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  (Source: Associated Press)
Full-body scanning may be increased after terror attack on U.S. bound flight

With the failed Christmas Day attack fresh on the mind of many Americans, many are calling for increased security in our airports. Security is already increased in the post 9/11 world of air travel, but many Americans still don't feel safe.

Some lawmakers in Congress are calling for increased use of full body scanners that some claim would have detected the non-metallic explosive used by the Nigerian terrorist aboard the Detroit-bound flight on Christmas day. Reuters reports that Dutch authorities have announced that the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam -- where the terrorist boarded the flight bound for America -- will be using full body scanners within three weeks.

In America, President Obama could decree that the deployment of similar scanners in airports around the country be installed. At this point, only 19 airports around the country are using the full-body scanners and the use of the scanners is optional by the traveler. They can opt for pat down instead of using the full-body scanner.

No legislation from Congress is needed for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to deploy full-body scanners into the remainder of the 560 airports around the country that have scheduled airline service. Reuters reports that the terrorist attacks coupled with the call for increased security and additional full-body scanners in our airports is boosting the stock of some companies that build the scanners and related technology.

Whether or not passengers will be forced to go through the full-body scanners remains to be seen. That decision is not up to the TSA. TSA spokesman Greg Soule said, "That [mandatory full-body scanner use] would be a DHS decision. Clearly we would work with DHS, the White House and our congressional partners on security decisions."

Legislation limiting full-body scanning to secondary searches has passed the House of Representatives but has not passed the Senate. The ACLU says that it does not trust the safeguards in place to protect the privacy of passengers subjected to full-body scanning. The ACLU believes that unaltered images showing the shape of a person's body and genitals would still exist.

One ACLU privacy expert said, "If a celebrity goes through a scanner that kind of image could end up on the Internet."

The full body scanners blur the face and genitals of the person in the scanner and only the operator can see the images. The benefit for passengers to using the scanner opposed to a pat down is that the scanner takes 15 to 30 seconds while the pat down takes 3 to 4 minutes.

Chris Calabrese, an attorney with the ACLU, said in May 2009 when talking about using the scanner or a pat down, "A choice between being groped and being stripped, I don't think we should pretend those are the only choices. People shouldn't be humiliated by their government."

There is much research being put into developing better scanners today. Researchers at MIT have developed technology for a new breed of airport scanners that can tell the difference between items in luggage. The new scanner could for instance tell if a pill bottle holds over the counter pain medications or methamphetamines.



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latest waypoint in the terror/anti-terror arms race
By chromal on 12/31/2009 1:27:47 PM , Rating: 2
But I wonder if the full body scanners would have been particularly effective against some of the techniques al-Qaeda has already employed in 2009, like the bomb literally stuffed up one radical Islamic extremist's rectum. I suppose it's just a matter of time before they start doing subcutaneous implantation of bombs to evade scanner detection.




By Fred242 on 12/31/2009 2:14:03 PM , Rating: 2
Personally, however unpleasant it is I would always choose a pat down rather than an X-ray machine. There is no such thing as a safe level of radiation, and the effect is cumulative. More flights, more radiation, increase in cancer risk. This is just not acceptable especially for a young person or especially a child. And what about pregnant women? They say the level of radiation is low, which it is, but there is still a cumulative risk.


By Lerianis on 12/31/2009 3:21:49 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, there is such a thing as a 'safe level of radiation', and it's only IONIZING radiation that you have to be worried about, which these scanners do not use, at least the latest ones.

Also, there is NO farking cumulative risk unless you are flying 32 times a day! They've already said that, so please save the hysteria for a stupider website with stupider people posting on it.


By Solandri on 1/1/2010 12:12:28 PM , Rating: 2
You do realize, you get about the same radiation exposure from a transcontinental flight as you get from a chest x-ray? Planes fly above the densest part of the atmosphere, so you get increased exposure to cosmic radiation during your flight. Over the 4-5 hours of a transcontinental flight, your exposure is about the same as a chest x-ray.

If you're that paranoid about radiation, you should be driving instead of flying. Heck, you shouldn't even leave the house for fear of sunlight. Unless your house is in one of the many areas where the granite rocks contain slightly higher amounts of naturally occurring uranium.

Anyhow, one type of full body scanner uses terahertz radiation, not x-rays. And the type which does use x-rays uses far less than a medical x-ray (and hence what you'll be exposed to on your flight) since it constructs images from reflected x-rays, not on x-rays which make it through your body.


By hashish2020 on 1/4/2010 3:57:39 AM , Rating: 2
Um, you do realize there is a difference between X-Rays and magnetic resonance imaging right?

And people on here are supposed to be more technically informed than the general populace. Another reason to mandate more lab and math courses in high schools.


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