TSA To Install More Full Body X-Ray Machines At U.S. Airports


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TSA To Install More Full Body X-Ray Machines At U.S. Airports

By Bill Goldston

September 10, 2011 - Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator John S. Pistole announced approximately $44.8 million for the purchase of 300 millimeter wave Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines for deployment to airports nationwide further strengthening security at U.S. airports.  

The machines purchased will be deployed with new automated target recognition software designed to enhance passenger privacy by eliminating passenger-specific images while improving throughput capabilities of the technology and streamlining the checkpoint screening process. 

?Advanced imaging technology is one of the best layers of security we have to address the threats of today and tomorrow,? said TSA Administrator John S. Pistole. ?We remain committed to deploying this integral counterterrorism tool in order to ensure the highest level of security for the traveling public.? 

TSA plans to begin deploying the additional units in the coming months, and will make airport announcements once a deployment schedule is finalized. Many factors are taken into consideration before AIT units are deployed including airport readiness and checkpoint infrastructure. 

TSA takes all measures to ensure passenger privacy with its use of AIT screening. In July 2011, TSA began installing the new software on millimeter wave imaging technology machines currently in airports to enhance existing privacy protections. The additional millimeter wave units will be deployed with the new software installed, and all millimeter wave units currently in use are in the process of being upgraded with the new software. 

AIT is designed to enhance security by safely screening passengers for metallic and non-metallic threats?including weapons, explosives and other objects concealed under layers of clothing. Imaging technology screening is safe for all travelers, and the technology meets all known national and international health and safety standards. In fact, the energy emitted by millimeter wave technology is 1000 times less than the international limits and guidelines. 

Currently, there are nearly 500 AIT units at 78 airports nationwide. Today?s purchase of 300 millimeter wave units is off of an existing contract with L-3 Communications and includes the option to purchase an additional 200 units. President Obama?s fiscal 2011 budget included the purchase of 500 units, and the President?s fiscal 2012 budget requests funding for an additional 275 units. 

A full-body scanner is a device that creates an image of a person's nude body through their clothing to look for hidden objects without physically removing their clothes or making physical contact. They are increasingly being deployed at airports and train stations in many countries. 


One technology used under the name "full-body scanner" is the millimeter wave scanner, the active form of which reflects extremely high frequency radio waves off the body to make an image on which one can see some types of objects hidden under the clothes. Passive millimeter wave screening devices rely on only the raw energy that is naturally emitted from the human body or objects concealed on the body; passive devices do not transmit millimeter waves. Another technology in use is the backscatter X-ray. 

Two advantages of full-body scanners over a physical strip search are that it is quicker (takes only 15 seconds) and that people do not have to be touched in a manner that some might consider offensive unless the search is refused. A disadvantage is that the scanners are being used to perform routine, virtual strip searches without probable cause which opponents claim are illegal unreasonable searches that violate basic human rights.
Furthermore, the true long-term health effects of the active, radiating technologies are unknown. Passive millimeter wave screening is marketed as safe because its technology does not require radiating the subject with specific wavelengths.

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