Sunday, 21 November 2010
CASE 189 - TSA - Transportation Security Administration
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security responsible for security in all modes of transportation in the U.S.The TSA was created as part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, sponsored by Donald Young in the house and Ernest Hollings in the senate, passed by the 107th U.S. Congress, and signed into law by President George W. Bush on November 19, 2001. Originally part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the TSA was moved to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 25, 2003. John S. Pistole is the fifth TSA Administrator, having replaced former head Kip Hawley.
For fiscal year 2008, the TSA had a budget of roughly $6.8 billion. Congress appropriated $4 billion and law mandated an additional $500 million, while fees brought in the remaining $2.3 billion.
Beginning in November 2010, TSA added screening procedures, including backscatter X-ray scans that display nude images of passengers' bodies to TSA screeners and pat-downs in which TSA screeners touch passengers' breasts, buttocks, and genitals.
As of November 23, the new procedures were being used in many but not all of the U.S. airports in which TSA operates. At the airports that use the new procedures, passengers are directed to the x-ray scanners at TSA security checkpoints. Passengers who enter the scanner are told to hold their hands above their heads for a few seconds while front and back x-ray images are taken. They are then told to wait while a TSA officer in another room reviews the images for various materials. (TSA officials say their employees are forbidden to save the images. They also say that the scanning systems cannot do so. As of November 2010, this has not been independently verified; images from similar machines operated by the U.S. Marshals have been published on the Internet.) Some passengers who pass through the scanner are subsequently told to submit to the newly invasive patdown by a TSA officer of the passenger's gender. These include some who are determined to be carrying various materials, and some chosen at random. A passenger who declines to be scanned or who sets off metal detectors is also told to submit to the patdown.Passengers who decline both the x-ray scan and the patdown can leave the screening area, but may not return without being arrested. TSA officials said they created the measures in reaction to the "underwear bomber" who smuggled plastic explosives onto an airplane in December 2009. TSA officials repeatedly declined to spell out just what the newly invasive pat-downs entailed. Instead, the public learned about the extent of the searches from passengers who posted their stories on the Internet, and news reports following up on them.
TSA Administrator John Pistole and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano meet with President Obama in the Oval Office; October 2010. On November 23, 2010, TSA officials said that some U.S. government officials were being allowed to skip the scanner/invasive patdown if they were traveling with government bodyguards. Among the officials are executive-branch leaders such as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and FBI Director Robert Mueller and congressional leaders such as Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner. Law-enforcement officials are also allowed to skip the invasive screening after filling out some paperwork.
TSA pat-downs could spread sexually-transmitted disease and contribute to pandemics
Concerns about scanners
Some people are concerned with exposure to radiation emitted by backscatter X-rays, and fear being exposed to a "dangerous level of radiation if they get backscattered too often". The backscatter X-ray emits a type of ionizing radiation that damages chemical bonds. Ionizing radiation is considered a non-threshold carcinogen, but it is difficult to quantify the risk of low radiation exposures. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created a webpage providing backscatter X-ray scan safety information. However, biochemists and biophysicists at the University of California, San Francisco, in a May 2010 letter to the head of the TSA, raised concerns about the validity of indirect comparisons the FDA used in evaluating backscatter x-ray machine safety, asking that additional data be made public. The data was made public.