TSA Removing X-ray Full Body Scanners

Anaheim, CA: Good news! As a result of strong community protests and Court actions, the TSA is now removing the X-ray full body scanners that displayed the nude picture of a passenger. Instead it is going to use the MM wave scanners with updated software  that displays only the suspected areas on a generalized outline of the human body. These machines use non-ionizing radiations that are not as harmful as the X-rays which are ionizing radiations that can cause cancer and other health problems, says a message of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. It adds:

The removal of the backscatter scanners  is a big victory for all people who are concerned with dignity and modesty. For the past four years the Shura Council as well as the Fiqh Council of North America had strongly protested the use of the nude scanners on moral grounds and privacy concerns.

Lesson Learned: We must stand up for what is right and should not surrender to the forces of wrong.

"The TSA will replace old body scanners with the new ones  at all airports nationwide by the summer of 2013, " said Doug Rae, Assistant Field Service Director of TSA at Los Angeles Airport. After June of 2013, all airports will only have metal detectors and MM wave scanners - also known as L3 scanners .

In a meeting with the TSA on January 30th, a delegation of the Shura Council discussed the change and saw the new machines in action. "We welcome this change and appreciate the TSA for taking our concerns seriously," said Dr Muzammil Siddiqi, Chairman of the Islamic Shura Council. The delegation also raised issues of concern. 

  • The new machines do have a very high rate of false alarms. TSA declined to share their data but published reports indicate that the rate may be as high as 54%. In our own observation at the TSA meeting we saw an even higher rate. 
  • When the machine shows an object of concern, the passenger is patted down. However this should be limited to the area shown on the screen and not a full body pat down--- unless the machine shows a large number (TSA said there is a threshold but did not reveal the number) of suspect areas. This pat down is normally done in the public area but can be requested to be done privately. It is to be gender segregated (persons of the same gender to do the pat down). We recommend that if a pat down is to be performed that you remain alert to its nature and request that it be done privately (especially for our sisters) if you find it to be excessive. After going through the machine you can turn around to see the screen which shows the areas of concern--- which will give you a good idea of the nature of the pat down to be expected.
  • Things that are known to cause a false alarm are tissue papers, extra folds of cloth and even sweat. (Yes a single piece of tissue paper in your pocket will be shown as a suspect area). It is advisable to empty your pockets and remove all the things that can cause a false alarm.
  • There is a concern with the posture that is required by the new machines. Every one--- male and female--- is required to stand with their hands over their head for the machine to scan them. This is not dignified and especially so for the women. We do not know to what extent this is a technical requirement for this technology and to what extent it is just a procedural thing that has been imposed. This is an issue that we plan to pursue with TSA.
  • We will continue to advise that you opt out of the X-ray backscatter machines, if you travel in the near future (at least until June of 2013) until the backscatter machines have not been removed from your airport. See the 4 minute video of the old and new machines
  • If you face an invasive pat down, please let us know at info@shuracouncil.org . TSA leadership have assured us that their staff is trained and expected to respect passenger's dignity . Should you experience otherwise please let Shura Council know.



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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