Remember the TSA Scanners that were too Revealing for Airports? Now they’re in Prisons

Wednesday, May 28, 2014
TSA Backscatter image (photo: American Science and Engineering)

The controversial full-body scanners formerly used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have found new homes: state and local prisons.


TSA pulled the Backscatter Advanced Imaging Technology scanners from airport checkpoints after privacy advocates and members of Congress complained that the technology revealed too much of the human form of passengers. There had also been concern about passengers’ exposure to radiation emitted by the machines.


Agency officials then looked for buyers to recover some of the $40 million that TSA invested in the machines made by Rapiscan.


To date, 154 of the approximately 250 machines owned by TSA have been sold to state and local prisons, including those in Iowa, Virginia and Louisiana, where inmates and their visitors aren’t in a position to complain about privacy rights.


TSA won’t say how much of its money has been reclaimed through the sales. But the Los Angeles Times reported that “several law enforcement agencies paid only a fraction of the original cost under a federal surplus program.”


The remaining scanners sit in storage while agency officials look for more buyers.


“TSA and the vendor are working with other government agencies interested in receiving the units for their security mission needs and for use in a different environment,” TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein told the Federal Times.


In place of the Backscatter machines, TSA is now using a type of scanner that produces a cartoon-like representation of passengers that allows security attendants to determine if someone is trying to smuggle something through checkpoints.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Guess Where TSA's Invasive Scanners Are Now? (by Andy Medici, Federal Times)

Full-Body Scanners Pulled from Airports Get Use in Prisons (by Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times)

Chertoff Group and the Fear Industry (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

TSA Moving Body Scanners, but Says Change Is for Speed, not Privacy (by Ken Broder, AllGov)


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