TSA's New Scanner Gets Up Close and Personal

By Mark Huffman

June 6, 2008
• More about Travel
• Latest Airline News

Modesty takes a back seat to security with deployment of an experimental security scanner at ten of the nation's major airports.

The device, put in place by the Transportation Security Administration, performs a full body scan of random selected passengers, providing an image of the subjects' body, beneath their clothing.

TSA recently started using the "x-ray eyes"in Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Denver, Washington's Reagan National Airport and New York's JFK Airport. Airports in Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas and Miami are scheduled to get the new scanners before the end of this month.

TSA foresees the new body scanners as a more efficient replacement for the metal detectors passengers now walk through. James Schear, TSA security director at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, told USA Today the new full body scanners are "the wave of the future."

The scanners leave little to the imagination. Passengers who undergo a scan reveal contours of their body, and any items they may have in their pockets or attached to their bodies.

TSA says the only part of a person's body that is not shown in sharp detail is the face, which is purposely blurred "to protect privacy." The images reportedly are also deleted immediately, according to the agency.

The scanners were developed and deployed at the strong urging of many security experts, who say they represent a significant advancement in security – a desirable trade-off for the embarrassing loss of privacy.

But some experts remain skeptical, saying the scanners may be able to look through clothing, they can't see through plastic. It's only a matter of time, they say before terrorists develop plastic or rubber body suits in which to conceal weapons.

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