Saturday, November 8, 2008

New Airport Scanners Reveal Everything !


Travelers beware; your full blown image, private parts and all, could soon be visible to security officers on-screen, at an airport near you!

Within the next 60 days, some airports nationwide are scheduled to install and use full body-imaging devices. But not everyone believes they're a good idea.

And before we continue a word of warning - this story does contain images that may not be appropriate for everyone.

It's afternoon rush-hour at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. As the masses make their way through the metal detectors, a random few are pulled from line and sent into a different machine, one of glass & steel, called a Millimeter Wave Passenger Imaging Screener.

The machine takes a circular, head to toe scan of your entire body in less than a minute, and amazingly, the energy emitted is 10,000 times less than a cell phone.

But make no mistake about what it does. The technology is using radio waves to look under your clothes.

In another part of the airport far from the scanner, a TSA officer sits in front of a monitor and examines the image, with the face blurred out. The scanner shows one passenger who apparently forgot to put her cell phone in the bin. It's visible in her back pocket.

In fact, any item under your clothes, regardless of what its made of, would be detectable by these machines.

"This technology uses harmless electromagnetic waves to produce an image of the body that allows the security officer to ensure there are no items or threat items concealed on that person," said TSA Spokesperson Lauren Gaches.

This isn't the only passenger imaging technology TSA has deployed. In a test of a Backscatter Machine at the Phoenix airport, a TSA employee tries to sneak a weapon through the gate.

While the pistol she's carrying is clearly visible, so is everything else.

Another test with a male TSA employee showed a bag of narcotics taped to his chest, which the backscatter did detect. The contrast and clarity of these pictures can be diffused somewhat - through a filter attached to the machine.

The Millimeter Wave Screener will soon be in Richmond and 21 other cities around the country within the next 60 days.

At the Richmond Airport, when you show passengers a photos of these images, it's not uncommon to hear: "Oh my! That's a little more invasive than I think I would like," said passenger Rosemary Sloan.

She is certainly not alone. The American Civil Liberties Union has been vocal in it's opposition to the deployment of these machines.

"This is the ultimate government invasion of your privacy. It literally is a camera that strips you nude for government employees," said UCLA Spokesperson Kent Willis.

But passenger Stacey Zabel takes a more pragmatic approach to going through these screeners. He's a frequent business flyer. Day-to-day, time and security are his two biggest concerns. Modesty isn't even on the list.

"I have no doubt that it's more time efficient and it's less invasive, in my opinion, than being wanded," he said.

These machines are clearly marked and no one is forced to go through. TSA allows the passenger to decide if this is an acceptable loss of privacy, a trade-off of sorts, for piece of mind when traveling by air.

The European Union is considering these machines, but several countries have already publicly stated the scanners are too invasive and won't be used.

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