Airport Body Scanners

There is often a fine line between freedom and safety and usually that line is tested while waiting to get through the security checkpoints at airports.? It’s pretty ridiculous sometimes.? Would you be willing to sacrifice some of your freedom to get through airport security faster?

I would.? According to the USA Today, ten airports in the United States are installing full body scanners, which would be able to see through clothing.? Among the airports already installing these devices are Los Angeles, Denver, Albuquerque, Baltimore and New York’s Kennedy Airport; Dallas, Miami, Washington D.C., Detroit and Las Vegas will have them installed within months.

Stepping into the 9-foot-tall glass booth, Eileen Reardon of Baltimore looked startled when an electronic glass door slid around the outside of the machine to create the image of her body. “Some of this stuff seems a little crazy,” Reardon said, “but in this day and age, you have to go along with it.”

Scott Shafer of Phoenix didn’t mind a screener looking at him underneath his shorts and polo shirt from a nearby room. The door is kept shut and blocked with floor screens. “I don’t know that person back there. I’ll never seem them,” Shafer said. “Everything personal is taken out of the equation.”

Everything personal, including your privacy.? Seems that these machines can clearly tell what gender a person is, which is obvious to begin with.? Somehow, this feels a little icky.? Still, if it makes things safer and cuts down on my time waiting to get through security scanners might not be so evil.

The scanners bounce harmless “millimeter waves” off passengers who are selected to stand inside a portal with arms raised after clearing the metal detector. A TSA screener in a nearby room views the black-and-white image and looks for objects on a screen that are shaded differently from the body. Finding a suspicious object, a screener radios a colleague at the checkpoint to search the passenger.

The TSA says it protects privacy by blurring passengers’ faces and deleting images right after viewing. Yet the images are detailed, clearly showing a person’s gender. “You can actually see the sweat on someone’s back,” Schear said.

The scanners aim to strengthen airport security by spotting plastic and ceramic weapons and explosives that evade metal detectors and are the biggest threat to aviation. Government audits have found that screeners miss a large number of weapons, bombs and bomb parts such as wires and timers that agents sneak through checkpoints.

“I’m delighted by this development,” said Clark Kent Ervin, the former Homeland Security inspector general whose reports urged the use of body scanners. “This really is the ultimate answer to increasing screeners’ ability to spot concealed weapons.”

The scanners do a good job seeing under clothing but cannot see through plastic or rubber materials that resemble skin, said Peter Siegel, a senior scientist at the California Institute of Technology.

“You probably could find very common materials that you could wrap around you that would effectively obscure things,” Siegel said.

Passengers who went through a scanner at the Baltimore airport last week were intrigued, reassured and occasionally wary. The process took about 30 seconds on average.

[USA Today]

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