Heads-up, for air travelers. As I'm sure you already know, full-body scanning equipment via x-ray is now a reality. It's also being placed in airports across the country.
Kansas City Star, March 16 2010 -- Body Scanning Arrives at Kansas City Int'l Airport:
Body scanning arrives at KCI
By BRAD COOPER
The Kansas City Star
Pepsi or Coke?
Paper or plastic?
Ketchup or mustard?
Now some Kansas City airline passengers will be confronted with a new choice.
Body scan or pat-down?
Starting next week, security screeners will run air travelers through a body scanner at Kansas City International Airport.
The scan is optional. But be warned that a frisking might not only cause more anxiety, but could cost you valuable minutes racing to your flight.
The choice is easy for Christy Hogan of Olathe.
“I don’t want people touching me,” Hogan said as she waited Tuesday at a security checkpoint. “I’d rather go through a machine and be done with it.”
Others were more dubious, especially about the health implications of being exposed to low-level X-ray beams.
“What does it do to you long term? I want to know what the results are,” said Linda Atkinson of Albuquerque, N.M.
Critics have compared the scans to a virtual strip search. The machines can create an image of the human body while detecting weapons, explosives or other potential threats.
At gates with the new scanner, no one escapes the increased scrutiny: Be scanned or frisked.
Passengers — especially those who rarely fly — are being encouraged to make the choice before they leave home.
“Be prepared,” Kansas City Aviation Director Mark VanLoh said Tuesday after federal authorities walked the media through the new state-of-the-art security measure.
The scanners represent the latest in an escalation of security since a man tried to blow up an airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day with explosives in his underwear.
While still in limited use nationwide, scanners are expected to be a fundamental part of airport security.
The Transportation Security Administration director at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport said Monday she expected body scans eventually will become mandatory to defend against jury-rigged explosives being sneaked onto airplanes.
While the flying public generally seems to embrace the increased security, there are bound to be fliers who’ll to want go with what they know best: the standard metal detector and pat-down.
But aviation experts urged the public to learn the nuances of the new security measure to avoid delays. For instance, you’ll have to rid yourself of just about any object — metal or not — on your body before going through the scanner.
“There’s going to have to be an education on the part of the traveling public,” said Christopher Bidwell, security chief for the Airports Council International.
VanLoh said he didn’t know how security line wait times would be affected when the scanner starts running sometime next week in Terminal B.
So far, the 21 airports with the body scanners have reported negligible effects on wait times, Bidwell said. But he withheld judgment, noting that hundreds more scanners are being rolled out at airports in the coming months.
“It’s something we’ll continue to monitor,” Bidwell said.
Kansas City is getting one of the 150 body scanners that are going to 11 airports this month. The Transportation Security Administration is planning to deploy 450 units in 2010 and 500 in 2011.
The KCI scanner will screen passengers going to Southwest Airlines, which carries the most passengers locally. The airline is confident its passengers won’t be delayed.
“It should be pretty seamless to the customer,” Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz said.
Federal authorities held out the possibility Tuesday that more scanners could serve other gates at KCI, but that could be problematic because of space issues, VanLoh said.
Installing the scanners at other gates could mean expanding the gate area into the concourse or making part of the terminal completely off limits to anyone without a boarding pass, he said.
Civil liberties advocates have criticized the machines as virtual strip searches. But the TSA said it takes steps to protect passenger privacy. The scanner at KCI produces an image resembling an artist’s sketch that shows a body with no facial features.
Security officers viewing the image are yards away in a small room with frosted glass and never see the passenger
The TSA said it doesn’t store, export, print or transmit images. All images are automatically deleted from the system after they’re reviewed.
Some passengers said Tuesday they weren’t bothered by the scanners coming to KCI, especially if they’re faster and improve airline security.
“While it may be an inconvenience, it improves the safety across the board for everyone,” said Don Latson of Prairie Village, whose wife once worked as an airline attendant.
“If this stops or deters one disaster, it’s worth it.”
All about scanning
•Location: Gates 37-45, Terminal B
•Start date: Sometime next week. No day announced.
•What you do: Walk between two giant boxes, turn sideways and spread your arms.
•Time involved: 15 to 20 seconds, versus 2 to 4 minutes for metal detector and pat-down.
•Differences from a metal detector:
1. Detects non-metallic objects.
2. Gives screener the size, shape and location of the object.
3. Detects smaller amounts of metal, even in powder and liquid slurry forms.
•X-ray depth: About one-tenth of an inch into the skin. This is not the machine for body-cavity searches.
