Airport screeners now able to see through clothes - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Airport screeners now able to see through clothes

Posted: Updated:
millimeter wave machine millimeter wave machine
image from millimeter wave machine image from millimeter wave machine
raw image from backscatter machine (TSA screeners see a more diffused version) raw image from backscatter machine (TSA screeners see a more diffused version)
diffused version of backscatter image (copyright American Science and Engineering Inc., 2008) diffused version of backscatter image (copyright American Science and Engineering Inc., 2008)
  • More newsMore>>

  • Pope Francis, huge crowd joyously celebrate Easter

    Pope Francis, huge crowd joyously celebrate Easter

    Sunday, April 20 2014 9:32 AM EDT2014-04-20 13:32:48 GMT
    Pope Francis is celebrating Christianity's most joyous day, Easter Sunday, under sunny skies in St. Peter's Square.More >>
    Marking Christianity's most hopeful day, Pope Francis made an Easter Sunday plea for peace and dialogue in Ukraine and Syria, for an end to terrorist attacks against Christians in Nigeria and for more attention to the...More >>
  • Alabama State Trooper shot in Geneva Co.

    Alabama State Trooper shot in Geneva Co.

    Sunday, April 20 2014 9:00 AM EDT2014-04-20 13:00:07 GMT
    Alabama State Troopers are confirming to WSFA 12 News that one of their officers was shot Saturday afternoon in Geneva County. Details remain limited, but authorities say the officer is being treatedMore >>
    Alabama State Troopers are confirming to WSFA 12 News that one of their officers was shot Saturday afternoon in Geneva County. Details remain limited, but authorities say the officer is being treatedMore >>
  • Transcript reveals confusion over ferry evacuation

    Transcript reveals confusion over ferry evacuation

    Sunday, April 20 2014 8:52 AM EDT2014-04-20 12:52:42 GMT
    The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster rose past 50 on Sunday as divers finally found a way inside the sunken vessel, quickly discovering more than a dozen bodies in what almost certainly is...More >>
    A transcript released Sunday shows the South Korean ferry that sank was crippled with confusion and indecision well after it began listing dangerously, possibly adding to a death toll that is officially at 58 but could...More >>

By Mark Bullock - bio | email

BALTIMORE, MD (WSFA) - Airport security teams are taking advantage of a new technology these days that is much more advanced than your typical metal detector. In fact, some say the images this machine produces are borderline pornographic.

It's a glass & steel, cylindrical device called a millimeter wave passenger imaging screener.  The machine takes a circular, head-to-toe scan of your entire body in less than a minute.

Amazingly, the energy emitted is 10-thousand times less than a cell phone. But make no mistake about what the machine does. The technology is using radio waves to look under your clothes.

In another part of the airport, far from the scanner, a TSA officer sits in front of a monitor and examines the image, with the face blurred out.  Any item under your clothes, regardless of what it's made of, can be seen.

"This technology uses harmless electromagnetic waves to produce an image of the body that allows the security officer to ensure there are no items or threat items concealed on that person," said TSA spokeswoman Lauren Gaches.

And this isn't the only passenger imaging technology the TSA has deployed.

One of its employees demonstrated the powers of a "backscatter" machine in Phoenix recently. She walked through with a pistol hidden around her waist. In the image above, you can see the pistol easily... along with everything else.

The machines, however, can diffuse the images before they're viewed by TSA employees.

When you show passengers photos of these images, many are surprised.

"Oh my!" said traveler Rosemary Sloan. "That's a little more invasive than I think I would like."

And she is certainly not alone. The American Civil Liberties Union has been vocal in its opposition to the machines.

"This is the ultimate government invasion of your privacy," said the ACLU's Kent Williams. "It literally is a camera that strips you nude for government employees."

But passenger Stacey Zabel takes a more pragmatic approach. As a frequent business flyer, he says time and security are his two biggest concerns.  Modesty isn't even on the list.

"I have no doubt that it's more time efficient," Zabel said. "And it's less invasive, in my opinion, than being wanded."

Millimeter wave screening machines are clearly marked.  And for now, no one is forced to go through them. The TSA allows the passenger to decide. They are being used at 21 of the nation's largest airports, including Atlanta.

Powered by WorldNow