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.
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.
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."
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 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.