February 18, 2009
WASHINGTON — For the first time, some airline passengers will skip metal detectors and instead be screened by body scanning machines that look through clothing for hidden weapons, the Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday.
An experimental program that begins today at Tulsa International Airport will test whether the $170,000 body scanners could replace $10,000 metal detectors that have screened airline passengers since 1973. Airports in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City will join the test in the next two months, TSA spokesman Christopher White said.
The scanners aim to close a loophole by finding non-metallic weapons such as plastic and liquid explosives, which the TSA considers a major threat. The machines raise privacy concerns because their images reveal outlines of private body parts.
“We’re getting closer and closer to a required strip-search to board an airplane,” said Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Privacy advocate Melissa Ngo fears that passengers won’t understand that the scanners take vivid images that screeners view.