Behind the Scenes: New airport scanner reveals all

Body imaging scanner put into operation in Baltimore

The scanners clearly reveal all the contours of a person's body through clothing

The images are not kept on file, according to the TSA

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By Jim Spellman
CNN Homeland Security Producer


In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news and analyze the stories behind the events. CNN's Jim Spellman tried out Baltimore/Washington International Airport's new "whole body imaging" technology.

BALTIMORE, Maryland (CNN) -- The Transportation Security Administration calls its new system of scanning technologies "whole body imaging" -- and they ain't kidding.

I got an opportunity to check it out at Baltimore/Washington International Airport as it went into service Monday morning.

The Transportation Security officer operating the scanner ushered me into an 8-foot high clear plastic tube. I raised my arms as instructed and a sensor silently whizzed around the tube, which uses technology called "millimeter wave."

I was taken into a back room to see the image. (Staff watching the monitors sit in a different room.) Another TSA officer, fresh from 16 hours of training on the new machine, had my image up on a computer screen.

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There I was in all my glory. My face was blurred out but the rest of my body was clear as day.

She rotated the black and white 3-D image so I could see every contour of my body, including my private parts. I could see sweat under my arms, the rivets in my jeans and a pack of gum in my back pocket.

The TSA says the computers are not connected to the internet and images are deleted as soon as officers determine the traveler is not a threat.

It is certainly a powerful tool for the TSA, but it is a little disconcerting to know how much of me was on display to the screener. But the TSA says that's precisely the point. When I mentioned how detailed the image was to a TSA official, she replied: "Where do you think the bad guys hide stuff?"


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