• Radiation exposure: You’d have to be scanned at the airport 1,000 times to receive the amount in one chest X-ray.
Sources: Rapiscan, the manufacturer; Transportation Security Administration
BusinessWeek, March 15 2010 -- Full-Body Scanner Debuts at O'Hare Int'l Airport:
Full-body scanner debuts at O'Hare airport
By MICHAEL TARM
Some air travelers already uneasy about a range of security checks at the nation's second-busiest airport can add another potential anxiety: The first full-body scanner at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport made its debut Monday.
The imaging technology, which effectively sees through clothes by scattering low-dose x-rays at a passenger's front and back, is one of 150 such scanners bought with federal stimulus money last year and now being deployed at major airports across the United States.
"It's another layer -- technology being used to provide a more secure environment," Rosemarie Andolino, the commissioner for Chicago's department of aviation, said Monday during a demonstration of the equipment.
Civil libertarians, however, have complained that the new machines can violate a passenger's privacy.
The Transportation Security Administration has been deploying the body-scanning technology in an effort to ensure that airports can detect hidden explosives and other weapons in the wake of an attempted bombing on Christmas Day. In that case, a Nigerian man is charged with trying to set off explosives that had been hidden in his underwear.
The first scanners paid for with stimulus money were deployed last week at Boston's Logan International Airport. Others go to airports in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; San Jose, Calif.; Columbus, Ohio; San Diego; Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati; Los Angeles; Oakland, Calif.; and Kansas City.
O'Hare's new scanner, consisting of two blue machines the size of phone booths set a few feet apart, is surprisingly unobtrusive. It stands in an existing security checkpoint amid older detectors and, unless they're looking for it, many passengers might not even notice it's there.
During Monday's demonstration, several volunteers walked one at a time between the two units, stopped and raised their arms for several seconds while the machine scanned them, then walked out. The procedure took no more than 10 seconds per person.
There's no mistaking outlines of a human body in the resulting gray and white images, with folds of skin, and even breasts and buttocks visible. But the faces and genital areas are automatically obscured by the body scanner.
The American Civil Liberties Union has denounced the screening as a "virtual strip search." Aviation authorities said they have taken such concerns into account.
Images created by the body scanner at O'Hare can be seen only by a screener 20 feet away in a room fashioned from frosted-glass walls. Officials say the screeners can't see who has been scanned and have no way of saving pictures transmitted from the body scan to their monitors.
"We take the privacy and anonymity of passengers very seriously," said Eddie Mayenschein, a TSA official speaking at O'Hare on Monday. "We want to make sure the person with the passenger doesn't see the image and the person who sees the image doesn't see the passenger."
Passengers retain the right to opt out of a full-body scan for a more intense but traditional pat down.
The 150 machines paid for by stimulus cash join 40 already in use at around 20 airports nationwide. Hundreds more will be deployed at U.S. airports, including at least several more at O'Hare, in the coming months and years, Mayenschein said.
CNN, May 18 2009 -- Airport Security Bares All, or Does It?
Airport security bares all, or does it?
By Jessica Ravitz
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Privacy advocates plan to call on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to suspend use of "whole-body imaging," the airport security technology that critics say performs "a virtual strip search" and produces "naked" pictures of passengers, CNN has learned.
The national campaign, which will gather signatures from organizations and relevant professionals, is set to launch this week with the hope that it will go "viral," said Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which plans to lead the charge.
"People need to know what's happening, with no sugar-coating and no spinning," said Coney, who is also coordinator of the Privacy Coalition, a conglomerate of 42 member organizations. She expects other groups to sign on in the push for the technology's suspension until privacy safeguards are in place.
Right now, without regulations on what the Transportation Security Administration does with this technology, she said, "We don't have the policy to hold them to what they say. They're writing their own rule book at this point."
The machines "detect both metallic and nonmetallic threat items to keep passengers safe," said Kristin Lee, spokeswoman for TSA, in a written statement. "It is proven technology, and we are highly confident in its detection capability."
>> Watch a video of the body imaging scans.
Late last month, freshman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced legislation to ban these machines. Of concern to him, Coney and others is not just what TSA officials say, it's also what they see. iReport: Tell us what you think about these scanners
The sci-fi-looking whole-body imaging machine -- think "Beam me up, Scotty" -- was first introduced at an airport in Phoenix, Arizona, in November 2007. There are now 40 machines, which cost $170,000 each, being tested and used in 19 airports, said TSA's Lee.
