Airport body scanners spreading across US

March 5, 2010 By GLEN JOHNSON , Associated Press Writer
Transportation Security Administration employee John Carter demonstrates the stance in an advanced image technology unit at Boston Logan International Airport in Boston, Friday, March 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

(AP) -- The Transportation Security Administration on Friday announced nine more U.S. airports that will receive body-scanning technology, as the U.S. heightens its effort to detect hidden explosives and contraband amid a threat highlighted by an attempted bombing on Christmas Day.

TSA security director Lee Kair said units will be fielded in the coming months at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; San Jose, Calif.; Columbus, Ohio; San Diego; Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati; Los Angeles; Oakland, Calif.; and Kansas City.

They will join three machines going online Monday at Boston's Logan International Airport, and one being deployed next week at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.

All are among 150 machines bought with money from the federal stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama last year. They join 40 machines already in use at 19 airports nationwide.

Both the new and existing machines will also now be in a primary position, meaning they will be the default screening equipment passengers face at a checkpoint. The existing machines have been in a secondary position, being used only when a passenger failed a metal screening or posed some other risk factor.

Passengers retain the right to opt out of a body scanning for a more intense but traditional screening. The Associated Press timed a body scanning at 25 seconds, and Kair said he did not expect them to take any longer than a passenger would have to otherwise wait for the X-ray of carry-on bags.

Deployment of the machines was announced in the fall, before Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day with explosives concealed in his underwear. Even so, that event highlighted the need for additional security in the U.S. aviation system.

Other countries have also signed on to use the technology, including Nigeria and the Netherlands, where Abdulmutallab started his flight and then connected to the U.S.

Civil libertarians and even Pope Benedict XVI have complained that the new machines can violate a passenger's privacy. The American Civil Liberties Union has denounced the screening as a "virtual strip search."

One Logan passenger didn't share the concerns.

"There's always going to be issues. As long as they maintain proper control over the situation, I have no problem with it," said Michelle Carrier, 32, who was flying to Houston. "Freedom's important, but this is one of the prices you pay for safety."

The image from a machine displayed for reporters on Friday showed the blurry outline of a female volunteer. None of her clothing was visible, nor were her genitals, but the broad contours of her chest and buttocks were. Her face also was blurred.

The image included the shadow of a cell phone purposely left on her belt, as well as the metal buttons on her pants. But overall, it looked like the outline of a ghost. Samples are on display on the TSA's Web site.

TSA officials said that the units won't be able to print or store images, and that the officer viewing them will have no contact with passengers. The passenger will remain at the checkpoint until the officer in the viewing room radios an all-clear to another officer standing with the passenger.

Passengers who accept a scan - and pass - will not have to walk through a metal detector or other security equipment. Those who decline will have to walk through a metal detector and also submit to a patdown.

Kair said he was confident terrorists couldn't concentrate on beating the patdown because of other layers in the security system, including expanded use of explosive trace detection equipment and behavioral analysis.

"When you go through all the layers of security, they have a multiplying effect," he said.

The Obama administration announced in February 2009 that it would provide $1 billion for screening as part of its $787 billion federal stimulus package.

In May, the administration detailed how that money would be spent - including $25 million for the new scanners. Between May and September, the department asked contractors to provide proposals for building the scanners. Competing models were tested over the summer.

The department awarded the contract to California-based Rapiscan at the end of September.

Explore further: Better airport scanners delayed by privacy fears

More information: Transportation Security Administration:


Related Stories

Better airport scanners delayed by privacy fears

December 28, 2009

(AP) -- High-tech security scanners that might have prevented the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a jetliner have been installed in only a small number of airports around the world, in large part because of privacy concerns ...

Airline attack could lead to more scanners

December 31, 2009

(AP) -- The Christmas Day attack on a jetliner over Detroit, combined with technological improvements to protect people's sense of modesty, could lead to dramatically wider use of full-body scanners that can see through ...

After foiled US plane attack, scanners revisited

December 29, 2009

As US lawmakers demand to know how a would-be attacker smuggled explosives aboard a plane on Christmas Day, the use of body scanners at airport security points is likely to be revisited.

