Understanding the Law
February 22, 2013

The backscatter again

I have always had my suspicion about the backscatter machine and I wrote an article in 2009 about what I suspect to be the dangers of the machine. I was happy, but not surprised when I heard that it is now being removed from airports in the USA.{{more}}

I know that I used to go through a metal detector, but all of a sudden I noticed that I was directed to this machine at JFK Airport in New York and I met some Vincentians there also. It was the sole machine and it was on the last line towards the back of the building. A few more times, I was subjected to this machine and I was not satisfied that I was a random traveller. I made some enquiries and found out all about the backscatter machine. I found out too that the pick came from American Airlines because I noticed that my boarding pass carried the letters SSSS at the bottom right hand corner and once you are picked, you would always be picked.
I asked one of TSA workers about how persons are chosen, because I realized it could not be random, since I was chosen every time I passed through that airport. I was told that it was when you have a one-way ticket or if you pay with cash or you are a frequent flier. I spoke to my agent at home and he said that he had had complaints from a few other customers and in particular frequent fliers. I wrote to American Airlines about it and after that time, I was never picked. I was never sent to the backscatter line.

There are many persons who think that if you are not an expert on a subject, you should not voice your opinion. I know this is a myth, because I have lived long enough to see expert opinions reversed and some things that were considered safe, declared to be unsafe later on. A good example is asbestos. You have to go with your gut feeling and draw upon the information given by other experts in the field.

I am in support of safe flying. I believe that those in authority should use such methods that would pull the bad guys out, but such methods should take into consideration the health and other concerns of fliers. Those who supported the backscatter machine claim that the radiation is negligible. They were not too concerned about the cumulative effect over the years, because, as they see it, we are subjected to radiation every day. But I have always heard that we must not even have x-rays (those recommended by doctors) too often.

To be continued.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com