Airports Can Now Scan Flyers' Entire Bodies
04/17/2008 04:59 PM
Airports are now given a digital peek under travelers’ clothes, as new full body scan machines are tested at JFK's airport security. NY1’s Adam Balkin filed the following report.
Copyright © 2008 NY1 News
As part of a pilot project, the Transportation Security Administration is now testing millimeter wave full-body scan machines at Queen’s JFK International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. The first scanning machines were tested in Phoenix.
“Here it'll be used for passengers selected by the airline for additional screening or who may require additional screening because may they alarmed the metal detector,” said TSA spokesperson Lara Uselding. “It'll be purely voluntary and it takes a short 12 to 15 seconds and passengers can choose that over the traditional pat-down.”
The machines do not detect explosives or metal, but instead rely on a human screener, who is given a minute to determine whether something on the screen appears to be wrong.
“It's just a radar signal that bounces off the body and would pick up any lumps or things that shouldn't be there,” said David Hobbs of the TSA office of security and technology.
While the radar can detect what is underneath the top layer of clothes, passengers do not have to worry about being exposed in front of airport workers.
“The images are never stored or saved,” said Uselding. “The minute that the passenger walks in through the [imager] and is cleared, meaning they’re given a green light, that image is gone forever. It will not be stored or saved."
"Also, the image operator, the person looking at that image to make sure the person is not artfully concealing a weapon, is off in a remote location, unable to make eye contact with the passenger," continued Uselding.
The image seen on the scanner is divided in two halves, blurs the traveler’s face, renders the color of clothes and skin undetectable and overall gives the traveler the appearance of an astronaut.
Developers insist that the millimeter wave technology is safe and will not cause bodily harm — and insist that the energy given off by the screener is about 10,000 times smaller than the energy emitted by a cell phone.
TSA officials said that the pilot project will help determine where body scanning fits in with other detection systems on the securty line and whether it can be a replacement.
The TSA also said it bought 30 more machines to be deployed at other airports throughout the year.
- Adam Balkin