'Whole body imaging' coming to DIA

By Chris Walsh, Rocky Mountain News (Contact)
Originally published 04:18 p.m., May 22, 2008
Updated 08:43 p.m., May 22, 2008

Los Angeles Times

Gerardo Orozco, TSA transportation security officer, views a whole body image of an L-3 Communications employee. Proponents say the device greatly improves airport security.
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Email this Print this Comments Change text size Subscribe to print edition iPod friendly Share this site A controversial type of screening technology that peers through clothing to detect guns, explosives and other prohibited items is coming to Denver International Airport.

The Transportation Security Administration will start testing its "whole body imaging" machines at DIA on Friday as part of a pilot program under way at five other airports.

The technology creates three- dimensional images of passengers' bodies using radio frequency energy, allowing security screeners to see items concealed under clothes.

Details of passengers' faces are blurred, and the security officials viewing the images are located in separate areas. But the technology has spurred privacy concerns from passengers, who say the images - which show contours of the body - are too revealing.

Florida-based airline consultant Stuart Klaskin shrugs off the privacy issue, saying the upsides present a strong case.

"There's a much-improved and expedited security-screening process using these machines," Klaskin said. "There probably is some momentary loss of privacy, but I don't think anyone has the time to look at these images in a prurient fashion. Realistically, it's much ado over nothing."

The agency said in a news release that the machines will be used in a "random continuous screening protocol," but a spokeswoman from the organization couldn't immediately be reached for further explanation.

At other airports, the machines are used for passengers who are selected for secondary screening. Travelers can opt for the imaging machine or a pat-down.

The TSA also recently upgraded the X -ray technology at DIA's security checkpoints, which it says improves the screening of carry-on bags.

[email protected] or 303-954-2744

How it works

* Beams of radio frequency energy are projected over the body's surface at high speed as they rotate around the body.

* The RF energy reflected back from the body is used to construct a three-dimensional image.

* The image of the body, with facial features blurred for privacy, is displayed on a remote monitor for analysis.

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