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Controversial TSA Nudie X-Ray Machines Sent To Prisons 108

An anonymous reader writes "The controversial TSA backscatter X-ray machines are being sent to prisons. According to Federal times, 'The controversial airport screening machines that angered privacy advocates and members of Congress for its revealing images are finding new homes in state and local prisons across the country, according to the Transportation Security Administration.' 154 backscatter X-rays have already ended up in Iowa, Louisiana, and Virginia prisons. TSA is working to find homes for the remaining machines. Per the article: '"TSA and the vendor are working with other government agencies interested in receiving the units for their security mission needs and for use in a different environment," TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein said.'"
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Controversial TSA Nudie X-Ray Machines Sent To Prisons

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:50AM (#47045351)

    If the USA hosts it, then it is good to be 100% sure that one of the contestants is not a terrorist.

  • Poor machines scapegoated for the pervs that use them to peek.
    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      Don't worry, plenty of them already have employment as prison guards...

      • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @09:23AM (#47045523) Journal

        What happened to the good ole days when these contraptions were vetted on prisoner populations before being approved for widespread public use?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          What happened to the good ole days when these contraptions were vetted on prisoner populations before being approved for widespread public use?

          They were. Now that the TSA trials are complete, they can be used on the general population.

          • What was the OTHER reason to remove these machines? So what's wrong in bathing the convicted in Radiation?
  • Admission of Guilt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:51AM (#47045357)

    They were treating us like prisoners.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      At least prisoners get complimentary meals and don't have to pay for carry-ons.

    • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <[ten.tenaprac] [ta] [cjs]> on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @10:00AM (#47045791) Homepage

      Not true at all. If a prisoner sues the prison believing the machines to be unsafe, the prisoner is more likely to get a fair hearing and the prison unlikely to to get away with glossing over health and safety issues related to the machines....whereas the TSA had the carte blanche in the name of Fatherland Security!

      • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @10:45AM (#47046235)

        Not true at all. If a prisoner sues the prison believing the machines to be unsafe, the prisoner is more likely to get a fair hearing and the prison unlikely to to get away with glossing over health and safety issues related to the machines....whereas the TSA had the carte blanche in the name of Fatherland Security!

        Right. Because being a prisoner guarantees one's rights, access to legal counsel, timely medical care, and protection from being violently abused...

        • by TheCarp ( 96830 )

          well now, I never actually said any of that....I said more likely to get a fair hearing and the prison would be less likely to get away with falling back on "national security" bullshit. The rest is obviously not true.

          • by TWX ( 665546 )
            I've flown a dozen times in the era of the backscatter machines, and I never once been scanned. The two times that they attempted, "Opt Out" worked.

            Yes, that meant a pat-down. But, a pat-down has less long-term health effects than radiation.
            • by TheCarp ( 96830 )

              I can't deny this; it is exactly what I understood. However, can you really say that the situation presents a fair opportunity for a person to make an informed decision? I mean, you likely know that the TSA lied about certifications on the machines, (so much that it prompted NIST to release a statement that they do not even do the kind of safety certification the TSA was claiming to have gotten). You may be aware of the John's Hopkins study claiming these devices are not even safe to be around.

              However, as a

      • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )

        ....whereas the TSA had the carte blanche in the name of Fatherland Security!

        and yet you could always opt out. Don't be a sheep.

    • They were treating us like prisoners.


  • by buchner.johannes ( 1139593 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:55AM (#47045387) Homepage Journal

    You should only lose one right: Freedom.

      - security of your personal well being
      - privacy
      - respect to the human
      - torture (psychological or physical)
      - physical punishment.

    The punishment is withdrawing freedom, not becoming a sub-human. Once you leave prison, you should be considered a typical citizen again -- you served your sentence, so it must not carry on forever.

    That said, punishment is known to not be efficient, and not a deterrent for others (as most crimes are not driven by thinking long about the consequences). So modern prisons focus on re-constituting the citizen to full capacity. Because it works better than punishing.

    • True, though you could argue that being locked up with other dangerous criminals, ensuring your security can only be assured by a decrease in privacy (frisking, cell inspections). And once you're a ward of the state, the state assumes a much larger than normal responsibility for your security.

      Also, punishment works pretty well to prevent criminals from committing crimes while in jail (sure, not 100%, as others pointed out before). That's not about being hard on crime; it's about applying the most benef
    • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @09:22AM (#47045519)

      . So modern prisons focus on re-constituting the citizen to full capacity. Because it works better than punishing.

