TSA Moving Body Scanners, but Says Change Is for Speed, not Privacy

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Apparently size matters when determining who has to pass through controversial airport body scanners, which have been challenged on safety and privacy grounds.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is replacing the invasive scanners at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and six other major airports, but cited a desire to simply speed up the security process and is, in fact, shipping the scanners to smaller airports.

In their place, the TSA is installing a different type of machine, which produces a cartoon-like figure for review by security attendants, rather than the detailed X-ray images that have caused consternation among travelers. The new millimeter-wave technology uses radio frequencies, doesn’t emit the ionized radiation that was also a cause for concern and simply displays yellow boxes over areas that might require further investigation, like a pat-down.

The old, so-called back-scatter scanner could take up to a minute to process a passenger, while the new scanners work in about 10 seconds.

Civil libertarians, who have likened the old scanners to virtual, warrantless strip searches, have battled with the TSA in court since their introduction two years ago. Congress weighed in last February, pressuring for less invasive scanning technology. Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security, told the Associated Press that he wasn’t happy with the pace of changes by the TSA and questioned whether “simply shuffling” machines around accomplished security goals.

The TSA operates more than 700 body scanners at about 180 airports across the country.

In addition to LAX, the TSA is pulling the machines out of New York's LaGuardia and Kennedy airports, Chicago's O'Hare, Boston Logan, as well as airports in Charlotte, N.C., and Orlando, Fla. They are being shipped to Mesa, Arizona, Key West, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico, among other locations.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Government Replaces Body Scanners at Some Airports (by Jason Keyser, Associated Press)

LAX's Controversial Full-Body Scanners Out; New, Faster Scanners In (by Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times)

TSA Ignores Year-Old Court Order to Regulate the Use of “Nude” Body Scanners (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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