Airport body scanners spreading across US
The Transportation Security Administration on Friday announced nine more U.S. airports that will receive body-scanning technology as the U.S. heightens its effort to detect hidden explosives and contraband.Updated: Mar 07, 2010, 11:53 IST
The Transportation Security Administration on Friday announced nine more U.S. airports that will receive body-scanning technology as the U.S. heightens its effort to detect hidden explosives and contraband.
TSA security director Lee Kair said units will be fielded in the coming months at Fort Lauderdale, Florida; San Jose, California; Columbus, Ohio; San Diego; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cincinnati; Los Angeles; Oakland, California; and Kansas City. They will join three machines going online Monday at Boston's Logan International Airport, and in the next week at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.
All are among 150 machines bought with money from the federal stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama last year.
They join 40 machines already in use at 19 airports nationwide. Deployment of the machines was announced in the fall, before a Nigerian allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day with explosives concealed in his underwear. Even so, that event highlighted the need for additional security in the U.S. aviation system.
Other countries have also signed on to use the technology, including Nigeria and the Netherlands, where the final leg of the man's flight originated.
Civil libertarians and even Pope Benedict XVI have complained that the new machines can violate a passenger's privacy. The American Civil Liberties Union has denounced the screening as a "virtual strip search."
The TSA says that the units won't be able to print or store images, and that the officer viewing them will have no contact with passengers.
The scanners allow the TSA to see beneath a passenger's clothing, to search for contraband not detectable to the eye or a metal screener.
Passengers will have the option of accepting or declining a body scan. Those who do _ and pass _ will not have to walk through a metal detector or other security equipment. Those who decline will have to walk through a metal detector and also submit to a patdown. Images from the scanner will be displayed in a remote viewing room. A passenger's face will be blurred, and the image will be seen only by an officer in the room. The passenger will remain at the checkpoint until the remote officer gives the all-clear to another officer standing with the passenger.
Sample images are on display on the TSA's Web site. The Obama administration announced in February 2009 that it would provide $1 billion for airport screening as part of its $787 billion federal stimulus package.
In May, the administration detailed how that money would be spent _ including $25 million for the new scanners. Between May and September, the department asked contractors to provide proposals for building the scanners. Competing models were tested over the summer. The department awarded the contract to California-based Rapiscan at the end of September.