January 19, 2013
TSA Pulling Revealing Body Scanners From US Airports
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Full-body image scanners that drew the ire of privacy advocates who likened passing through them to undergoing a strip search are being removed from US airports, officials from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have reportedly confirmed.
According to Jeff Plungis of Bloomberg News, the decision to end the $5 million contract between TSA and OSI Systems, developers of the Rapiscan units, came after the company officials admitted that they would not be able to meet a Congressional deadline to create new software for the scanners.
The new software would have produced generic, less revealing pictures of passengers, Plungis said. TSA representatives had removed 76 of the 250 Rapiscan machines from busier American airports in 2012, and will now dismantle the remaining units at the manufacturer´s expense, an agency spokesperson told Bloomberg.
“Due to its inability to deploy non-imaging Automated Target Recognition (ATR) software by the Congressionally-mandated June 2013 deadline, TSA has terminated its contract with Rapiscan," the agency said in a statement, according to FoxNews.com. "By June 2013 travelers will only see machines which have ATR that allow for faster throughput. This means faster lanes for the traveler and enhanced security.”
“Advocates say the naked body scanners machines are efficient at spotting threats and are much faster than administering strip searches,” the Rupert Murdoch-owned news organization added. “But they have also generated complaints from critics who say the X-ray exposure they subject passengers to could be a health risk. The European Union last year banned the use of backscatter scanners at European airports over health concerns.”
There are also privacy issues associated with the Rapiscan devices. According to Fox News, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claims on its website that the devices allowed TSA agents to view images of passengers which could include revealing looks at their breasts, buttocks, and genitalia.
“Because of the concerns, TSA officers had to monitor the near-nude images of passengers on Rapiscan monitors in private rooms away from checkpoints. They then relayed messages to checkpoints if any suspicious objects were detected. And that also takes longer,” explains Bart Jansen of USA Today. “Travelers are allowed to refuse a full-body scan, regardless of the machine, in favor of a pat-down by TSA officers.”
The TSA will use 60 machines manufactured by L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., the agency´s other supplier of body scanners,” Plungis added. “L-3 scanning machines rely on millimeter-wave technology, which uses radio frequencies that can find both metallic and non-metallic items.”