These six airports are using whole-body imaging as a primary security measure, according to TSA:
# San Francisco, California
# Miami, Florida
# Albuquerque, New Mexico
# Tulsa, Oklahoma
# Salt Lake City, Utah
# Las Vegas, Nevada
Six of these airports are testing the machines as a primary security check option, instead of metal detectors followed by a pat-down, she said. The rest present them as a voluntary secondary security option in lieu of a pat-down, which is protocol for those who've repeatedly set off the metal detector or have been randomly selected for additional screening.
So far, the testing phase has been promising, said Lee. When given the choice, "over 99 percent of passengers choose this technology over other screening options," she said.
A big advantage of the technology is the speed, said Jon Allen, another TSA spokesperson, who's based in Atlanta, Georgia. A body scan takes between 15 and 30 seconds, while a full pat-down can take from two to four minutes. And for those who cringe at the idea of being touched by a security official, or are forever assigned to a pat-down because they had hip replacements, for example, the machine is a quick and easy way to avoid that contact and hassle, he said.
Using millimeter wave technology, which the TSA says emits 10,000 times less radio frequency than a cell phone, the machine scans a traveler and a robotic image is generated that allows security personnel to detect potential threats -- and, some fear, more -- beneath a person's clothes.
TSA officials say privacy concerns are addressed in a number of ways.
The system uses a pair of security officers. The one working the machine never sees the image, which appears on a computer screen behind closed doors elsewhere; and the remotely located officer who sees the image never sees the passenger.
As further protection, a passenger's face is blurred and the image as a whole "resembles a fuzzy negative," said TSA's Lee. The officers monitoring images aren't allowed to bring cameras, cell phones or any recording device into the room, and the computers have been programmed so they have "zero storage capability" and images are "automatically deleted," she added.
But this is of little comfort to Coney, the privacy advocate with EPIC, a public interest research group in Washington. She said she's seen whole-body images captured by similar technology dating back to 2004 that were much clearer than what's represented by the airport machines.
"What they're showing you now is a dumbed-down version of what this technology is capable of doing," she said. "Having blurry images shouldn't blur the issue."
Lee of TSA emphasized that the images Coney refers to do not represent millimeter wave technology but rather "backscatter" technology, which she said TSA is not using at this time.
Coney said she and other privacy advocates want more oversight, full disclosure for air travelers, and legal language to protect passengers and keep TSA from changing policy down the road.
For example, she wants to know what's to stop TSA from using clearer images or different technology later. The computers can't store images now, but what if that changes?
"TSA will always be committed to respecting passenger privacy, regardless of whether a regulation is in place or not," Lee said.
She added that the long-term goal is not to see more of people, but rather to advance the technology so that the human image is like a stick-figure and any anomalies are auto-detected and highlighted.
But Coney knows only about what's out there now, and she worries that as the equipment gets cheaper, it will become more pervasive and harder to regulate. Already it is used in a handful of U.S. courthouses and in airports in the United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Thailand and the Netherlands. She wonders whether the machines will someday show up in malls.
The option of walking through a whole-body scanner or taking a pat-down shouldn't be the final answer, said Chris Calabrese, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.
"A choice between being groped and being stripped, I don't think we should pretend those are the only choices," he said. "People shouldn't be humiliated by their government" in the name of security, nor should they trust that the images will always be kept private.
"Screeners at LAX [Los Angeles International Airport]," he speculated, "could make a fortune off naked virtual images of celebrities."
Bruce Schneier, an internationally recognized security technologist, said whole-body imaging technology "works pretty well," privacy rights aside. But he thinks the financial investment was a mistake. In a post-9/11 world, he said, he knows his position isn't "politically tenable," but he believes money would be better spent on intelligence-gathering and investigations.
"It's stupid to spend money so terrorists can change plans," he said by phone from Poland, where he was speaking at a conference. If terrorists are swayed from going through airports, they'll just target other locations, such as a hotel in Mumbai, India, he said.
"We'd be much better off going after bad guys ... and back to pre-9/11 levels of airport security," he said. "There's a huge 'cover your ass' factor in politics, but unfortunately, it doesn't make us safer."
Meantime, TSA's Lee says the whole-body imaging machines remain in the pilot phase. Given what the organization has gleaned so far, she said additional deployments are anticipated.