Yes, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has severed it contact with Rapiscan as a supplier of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) passenger screening scanners … but the removal of the remaining 174 Rapiscan Secure 1000 scanners has nothing to do with them being ‘backscatter‘ technology scanners, nor the potential health risks posed by backscatter technology, nor is it that the Rapiscan scanners have a false alarm average of 38%, according to the TSA’s Transportation Security Laboratory.
A few months ago the TSA began a “strategic reallocation” of Rapiscan scanners, moving these scanners away from high volume airports replacing them with L3 Communications ProVision millimeter wave AIT scanners. This shuffling of AIT scanners did not reduce the number of Rapiscan scanners in the agency’s inventory, it just shifted their location to place scanners that facilitated faster passenger processing times and operated with a more user friendly interface into higher volume airports.
During the shuffling of AIT scanners, the TSA removed 96 Rapiscan Secure 1000 scanners from service for upgrades, to integrate Congressionally mandated Automated Target Recognition software. The scanners were to be redeployed in Category 3 and Category 4 airports upon their return to service. As it turns out, Rapiscan’s ATR software cannot currently be certified for use due to reliability issues. As all scanners in service, as of June 1st 2013, must incorporate ATR for passenger privacy, reduced false alarms and faster flow of processing new contracts for additional scanners are being issued and new scanners placed into service.
What does this mean for travelers? It means business as usual and the same arguments against backscatter will continue on. Why the same arguments against backscatter? Because new contracts for AIT scanners continue to be a mix of both millimeterwave and backscatter technology. The TSA reaffirms its stands on backscatter, stating that the canceling of Rapiscan’s contract is in “no way related to the safety of backscatter AIT or the security efficacy of equipment deployed at our Nation’s airports. “
The TSA further clarified its view of backscatter scanners by stating, “TSA is committed to the use of AIT and has purchased next generation AIT units, that include both backscatter and millimeter wave units equipped with ATR, from several vendors.”
While some view the removal of Rapiscan Secure 1000 scanners as a “win,” in reality the removal of these scanners is neither a win or a loss … it is merely a company unable to get its software in order. Had Rapiscan been able to get its ATR software certified on time, their hardware would still be in airports through the United States.
Passengers will still have the option to pass through an AIT scanner or ‘opt out’ and more AIT scanners will continue to be installed in airports throughout he United States by the TSA.