TSA Body Scans to Become Less Revealing

Newsday, Melville, N.Y., July 21, 2011
By Keith Herbert

July 21--Full-body scans that passengers endure at security checkpoints in airports in New York City and on Long Island will be less revealing of their body images by the end of the year, the Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday.

The agency announced it has tested new software that produces a more "generic" body image than the detailed images created by current imaging technology.

TSA Administrator John Pistole said the new software will "enhance privacy by eliminating passenger-specific images." The software, called Automated Target Recognition, will detect nonmetallic objects that could be a threat, even while the depicted body image is less detailed.

The new, generic images resemble a simple cartoon drawing of a person. If something is found during the screening, the passenger then would be singled out for additional screening -- which could include a physical pat-down.

Another benefit of the new software, the TSA said, is that passengers can view on video monitors the same outline that a TSA screener is seeing. Currently, the images are viewed by a TSA screener in a remote viewing room, a measure that no longer will be required.

With the new software, if no potential threats are detected, an "OK" is shown on the monitor, no outline of a person appears, and the passenger is cleared, the TSA said.

Successful tests of the new software were conducted at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Las Vegas McCarran International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports. The new software will be introduced at airports in the New York region by the end of the year, TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball said.

Eventually, Kennedy Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Long Island MacArthur Airport and Newark Liberty Airport will have the new technology.

Pistole said the new software will be installed on all millimeter-wave Advanced Imaging Technology machines currently in airports. There also are plans to test similar software on another type of full-body scanner currently in use, known as a backscatter. That type of scanner is in place at Newark Liberty.

Seventy-eight airports nationwide have nearly 500 imaging technology units, the TSA said.