TSA expands naked scanners, swabbing at checkpoints, boarding areas
In twin announcements, the TSA says it began this month rolling out 150 backscatter-imaging technology units — i.e. naked scanners with X-rays — to airports across the country, and 300 more are on the way this year.
In addition, the TSA announced today that it is expanding its use of Explosive Trace Detection technology at U.S. airports in security lines, at the security checkpoint and in boarding areas.
The body scanners already are in use at around 20 airports across the country, and about a dozen more — including airports in Boston, Charlotte, Cincinatti, Fort Lauderdale, Kansas City, Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, Columbus and San Diego — will be getting them soon.
Here’s the deployment scenario for the body scanners:
The TSA says the scanners are safe. They use backscatter and millimeter wave technology.
“Backscatter technology projects low level X-ray beams over the body to create a reflection of the body displayed on the monitor,” the TSA says.
And millimeter wave technology bounces electromagnetic waves off the traveler’s body, creating a black-and-white, three-dimensional image which a TSA officer can view on a monitor to see if any weapons are present.
In addition to the scanners, the TSA is taking other steps to weed out explosives.
TSA officers would swab travelers’ hands or luggage to determine if traces of explosives are present.
Under the economic stimulus law, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, there was $15 million in funding for 400 fixed Electronic Trace Detection units, and the 2011 budget calls for 800 portable ETD units at a price tag $39 million.
After swabbing travelers’ hands or luggage — and this will be done randomly — TSA officers place the swab inside ETD units for analysis.
“Since it will be used on a random basis, passengers should not expect to see the same thing at every airport or each time they travel,” the TSA states.
Following the Christmas day attempted bombing on a Northwest flight, the TSA piloted the use of ETD technology at Raleigh Durham Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, Orlando Airport, and at two regional airports in North Carolina.
With today’s announcement, the deployments will be expanded to additional airports.
Like the ETD units, the body scanners also were funded through economic-stimulus law monies.
While it’s unclear how much stimulation will be going on, it’s certain there will be lots more poking and perusing at the nation’s airports.
Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.