Partner of a Pilot
The Candid Diary of an Airline Pilot’s Girlfriend

Okay, Thoughts Please? I am all for improved security, but how would you like to be strip searched on camera by airport security?

This title might seem like a joke… It is not.

TRAVELLERS at Los Angeles and New York airports will be searched using a new scanner that peers through their clothes and creates an image of the person’s body, federal officials announced.

The sophisticated technology, called millimetre wave imaging, might prove to be a more effective way to check travellers for guns, knives, bombs and dangerous materials than pat-down searches. But it has raised questions by privacy and civil rights advocates, who say the screening process is invasive and amounts to a virtual strip search.

“I don’t think people are really aware of just how accurate and detailed the images are of their naked body,” said Peter Bibring, a staff lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in Los Angeles. “We need to make sure there are good safeguards. The temptation is great not to follow procedures when a celebrity or someone well known is involved.”

Millimetre wave pictures are white and dark gray. Although somewhat fuzzy, they are detailed enough to reveal such features as breasts and body anomalies.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials said the agency planned to buy at least 30 more devices this year for other airports. It unveiled the “whole body imaging” machine at the Delta Airlines terminal at the Los Angeles airport on Thursday.

Another millimetre wave machine was rolled out at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The devices, part of a pilot program involving major airports, are being tested under actual conditions.

“This will allow us to enhance our security at LAX (Los Angeles airport),” said Nico Melendez, a TSA spokesman. “Imaging devices are not a brand new security tool, but they are a brand new security tool for airports.”

Travellers randomly selected for secondary screening will go through the scanning device, which uses electromagnetic waves to create an image from energy reflected from the human body. The device costs about $US150,000 ($A160,000).

If passengers don’t want to go through the scanner, they can opt for other screening measures, including pat-down searches. Signs in the checkpoint area will advise travellers of this option. During the process, a person walks into a large portal and assumes two positions for the scan. A three-dimensional image later appears on a computer screen checked by a security official in a separate location. The process takes a minute or two.

To protect a person’s privacy, officials said that security officers review the images in a booth about 20 metres away and are unable to see the passenger in question. The faces of those scanned are blurred, and the images cannot be stored, copied or printed, officials said.

According to the TSA, about 80% of travellers scanned during recent tests at Sky Harbour International Airport in Phoenix opted for the imaging machine instead of a pat-down search. Mr Melendez said there have been no complaints from passengers since testing began at Sky Harbour late last year.

Civil-rights and privacy advocates say the images are detailed depictions of the naked human body and should be tightly controlled to prevent them from being posted on the internet, sold to tabloid publications or misused in other ways.I for one am mortified by this! I may not be a celebrity, but I still think that there is scope for abuse with this new system… The person viewing this may be 20 meters away, but that just means he/she is a voyeur rather than ogling your naked body openly.

Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times
April 19, 2008

I guarantee that at least some of these staff are going to be getting a perverse kick out of the images-as there really is little left to the imagination by them!

I guess that being the loved one of an airline pilot, I should be feeling pleasantly reassured by this new technology; but truthfully, I am struggling to get past my own feelings of disgust at the fact that my privacy would be invaded-I find the whole thing creepy and wrong. It is tantamount to being arbitrarily strip-searched on camera!

…Maybe it would be a good alternative to a strip search with gloves; but I do not think that it is appropriate to screen all passengers this way! Please leave your thoughts on this story, as I am dying to know what everyone thinks of this!?

NB, I have since written a follow up post (with a vote poll on whether you would agree to take this scan voluntarily) here: TSA L-3’s XXX-Rated Airport Scanner Pictures

On a lighter note, this is my 100th post; and Bf got his best ever sim report!!!


5 Responses to “Okay, Thoughts Please? I am all for improved security, but how would you like to be strip searched on camera by airport security?”

  1. OK, a bit late, but here’s my response…

    I don’t see any big deal about it. This country is just way, way too hung up on nakedness. So what if there are fuzzy images of what your naked body may look somewhat like floating around. It’s no big deal. In fact, maybe it will make people not worry so much about others seeing their bodies and worry more about important things.

  2. Why bother with multi-million dollar scanners? Just take it all off and proceed.


  3. Horrible idea. Definitely an invasion of privacy

  4. I can’t believe people aren’t objecting to this. It is clearly an invasion of privacy. It just goes to show the American people are sheep….everyone just follows blindly with no thought of how our rights and freedoms are being eroded. Maybe Randy is proud of his naked body but I bet he wouldn’t want to stand by while his wife or mother or child was screened in this way. And if this is allowed what’s to prevent them from strip searching passengers – and in public at that? After all, you’ve already bared yourself to the camera and it could be argued that’s tantamount to giving permission.

  5. I was scanned going through the Indianapolis airport last week and felt humiliated and exposed as I spread my legs and lifted my arms for the computer to take a picture of me. I was not told I had the option to have a pat down and would have preferred it.

    Turned out the reason for my second screening was because I forgot to take off my pedometer. This would have been found easily at the first pat of my belt. I finally got into the rhythm of wearing it often enough that it’s with me all the time. Doh. I felt so embarrassed. But more because of the scan and images I’d seen online of how it comes out and not because of my mistake. I’m a 25 year old woman and slender to average build. While the person who walked me into the machine was a woman, I felt dirty not knowing who was viewing my nearly nude image.

    This technology has it’s applications in strip search situations but the privacy violation and psychological punishment for traveling is not worth it for daily screening.

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