      Always relevant in these discussions [angelfire.com]:
      According to the Humanitarian theory, to punish a man because he deserves it, and as much as he deserves, is mere revenge, and, therefore, barbarous and immoral. It is maintained that the only legitimate motives for punishing are the desire to deter others by example or to mend the criminal. When this theory is combined, as frequently happens, with the belief that all crime is more or less pathological, the idea of mending tails off into that of healing or curing and punishment becomes therapeutic. Thus it appears at first sight that we have passed from the harsh and self-righteous notion of giving the wicked their deserts to the charitable and enlightened one of tending the psychologically sick.......

      My contention is that this doctrine, merciful though it appears, really means that each one of us, from the moment he breaks the law, is deprived of the rights of a human being.

      The reason is this. The Humanitarian theory removes from Punishment the concept of Desert. But the concept of Desert is the only connecting link between punishment and justice. It is only as deserved or undeserved that a sentence can be just or unjust. I do not here contend that the question ‘Is it deserved?’ is the only one we can reasonably ask about a punishment. We may very properly ask whether it is likely to deter others and to reform the criminal. But neither of these two last questions is a question about justice. There is no sense in talking about a ‘just deterrent’ or a ‘just cure’. We demand of a deterrent not whether it is just but whether it will deter. We demand of a cure not whether it is just but whether it succeeds. Thus when we cease to consider what the criminal deserves and consider only what will cure him or deter others, we have tacitly removed him from the sphere of justice altogether; instead of a person, a subject of rights, we now have a mere object, a patient, a ‘case’.

      Making all criminals subject to a clinical internment: Im sure that couldnt possibly go wrong. Insane asylums of the early 1900s? Unit 731? Josef Mengele? Pre-emptive organ harvesting? Nah, Im sure your idea would work out fine.

      • by umghhh ( 965931 )
        There is always a way around the difficulties. I would imagine that a prison is in itself a terrible thing to be in, no need for torture and some such. There are people there that can be helped in form of taking medication, by showing how to control their anger. There are also others that can be corrected by the fact they have been caught already. There are still others, for whom no amount of correction will help, who see prison term as unfortunate period of time they have to serve and possibly shorten in a
        • Im arguing that turning criminals into medical patients is a terrible idea that would result in pretty nightmarish systems, whether they looked like 1984 or like Clockwork orange, yes.

          At the end of the day I dont see how its appropriate for the state to attempt to "fix" individuals, rather than simply meting out punishment when people violate society's rules. I also dont see how you can avoid a massive moral hazard with the state determining what modes of thought are "normative"; we would end up with a sin

      • I don't see how punishment is immoral: if as the first paragraph states it is in proportion to the damage of the crime. Not everything is monitary but say someone steals your wallet with $200 in it. If months later cops catch the criminal would it be unreasonable for them to take $200 from the criminals wallet and give it to you even if it isn't the same $200 they took? With emotional/physical damages it is harder to balance things out of course but neither of the alternative reasons are acceptable to me fo

    • The punishment is withdrawing freedom, not becoming a sub-human.

      That's what you say. For some people though, prison is partially a substitute for other purposes of natural justice. There is no universally accepted set of requirements that everyone agrees on. Among them, there is 1) prevention of further crimes by removing the criminal from society, 2) offering solace/revenge to the victims, 3) rehabilitating and educating the criminal, etc.

      Unfortunately, no two persons agree on what amount of weight sho

    • What about the right of the general public to take pleasure and satisfaction in the petty humiliation and dehumanization of incarcerated persons? The cruelty dollar is a huge dollar, not to mention the cruelty vote.

    • I think your Not list makes sense other than on Privacy. I don't see how we could imprison anyone without the loss of privacy. The very act of locking someone up would seem to involve some type of monitoring (so you know if they are actually locked up) which in turn means they lose some of their privacy (since you know where they are at all times).
      • Indeed. You have people stabbing each other with sharpened toothbrushes... some proper form or search is necessary and metal-detection is not enough.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      We all lost our freedom a long time ago. I think you mean mobility.

    • by jythie ( 914043 )
      'effective' is a problematic term. Specifically, one has to look at the purpose of 'punishment' before one can determine if it is being effective or not, and the goal of punishment has nothing to do with deterrent, it is to please 3rd parties.
      • one has to look at the purpose of 'punishment'

        Depends on your jurisdiction. Where I live (New Hampshire), our Constitution specifies reform as the purpose of prison, not punishment.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      When looked in the light of "does it stop/prevent crime", the US prison system makes zero sense.

      However, when you look it in the light of "how do we hold people in prison for as long as possible, and ensure they return", it makes perfect sense. The goal of the system is to put people in prison as long as possible.

      Look at the stock value of companies in that arena. Not Apple, hockey-stick type of growth, but close enough.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The American public thinks prison is for punishment, not for rehabilitation, and nobody will stand on the side of prisoners and defend them.

