Internal Documents Show TSA Knew of Backscatter Imaging Radiation Problems

March 16, 2011

The TSA is back in the news again as maintenance reports have indicated that their backscatter imaging devices are emitting up to 10 times the radiation originally claimed. Understandably, this isn’t sitting well with the general public, who are now concerned that they are being robbed of valuable years off the end of their lives along with their dignity.

The TSA and the manufacturer of the device have claimed that all this stemmed from a simple misunderstanding in terminology. However, the leaked instruction manual for the Backscatter Imaging Device (or as it is popularly know, “PornoScan”) clearly indicates there were already concerns when the units shipped.

As safe as any high-powered electronic device operated by glorified security guards.


Congratulations on your purchase of a federally-mandated PornoScan!  We know you have several less humiliating options to choose from when it comes to anti-terrorist devices and we’re glad your employers have chosen the PornoScan to serve and demoralize traveling citizens.


First, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the contents. You should have (several) boxes, each containing (several) parts. Make sure you have everything needed to assemble your PornoScan, including a Phillips screwdriver, 151 self-tapping screws and a B.S. (minimum) in nuclear physics.

You’ll need two people to assemble this properly. When prompted, refer to the included assembly diagram. (Not included. Please call the Help Desk for replacement instructions. Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.)

Note: your PornoScan (or Backscatter Imaging Device) contains time-sensitive depleted uranium. Failure to fully assemble this device will result in escalating isotope instability, which can quickly result in full core meltdown. (See Appendix 4.b. “OH SWEET JESUS, MY FACE!!!”)

To avoid causing undue passenger alarm, these mandatory stickers have NOT been shipped with your scanner.


Now that your PornoScan (PS) is fully assembled, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the control panel. Let’s take a look at the four (4) status lights:

Power” – When power is on, this button will glow bright green. Due to improperly isolated isotopes, this light will also glow bright green when the device is off. A replacement containment device is on the way. Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.

Note: The PS puts out a shitload (metric) of radiation when fully powered. Please maintain a distance of 15-20 feet when “Power” button is lit.

Standby Power” – A “power saving” setting. This will allow the device to quickly “boot up” upon passenger entry. This light will glow red when activated.

Note: This lower setting should allow you to come safely within 10 feet of the device. Be prepared to run 5-10 feet in under 0.2 seconds should a passenger enter the device thereby returning it to full power. Additional note: does not actually save power.

Standby” – Pretty much what passes for “Off” these days. Can still render you sterile within a diameter of 5 feet. Should you need to approach the device (for instance, to power up the PornoScan), please ensure your genitalia are covered with your hands and your body turned 30 degrees perpendicular to the egress of the machine. This button will glow orange if activated or if “Power” button is currently green.

PANIC” – This status light will glow red at all times UNLESS a meltdown or other catastrophic failure is detected by the onboard computer. At that point the light will switch off. DO NOT PANIC. When the PANIC light goes out, a signal is sent to the nearest TSA headquarters. Please remain calm and await further instructions. (Allow 4-6 weeks for signal delivery.)

Note: PANIC indicator light will go out when  “Standby Power” is activated. This is a normal control panel function. Do not panic unless instructed otherwise.


With the controls functional, it’s time to put your PS to work. In addition to providing the illusion of safety, your PS is also a time-saver, freeing up the time you usually spent mentally undressing passengers and allowing you to brush up on your gun handling skills and anger management courses.

The powerful patented “Backscatter” system now allows you to fully undress passengers without leaving your desk or closing your browser window. For added safety, post the included “Clothing Optional” sign above the entrance to the device.

Note: As is indicated by the “Backscatter” terminology, this device is chock full of flying atoms doing God knows what. Please keep door closed when not in use.

As passengers enter the noisy and possibly brightly glowing PornoScan, they may become apprehensive, especially when informed that their hands need to be in what is normally a stickup victim pose. Calm them by suggesting fun “role-play” activities like “Pretend you’re on a roller coaster,” or “Act like you’re at a party where the DJ is busting out some old skool hip hop.”

There may also be concern expressed as to the safety of the untested device itself, in particular the amount of radiation used to provide the naked scan. If your assurances that “Hey, I’ve been working with this thing for X number of hours and I’m still OK” fail to calm the passenger, refer to the information provided in Appendix 2.b. (“No, I’ll Tell YOU What Your Rights Are“) to answer their queries with various threats of detainment.


