Scanners that see through clothing installed in US airports


NEW YORK (AFP) – 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 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, 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.”

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