      • Your talking as if the criminals are the violated ones. How about the crime victims? extremely little is done for them to make them whole for the anguish the scum criminal did to them. I say fuck the prisoner no one forced them to rape,steal,murder. The poor prisoner......fuck the prisoner not only should they do time but half the money they make should go to the victims of there crimes..im not talking about weed sellers or smokers unless they kill or mame someone in a car accident.
    • The general right to privacy is one of the many freedoms withdrawn as a result of criminal conviction. As it should be. As should any freedom which makes it harder for the guards to maintain their own safety or prevent other prisoners from harming you. You're only innocent until *proven* guilty.

      The point of prison is to remove those who would harm others from the rest of society and put them somewhere they can't harm the innocent. Punishment doesn't work. Rehabilitation doesn't work. The recidivism rates ba

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      Prison is to remove the criminal from society. Call it punishment if you want, but that's not the real purpose
    • Just an FYI, when you go to prison, you can be strip-searched. So this is really an improvement.
  • Health Concerns (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Agilulf ( 173852 ) <jfriend&hotmail,com> on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:55AM (#47045391)

    Weren't these machines banned in Europe over health concerns from radiation exposure? I know that these are prisoners but shouldn't the health effects of such a machine be studied prior to deploying stuff like this out into the world? http://science.howstuffworks.c... [howstuffworks.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I know that these are prisoners but shouldn't the health effects of such a machine be studied prior to deploying stuff like this out into the world?

      What mystifies me is that they (sorta) admitted that the old machines may have been bad for one's health (at least I hear TSA agent say "these are new, safer machines"). However, not a single person had been fined or imprisoned for allowing UNTESTED machines to be used against millions of people.

      • Re:Health Concerns (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @09:19AM (#47045499) Homepage

        That's because everything is forgiven if you shout TERRORISM loud enough.

        Also, most politicians won't even consider going against the TSA on this because they are too afraid of being called "soft on terrorism" during their next election campaign. Fear isn't just for keeping the populace in line - it keeps the politicians in line also.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        cuz it's really hard to prove health problems are caused by radiation, particularly when you have medical studies which come to opposing conclusions. The uncertainty allows the establishment to continue using the machines until more definitive evidence is produced that the scanner manufacturers and government can't controvert.

      • You need context for that.

        Sure, it's safer without an x-ray cathode. That's some high-voltage stuff.

    • Re:Health Concerns (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @09:18AM (#47045489)
      It damages your corneas quite rapidly. I saw a poster at the ARVO annual meeting a fortnight ago by a researcher called Masami Kojima. Basically, there's lots of things that emit that wavelength -- your car's radar cruise control being one that I remember -- but that's pretty weak. These scanners... not so weak. It increases the temperature of your corneas as your eyes absorb the radiation; a few degrees can cause a fair bit of damage. You so don't want to be stuck in one, and I'd worry about cumulative exposure if I were a really regular traveler.
      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        It's not power so much as distance. Radiation is subject to inverse-square law, and the closer the emission source and the wider the emitter, the more radiation received by the subject. Since the point of these machines was to invasively scan the entire body it would make sense that it would subject the body to a lot of radiation.

        The solution will probably be something as pedestrian as special goggles that the prisoners are given the option to wear, something that looks like those small swim goggles bu
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's the radiation. I'm surprised that correctional employee unions haven't objected to these installations, or, at least, demanded that the scanner operators get to wear dosimeters to detect radiation exposure.

    • Or to sit in a completely separate room with some dim lighting and mood music with a fellow guard they are comfortable with in intimate situations. These guards deserve the same opportunities for abuse the TSA was afforded. Working on turning otherwise functional members of society into lifelong criminals is as important a task as keeping our airlines free of Tara.
  • All the security personnel get to see will be the outlines of obese / overweight / fat American inmates, malnourished by a decades-long diet of corn-syrup-based beverages and saturated fatty acids, as the USA underclass is wont to consume. I pity the prisons' security personnel.
  • also jails use them on inmates well.

  • So it can't detect homemade, low density weapons like non-metals and it will cause cancer. Sounds like a great idea.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @09:28AM (#47045563) Homepage
    The people who would be inconvenienced by a fully nude rendering of their body presented to a remote office worker making minimum wage have objected to said technology. These people are politicians and businessmen, members of the plutocracy in some cases and powerful individuals in other cases. The machines were withdrawn because they were perturbed, not you.

    when we say, 'privacy concerns raised by airport passengers do not apply in many cases to prisoners' what we mean is that we reserve the right to treat United States citizens designated as prisoners, or detained by law enforcement while charged with a crime, like human fucking garbage. We categorically embrace the power to bombard those in custody arbitrarily and at our will with ionizing radiation that depicts them nude and has been proven by numerous security experts to be easily thwarted. We endorse the ability to do this with or without their consent because theyve written a bad check, been charged with an unpaid parking ticket, or have a warrant for an unreturned library book.

