Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why the TSA is more dangerous than terrorists.

I've got news for you, my fellow Americans, the federal Transportation Safety Administration, part of the Homeland Security Gestapo has a better chance of killing you than any terrorist.

Let's do the math.

How many people died this year, in the US, from terrorist attacks? None. Last year? None. 2007? None. There was one attack a decade ago that was awful but for the previous 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, there was nothing. Certainly the chances are that next year no Americans will be killed in a domestic attack by terrorists. It will be pretty much like it was in 2010, 2009, 2008 and so on.

So, realistically we can estimate that next year zero Americans will die from terrorists.

So how do the crotch-groping, breast-fondling Travel Nazis manage to kill?

Consider the Homeland Gestapo's new pornoscanners, the devices they set up to take nude images of your bodies, as well as those of your children. Yep, every day the government will be producing child pornography, and your kids, if they fly, will be included.

These devices work by X-ray technology. Now, I don't normally worry about X-rays. Why? First, the number of X-rays I have had in my lifetime is relatively low. This is true for most of us. We don't get X-rayed regularly. In addition the dosage is relatively low. So the risk per person is low. Now, this could still be a problem if extremely large numbers of people were being subjected to X-rays every day of the year. I average less than 1 X-ray per year. I would have to go back about three years for my last X-ray and it was relatively small in that it was a dental X-ray, not a chest X-ray. The last chest X-ray was more than a decade ago. And I've probably had those only five or six times in my life. If I add up all the X-rays I can remember having, it would be around one every five years or so.

And the very few, higher dose chest X-rays I had were really focused on the entire chest. But as scientists from the University of California pointed out, the "new airport scanners are largely depositing their energy into the skin and immediate adjacent issues, and since this is such a small fraction of body weight/vol, possibly by one to two orders of magnitude, the real dose to the skin is now high." These scientists say the X-ray "beam is very intense" in these machines and that a simple malfunction can keep it focused on one area far longer than is safe. And they believe the scanners "will increase the risk of cancer to children and other vulnerable populations."

There are several things to consider here; the most obvious is what is the dose for each trip through the pornoscanner? The government claims the scans have a very low dose and we all know they never lie. But Peter Rez, a physics professor at Arizona State, doubts those claims. He says that an image produced by the X-ray strength the government claims wouldn't produce a usable image. He calculated backwards from the quality of images and says the dose appears to be ten times higher than Homeland Security will admit.

According to Prof. Rez that will translate into a "a 1-in-20-million chance of dying from radiation for each scan." Now, don't you feel better? The chance that you will die because of radiation exposure from one exposure is just one in 20 milion. Of course, if you were the only airline passenger this wouldn't translate into many deaths per year.

But there are over 800,000,000 million passengers flying in the US every year. With 800 million air passengers that would lead to 40 deaths per year from the scanners. That is the same as killing one American every nine days. Now, if terrorists were killing one person every nine days we would be outraged. But when Homeland Security does it, there is little to say about it. While 40 deaths is relative small it is much higher than the number of deaths caused by terrorists last year, or the year before, or this year. And it will probably be more than terrorists kill next year or the year after as well.

Of course, we want to look at lifetime risks. Prof. Rez says that the odds "of being blown up in an airplane by a terrorists is around 1 in 30 million." His own calculations put the odds of death by being scanned with X-rays from the pornoscanner is 1 in 20 million. For every 1 person who would die on average from terrorism, this anti-terrorist measure would kill 1.5 people. The average number of deaths per year due to terrorism would be just under 27 people. This means the preventative measure, by causing approximately 40 deaths, gives us a net loss of life. It will kill more people than it could save. And that is assuming this one measure alone would save the lives with other security measures having zero impact.

If we assume this new security measure alone is responsible for stopping all future terrorist attacks, which is most certainly NOT the case, it would save about 27 lives per year. And the cost would be 40 lives per year to implement it. Does that make sense? But is won't be saving 27 lives per year, it may only change the numbers slightly. If you really think this one measure would be responsible for saving all people who would be killed in an average year by terrorists, then you would happily recommend abolishing all other security measures. But experts in the field of terrorism say measures like intelligence are far more useful than the antics of the TSA with air passengers. These security theater measures only change the odds by a very small margin.

If you think this one X-ray machine does pay off I have an offer. Instead of lives, think dollars. Now, I will gladly pay you $27 for every $40 that you give me. Are you willing to make that sort of trade off with dollars? If not, then why are you willing to make it with lives? And that is even giving the $27 investment too much credit. Since other anti-terrorists measures are better protectors than these pornoscanners, the real return you might expect is $1 back for every $40 you invest. I'll take that sort of investment any day.

And if you don't like the pornoscanner you can "opt out," at which point Homeland Security thugs will subject you to a very aggressive body search which includes rubbing the most intimate parts of your body in a manner not entirely dissimilar from your typical molester. If any member of the public did to you, what government agents will do to you for refusing to be pornoscanned, they would be arrested and jailed as sex offenders.

Based on the risks I think it safe to say that Janet Napolitano, the Reichfurher for Homeland Security, is more of a threat to your life than Osama bin Laden. And Osama is prettier.

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