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TRI In The News

Rutherford Institute Sues TSA, Arguing Body Scanners Unsafe, Unregulated

The Albemarle County-based Rutherford Institute is suing the Transportation Security Administration for its use of whole-body imaging scanners in U.S. airports, which the nonprofit likens to “virtual strip searches.”

In a petition for a writ of mandamus filed earlier this week with the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, the Rutherford Institute argues that “the TSA has flouted federal law and court orders in order to shield the agency’s WBI scanning practices from public input and judicial review,” according to a news release on the group’s website.

The TSA implemented whole-body scanners in 2009 as a primary security screening tool in most major airports across the country, but John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, said the machines are ineffective and can lead to medical problems.

“The scanner emits 20 times the radiation as compared to getting an X-ray at the dentist,” said Whitehead. “But the dentist puts a lead sheet on their patients to protect them from the risk of cancer.”

“They also don’t work,” he added. “They were never proven effective and they were never field-tested. They are not good for security. The regular metal detectors are much more effective.”

Whitehead argues that the agency failed to notify the public it was integrating the scanners in the first place and that it did not give the public an opportunity to comment on the use of the technology, which is required by federal law.