Great. Just wonderful. What's a decimal place between um ... friends?

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/03/tsa-radiation-test-bungling/ (Partial copy and paste, see link for whole articleicon_smile.gif

The Transportation Security Administration is re-analyzing the radiation levels of X-ray body scanners installed in airports nationwide, after testing produced dramatically higher-than-expected results.

The TSA, which has deployed at least 500 body scanners to at least 78 airports, said Tuesday the machines meet all safety standards and would remain in operation despite a “calculation error” in safety studies. The flawed results showed radiation levels 10 times higher than expected.

At least one flier group, the Association for Airline Passenger Rights, is urging the government to stop using the $180,000 machines that produce a virtual-nude image of the body until new tests are concluded in May.

“Airline passengers have enough concerns about flying — including numerous ones about how TSA conducts its haphazard security screenings — so it is TSA’s responsibility to ensure passengers are not being exposed to unhealthy amounts of radiation,” Brandon Macsata, executive director of the group, said in a statement.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has been a loud voice opposing the machines. Last week, it urged a federal appeals court to stop using them until further health studies were conducted. Marc Rotenberg, EPIC’s executive director, is expected to tell the same thing to a congressional panel Wednesday.

“The agency should have conducted a public rule-making so that these risks could have been more carefully assessed,” (.pdf) according to a transcript of his expected testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Still, the government said the results proved the safety of the devices.

“It would appear that the emissions are 10 times higher. We understand it as a calculation error,” TSA spokesman Sarah Horowitz said in a telephone interview.

The snafu involves tests conducted on the roughly 250 backscatter X-ray machines produced by Rapiscan of Los Angeles, which has a contract to deliver another 250 machines at a cost of about $180,000 each. About 250 millimeter-wave technology machines produced by L-3 Communications of New York were not part of the bungled results.

Rapiscan technicians in the field are required to test radiation levels 10 times in a row, and divide by 10 to produce an average radiation measurement. Often, the testers failed to divide results by 10, Horowitz said.


“Certainly, the errors are not acceptable. It’s not every report. We believe the technology is safe,” she said. ”We’ve done extensive, independent testing. It doesn’t raise alarms in terms of safety.”

Rapiscan, in a letter to the TSA, admitted the mistake and is “redesigning the form” used by its “field service engineers” when surveying the Rapiscan Secure 1000 that is deployed to 38 airports.