Let’s take a quick look at the newest features in the PornoScan 1.14 (beta). Here’s a brief list of the items your PS can detect that your average TSA agent can’t:

  • Unusually sized genitalia
  • Prosthetic devices (incl. unusually sized genitalia)
  • Confiscatable items such as high-dollar watches, jewelry and gold fillings
  • Sarcasm

In addition, the latest in bomb detection technology allows the PornoScan to detect these type of explosive devices:

  • Bundled dynamite with a clock/timer/fuse attached.
  • Black, globe-shaped bombs with a fuse attached.

Note: If timer is running or fuse is lit, DO NOT PANIC. Check “PANIC” light. It should be “on” (off). Evacuate terminal of all crucial personnel including TSA members, airline employees and gift shop staff. Next, calmly herd passengers and suspected terrorists to the nearest empty tarmac where they can be safely detonated. Finally, give yourself a pat on the back! You’ve just averted domestic terrorism!

The TSA agents quickly discovered her cast was made entirely out of "bomb."


Pregnant women and women with infants will often try to smuggle their own fluids on board through the use of their “breasts.” Most of these suspects will have somewhat of a haggard glow about them. APPROACH WITH CAUTION. In addition to harboring “breast fluids,” their glow will often turn to vitriolic hatred once confronted.

Other women may be carrying saline or silicone in their “breasts.” To date these fluids have not been linked to terrorist activity. Play it safe and investigate further.

Good luck in your fight against terror! Armed with this information (and your gun) you should prepared to deal with any uncomfortable situation!

(Addendum: The manufacturers of the PornoScan and your management team would like to remind you to refer to the device by its proper name [Backscatter Something Something] while on duty.)



  1. I’m thinking 4-6 weeks for delivery (via walking) would be a lot less aggravating.

    • Yeah, there’s nothing like governmental overreach to make you year for a simpler time, no matter how much of a timesink those times were.

  2. Just read in the Washington Post how a recent US Travel Association report advocates reviving George Bush’s suggestion of a “trusted travelers” program whereby certain pre-screened passengers can zip through checkpoints without all the invasive scrutiny mandated today. Those granted passes would have to submit credit checks, tax returns, etc. for the privilege. Where do I sign up?!!?

    • I would assume that the government already has access to all the information you listed. I suppose it’s too much to ask for them to be proactive and start building a list of citizens that are absolutely no threat to the safety of their fellow passengers. Granted, this list would comprise of 99.5% of Americans, but it seems like this would be preferable to treating 99.5% of Americans like terrorists.

  3. Let our politicians fly commercial flights with same security checks and let’s see how this stupidity lasts.

    • If I recall correctly, Dennis Kucinich flies commercially (wait, isn’t he suing a restaurant owner for 150k for biting an olive pit in his sandwich?). Now I’m not sure what to think.

    • Of course, they’ll never do it. They’re Important People who have no time to be hassled by the regulations they’ve saddled the rest of us with, like national healthcare. Or paying taxes.

  4. HA! If only you had posted this before I came back from my last trip. When I was getting ready to enter the “PornoScan” in Dallas, the security guard pointed at me and said “Come on inside, miss, and get ready for the ride of your life!”

    Had I seen this work of genius earlier, I would have impressed the hell out of him by pulling out my “Act like you’re at a party where the DJ is busting out some old skool hip hop” move…

    • Ha! indeed. No doubt the humorless TSA agent would have been impressed by your Arm Waving and Not Caring. I’m not sure if gleefully obliging their requests would result in detainment or not. It’s never really been tried. Given its novelty, I would guess that you’d be detained.

      At that point, the real “ride of your life” would begin. It may or may not involve mustaches.

  5. You’re a God damn beast CLT. Only you could take a combination of two things as presumably dull and lifeless as the TSA and an instruction manual and turn the amalgamation into such side splitting, just got caught chubbing it up to a middle aged housewife coming back from South Carolina, breast milk beverage spilling hilarity.

    I also wanted to thank you for confirming my long held certainly that ‘standby power’ was just a bullshit trick incorporated by ‘Big Red Glowing Light’ to slowly wrestle control of our economy and probably control our thoughts.

    • Thanks, Scott. The TSA’s endless dumbfuckery kind of lends itself to outrageous statements, so it wasn’t nearly as tough as it looked. But I’ll take the compliments and maintain the illusion.

      Part 2: Precisely. There’s no “OFF” button on anything anymore. The electric company now officially owns the world.

  6. […] one time a guy reported a vehicle with a bomb. See also: please remove your shoes and step into the Pornoscan because one time that guy tried to light his shoes on fire and that other time a guy had bomb-laced […]

  7. […] one time a guy reported a vehicle with a bomb. See also: please remove your shoes and step into the Pornoscan because one time that guy tried to light his shoes on fire and that other time a guy had bomb-laced […]

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