Updated 10/22/2010 06:51 PM
TSA Unveils New Scanners At JFK Airport
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The Transportation Security Administration has installed new body scanners at local airports which reveal more than just security risks.
The advanced imaging technology technology units (AITs) were rolled out Friday at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
"These machines represent an important way to stay ahead of the ever-evolving threat that faces the aviation sector,” said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Napolitano says current TSA scans and X-rays only detect metal objects. But terrorists now have a more advanced arsenal, and these machines can find weapons other detectors cannot.
"The AIT is a material advance,” she said. “It improves our abilities to spot non-metal materials and helps our TSA officers keep commercial aviation safe.”
The machines send what are called “backscatter X-rays” that can see through your clothes. Then an agent at a different location looks at the scan showing a chalky, detailed – and naked – outline of each passenger from the front and back. Closer inspections will then be done if anything looks suspicious.
The majority of passengers who spoke with NY1 on Friday morning said the machines make them feel safer.
"I think it's great. I think any sort of advanced security is going to be helpful for all the travelers, for just feeling more comfortable on the flight and keeping everybody safe,” said one traveler.
“The plane’s secure, you're secure, whatever it takes to keep the plane secure,” said another.
The machines were funded by the 2009 Economic Recovery Act to help create jobs, in addition to keeping passengers safe.
Some are concerned that the chalky outline of a naked passenger’s body is an invasion of privacy.
"It’s a little intrusive, but for security you got to do what you got to do,” said a passenger.
"I'd like to see what it's like,” said another. “It seems intrusive."
Napolitano says travelers can still get a pat down if they prefer, but they say with a scan, privacy is protected because the person viewing it is not at the gate and cannot associate an image with a person. The images, says Napolitano, are deleted in about 20 seconds.
"That's not an invasion, invasion or die, pretty easy decision to me,” said a traveler.
Like the scans or not, travelers need to get used to them. Nearly 300 scanning machines have been put in place at 61 airports nationwide since March and more are on the way.
Newark and LaGuardia Airports will be getting their scanners over the next few weeks.