Airport security is a tech-firm gold rush

February 4, 2010

For airline passengers, the attempted Christmas Day attack and a directive by President Obama to pursue advanced screening technology will certainly mean added security procedures at airports.

Airport security measures not backed by solid evidence

December 21, 2007

There is no solid evidence that the huge amounts of money spent on airport security screening measures since September 11th are effective, argue researchers in this week’s Christmas issue of the BMJ.

Recommended for you

EU copyright law passes key hurdle

June 20, 2018

A highly disputed European copyright law that could force online platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay for links to news content passed a key hurdle in the European Parliament on Wednesday.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (3) Mar 05, 2010
Privacy concerns aside for a moment - there have been no long term health studies on the implications of these new scanners. Sure, we can say the radiation dose is low, but I am skeptical that this does not increase health risk across the society. For instance, I recently saw a study on the uselessness and potential dangers of panoramic dental x-rays. There is also new data showing changes in cellular signaling which result in damage not to the cells exposed to xrays, but those nearby. We should at least have a public debate about these new scanners.

As we have seen, terrorists are able to change their tactics in response to our countermeasures. No more box cutters? Bombs in shoes. Shoes scanned? Use liquids. No liquids? Hide explosives near your body. Full body scanners.. what next? Given that we have limited money to spend on the problem, I believe that these full body scanners are a waste. We should be spending much more on investigation and first responders.
5 / 5 (4) Mar 06, 2010
Best part is, they are forcing parents to either have a person see their child's body parts, or feel them up (I had to call TSA to get that info). I for one, will not put my child through a scanner that may be operated by a sexual deviant.

Screw the TSA, I'm refusing to fly from here on out.
1 / 5 (4) Mar 06, 2010
There is very little detail in the images. I doubt the security officer is a sexual deviant. Fine, don't fly. If this is what it takes to stop planes from blowing up, then I'm fine with it.
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 06, 2010
The image from a machine displayed for reporters on Friday showed the blurry outline of a female volunteer...TSA officials said that the units won't be able to print or store images

Both of these statements are lies. The machines produce highly detailed images, down to pore size, and show everything in high detail. Also, security at such a scanner in Europe recently printed out an image of a film star they had just scanned and got him to autograph it.

Also, the U.S. government has admitted it escorted the underwear bomber past security to get him on the plane. Part of the security he was escorted past was one of these machines.
5 / 5 (3) Mar 06, 2010
It's insanely stupid to believe that folks willing to blow themselves up won't be willing to endure a little discomfort from sticking something in an orifice, cutting a flap in their skin to hide stuff under, swallowing baggies that will slowly dissolve and then mix in their stomach (and go boom), etc.

This project is a huge waste of money. I'm sure industry lobbyists haven't had any influence on the deployment decision...
5 / 5 (1) Mar 07, 2010
Glorious news for the scanner producers and very very bad for everyone else!
Unfortunately, the option "don't fly then" is good only in USA, the rest of the world, we'll have to fly, but I'm seriously thinking about choosing the pat down if I have the option. I prefer to know exactly what is happening with my body, than to submit the pictures of it to unknown person who'll enjoy unknown details on it.

I'm sure that after the first 100 scans, they get pretty boring, but it's not the point. Nobody should see me naked unless I allow it.

And yeah, too bad for the children - strip search or pat down? What a wonderful choice.

And interesting they always quote only people who are not worried about the new measures. Why? The rest are not interesting or what?
not rated yet Mar 07, 2010
@ denijane - You are so right. The media only show people who aren't worried because that's the way they sway people's opinion on anything. And people should know that the media is controlled by the government.
People need to be aware that:
*the scanners DON'T make you safe
* They see you and your children completely naked with all the details (not like they are showing on TV). One man who did operate these scanners stated that they could even see the sweat on our backs. *They CAN store the images.
*They DO expose you to UNNECESSARY radiation (I don't care how little).
*The people operating the machines don't have an x-ray licence (you will NEVER get an x-ray by a non-licenced person at a hospital - and that's for a reason)
* Somebody is making a good profit out of this
* There are alternative methods that can be used to catch the mean guy. Why not demanding other methods? Why are we allowing the government to treat us this way?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.