    This is a bigger deal than most readers understand. Namely because America has the highest rate of incarceration in the known world. We arrest and imprison people at or above the height of the Soviet Union, so to conject that the reader would not be subject to this type of technology in the future isnt at all certain. In a "detention facility" or "correctional center" as its known it is implicitly understood that your moral and ethical treatise concerning the dangers and repercusssions of using this technology are tolerated only as long as it takes your corrections officer to apply her riot baton to designated 'departmentally approved areas' of your tender human body.

    The systemic repercussions of widespread application of X-Ray backscatter systems in the various private penal colonies of the united states, while financially sound at its salesmans word, certainly isnt a long term bet to hedge. Incidences of debilitating cancers will need medical treatment for both guards and prisoners alike as has been shown in the incidences of cancer for certain groups of TSA screeners. Liability for introducing a prisoner or employee to a cancer suspect agent will likely follow the course of most other folly of american scientific perversion in the hands of government. It will likely be assigned to the government, who in turn will insist it was the technology, and in turn the manufacturer will absolve itself through a complex series of medical puppet shows, out of court settlements, and evasive restructuring practices so as to ensure no real harm comes to the corporation. Once your sentence is complete, and you emerge from prison, the biblical retribution set upon you is now the denial of employment, housing, food stamps, medicare, and finally a malignant cancer risk substantially greater than the rest of society as your corrections system applied background scanners quietly and incessantly for the duration of your incarceration.
    • by umghhh ( 965931 )
      sounds like the land of the free that the Grounding Fathers envisioned
    • Despite your overstatement in places, you have spoken truth. This is because of basic psychology, where becoming a prisoner pushes you from one of us to being one of them.

      We draw distinctions in organizing people, so that we know who to care about. Five people from your state die, or one from your city, and it is a tragedy. Five people an ocean away is barely news.

      The quotes from rich people explaining poverty are examples of the same effect, they just don't understand. Same with poor people discussing rich

  • This headline sounded at first like it was describing some sort of publicity stunt where the machines themselves were going to be locked up as prisoners for the crimes they have committed against innocent people. I think something like

    Controversial TSA X-Ray Machines To Be Used In Prisons

    Would have been much more informative.

  • Besides the privacy and safety concerns of these things, I was under the impression that a major flaw is that it's a bit too easy to sneak things through them.

    Is it really a smart idea to move these things from a place where security is theatre to a place where the targets actually *are* sneaking weapons through security and using those to actually kill other people?

  • Meanwhile, in airports they've been replaced by new machines that achieve exactly the same ends using slightly different technology.

    But the traveling public has gotten used to it, and complaints have died down, so the new terahertz wave nudie scanners are the new normal.

    • by rsborg ( 111459 )

      Meanwhile, in airports they've been replaced by new machines that achieve exactly the same ends using slightly different technology.

      But the traveling public has gotten used to it, and complaints have died down, so the new terahertz wave nudie scanners are the new normal.

      Maybe in your neck of the woods, but I've done a bit of traveling over the past several months, and my experience is that the TSA agents have a pitch ready and part of that pitch is "This is not backscatter. No danger to you. No nudie pics can be stored. Please don't ask to be pat down. Please!", which I continued to ignore and tell the man "I don't trust your bosses to tell the truth anymore. Grope away".

      That, or they're using the plain old metal detectors, pre 9/11.

      So I don't think tetraherz scanners ar

      • They've largely replaced the X-Ray backscatter machines with millimeter wave scanners [wikipedia.org], and they are very much still in use in the US. You can see where and how they're in use at TSA Status [tsastatus.net].

        I'm glad they've gotten rid of the potentially harmful ones (although I gather the risk is very low); but my primary complaints have always been the gross violation of privacy, ineffectiveness, and government fraud and waste related to the program.

  • I know of civilian workers at a state hospital (basically the only real employer in town) that are forced thru scanning machines at the beginning and end of their shifts, treated no differently than criminals. It wouldn't surprise me if these kind of machines are being used - and the images of the women surreptitiously recorded by the pigs that man them (not to mention the long-term health effects of the daily cooking sessions).

    Few people are more hated in Red States than public employees just trying to e
  • While I was in the military we joked that the reason some medical research was easier to do on soldiers than on prison inmates was that the ACLU will protect the rights of prison inmates.

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner