Wednesday, June 11, 2008


If you thought there was no silver lining to the continuing meltdown of the airline industry, think again. The fact that fewer people are flying on fewer airlines at rates soon to be prohibitive for all but the very well to do, means fewer American citizens will be subject to the following treatment.


Scanners that see through clothing installed in US airports
Tue Jun 10, 5:11 PM ET

Security scanners which can see through passengers' clothing and reveal details of their body underneath are being installed in 10 US airports, the US Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday.

A random selection of travellers getting ready to board airplanes in Washington, New York's Kennedy, Los Angeles and other key hubs will be shut in the glass booths while a three-dimensional image is made of their body beneath their clothes.

The booths close around the passenger and emit "millimeter waves" that go through cloth to identify metal, plastics, ceramics, chemical materials and explosives, according to the TSA.

While it allows the security screeners -- looking at [and rating?] the images in a separate room -- to clearly see the passenger's sexual organs as well as other details of their bodies, the passenger's face is blurred [oh, okay then], TSA said in a statement on its website.

The scan only takes seconds and is to replace the physical pat-downs of people that is currently widespread in airports.

TSA began introducing the body scanners in airports in April, first in the Phoenix, Arizona terminal.

The installation is picking up this month, with machines in place or planned for airports in Washington (Reagan National and Baltimore-Washington International), Dallas, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Miami and Detroit.

But the new machines have provoked worries among passengers and rights activists.

"People have no idea how graphic the images are," Barry Steinhardt, director of the technology and liberty program at the American Civil Liberties Union, told AFP.

The ACLU said in a statement that passengers expecting privacy underneath their clothing "should not be required to display highly personal details of their bodies such as evidence of mastectomies, colostomy appliances, penile implants, catheter tubes and the size of their breasts or genitals as a pre-requisite to boarding a plane."

Besides masking their faces, the TSA says on its website, the images made "will not be printed stored or transmitted." [At least not directly. Hey, TSA, ever hear of cell phones with cameras?]

"Once the transportation security officer has viewed the image and resolved anomalies [With what, a gloved hand?], the image is erased from the screen permanently [but not from the memory of a TSA officer]. The officer is unable to print, export, store or transmit the image." [They will, however, be allowed to make allusions to the size of passengers' body parts using cupped hands held chest high or the right and left forefingers held varying distances apart.]

Lara Uselding, a TSA spokeswoman, added that passengers are not obliged to accept the new machines [just as we are not obliged to let them board].

"The passengers can choose between the body imaging and the pat-down," [Heck of a choice there, much like being given the choice to be probed with or without a glove.] she told AFP.

TSA foresees 30 of the machines installed across the country by the end of 2008 [this makes the big assumption that there still will be airports to need them]. In Europe, Amsterdam's Schipol airport is already [inappropriately] using the scanners.


This is just one more in a slew of reasons why I haven't flown in nearly 10 years. Flying used to be an enjoyable experience, but it sounds like too much hassle to bother with anymore. Oh well, I've seen a good portion of the world I want to see already, so it's not that big of a loss for me, and isn't it all about me? (Thank goodness my wife doesn't read my blog.)

Take care.

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