “was in no way compensated for his public statements.”

A public records request by ProPublica turned up empty: The Department of Homeland Security said it could not find any correspondence to or from Chertoff related to body scanners. DHS also said Chertoff did not use email.

The TSA plans to deploy 1,275 backscatter and millimeter-wave scanners covering more than half its security lanes by the end of 2012 and 1,800 covering nearly all the lanes by 2014.

According to annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, OSI Systems, the parent company of Rapiscan, has seen revenue from its security division more than double since 2006 to nearly $300 million in fiscal year 2011.

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Department Of Homeland Security Steps Up Monitoring Of Social Networks For “Social Unrest” – Plans To Use US Military To “Restore Order” (Combat US Citizens)

November 1, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The wave of civil unrest that has swept the globe over the past year has prompted the Department of Homeland Security to step up its monitoring of Twitter and other social networks in a bid to pre-empt any sign of social dislocation within the United States.
Twitter User

“Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Caryn Wagner said the use of such technology in uprisings that started in December in Tunisia shocked some officials into attention and prompted questions of whether the U.S. needs to do a better job of monitoring domestic social networking activity,” reports the Associated Press.

Wagner announced that the federal agency would implement new guidelines that would focus on “gleaning information from sites such as Twitter and Facebook for law enforcement purposes.”

Under the new framework, when the department receives information about a “potential threat,” it will then ask its contractors to look for relevant search references using “open source” information.

Although it’s somewhat naive to think that Homeland Security wasn’t already scanning the likes of Facebook and Twitter for social trends and signs of civil unrest, the fact that its now being announced publicly illustrates the increasing concern that riots which have hit the Middle East and Europe over the last 18 months will soon manifest themselves inside the United States.

Indeed, US law enforcement bodies are already scanning Twitter and Facebook for signs of unrest. Having launched a specialized unit to focus on gleaning clues from social media websites, the NYPD Disorder Control Unit recently brought together police from all five of the city’s boroughs to rehearse what the response would be “should out-of-control riots break out here”.

Social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter came in for harsh condemnation following the UK riots, with Prime Minister David Cameron advocating authorities have the power to shut down access during times of public disorder, mimicking the Communist Chinese system of Internet censorship, which is used to curtail political protests.

Although the Occupy Wall Street movement has been the only real expression of civil unrest in the United States thus far, a worsening economic climate almost guarantees the prospect of an increase in social disorder across the globe.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), a prominent UN agency, warned yesterday that the world faces an imminent “dramatic downturn” in employment, and a new recession which in turn would lead to greater social unrest, particularly in European countries.

In preparation for potential riots inside the United States, the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Institute issued a report in November 2008 entitled Known Unknowns: Unconventional Strategic Shocks in Defense Strategy Development.

The report lays out the strategy for how authorities would respond to “purposeful domestic resistance,” wherein U.S. troops would be deployed domestically to counter civil unrest. The report was issued weeks after the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, and included a potential “economic collapse” as one of the scenarios under which troops would be used inside the U.S. to restore order.

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