recommended reading

DHS agrees to outside study on cancer risks of airport body scanners

Erik S. Lesser/AP

The Transportation Security Administration has tapped the National Academy of Sciences to probe the health risks of body scans to passengers and pilots after years of pressure from civil liberties groups and Congress. The study is limited to radiation and safety testing, and will not examine the privacy implications of the X-ray machines, according to a new contracting notice.

An academy committee will review the Homeland Security Department’s current procedures for measuring radiation doses people receive from the technology systems, along with previous studies. It is unclear whether the experts are expected to report on government tests or outside experiments. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has taken legal action to obtain DHS records on TSA safety analyses and third-party studies.

The academy will assess “whether exposures comply with applicable health and safety standards” for passengers and employees, the Homeland Security officials state. In 2010, the Allied Pilots Association urged its members to refuse body scans partly due to scientific results showing the machines might cause cancer.

The study also will examine the extent to which safety interlocks and other system controls, as well as operations and maintenance “are appropriate to prevent overexposures.”

Homeland Security officials explicitly state the review will not address the legal, cultural or privacy consequences of the technology.

Some civil liberties organizations on Friday noted other related variables that the review won’t tackle.  The study “also won't address whether scanners have actually made us safer—whether the high economic and non-monetary costs associated with scanners are warranted,” Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Jennifer Lynch said. “It's also appalling that TSA has waited until now—three years after it started to roll them out in airports—to conduct this kind of study.”

Earlier this year, the House and Senate introduced legislation calling for an independent laboratory to investigate the health repercussions of the machines.

"We have confidence in the ability of the National Academy of Sciences to conduct an independent and fair assessment,” EPIC President Marc Rotenberg said on Friday, adding that the group is “pleased” the safety evaluation is happening.

He added, however, that "at some point, we hope there will also be an independent assessment of whether travelers are given the opportunity to opt-out of scanning as our case also required."

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.