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Prepare to be scanned: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to follow in Britain's footsteps and roll out a pricey deployment of 450 scanners to U.S. airports despite health, efficiency, and privacy concerns.  (Source: Daily Mail UK)

Some experts say the plan is to give the perception of security, even if it doesn't make airports much safer.  (Source:
Scanner deployment is part of $1B USD airport security upgrade

Even as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security races to deploy full body scanners at airports across the U.S., significant concerns have been raised.  The scanners have been shown to be ineffective at detecting dangerous low density materials like liquids, powders, or plastic weapons.  In addition, some studies have linked them to potentially cancer-causing DNA damage.  Perhaps most importantly, major privacy concerns remain unresolved around the scanners, which digitally disrobe passengers

Despite those problems, the DHS appears to believe that the perception of security is too important to wait for further study.  It is instead beginning a mass deployment, rolling out new scanners in 11 cities including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

The advanced imaging technology (AIT) units were installed at the Boston Logan International airport on Friday and will be installed at Chicago O'Hare International in the next week – all installations will be completed by the summer's end.  

Currently, forty AIT units are in limited use at 19 U.S. airports.  The new units will mark the first mass deployment of the technology to the U.S. airports.  More units are expected to be deployed later this year.

The scanners will come at a relatively high expense to taxpayers.  They are funded by a $1B USD appropriation from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  The spending plan -- crafted by Congress, President Obama, and the Department of Homeland Security -- calls for $700 million in new screening for checked baggage and $300 million in checkpoint explosives-detection technologies.

The nine other airports receiving scanners will be: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FFL), Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (CVG), Mineta San Jos International (SJC), Los Angeles International (LAX), Port Columbus International (CMH), Oakland International (OAK), San Diego International (SAN), Kansas City International (MCI), and Charlotte Douglas International (CLT).  Of the airports, only LAX previously had full-body scanners.

The DHS is defending its pricey plan, arguing that there's no privacy risk.  It says that images of passengers unclothed won't be stored, despite the recent revelation that the scanners had the built in capability to do so.  They also admit that the scanners are only efficient at detecting metal objects, but say that could be very helpful in detecting knives or metal-based guns.  

They also claim there's no health risk with the non-ionizing radio frequency energy in the millimeter wave spectrum used by the scanners to generate their images.  They say the system's energy is 100,000 times less than a cell phone transmission.  (Recent studies, however, have suggested that DNA damage may certainly be possible).

For better or worse, though, the 450 new scanner units will soon be a common sight in the 11 airports on the mass deployment's front.  The U.S. appears to be marching in Britain's footsteps, moving towards a "no scan, no fly" policy.


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By Murloc on 3/8/2010 10:37:20 AM , Rating: 3
They also admit that the scanners are only efficient at detecting metal objects, but say that could be very helpful in detecting knives or metal-based guns.

metal detectors aren't enough?

RE: lol?
By R6Raven on 3/8/2010 10:41:43 AM , Rating: 4
Agreed. Looks like we're paying $1B for the illusion of security.

RE: lol?
By BrandtTheMan on 3/8/2010 10:59:55 AM , Rating: 4
It'll be WAY more than $1B after all the lawsuits

RE: lol?
By MojoMan on 3/9/2010 10:04:04 AM , Rating: 2
Lawsuits will be coming for sure. Check out how the scanners have already been abused:

You can bet my wife (who is gorgeous) won't appreciate someone ogling her naked body. You can bet I won't appreciate this being done to my kids.

These companies saying that these images can't be saved or printed is COMPLETE BS.

RE: lol?
By Aloonatic on 3/8/2010 11:11:17 AM , Rating: 2
Yep, they could just buy a few real ones, and have a bunch of metal boxes that beep at random or something for the rest of the country.

Human error will still let someone/something slip though though. Most of the problems with airport security come from the people who work there too these days. It's not like the Christmas day "bomber" could not have been stopped either. Money would probably be better spent elsewhere than these things.

RE: lol?
By wempa on 3/8/2010 12:31:08 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, I was actually going along with it until I got to that part too. What an incredible waste of money ! Do they not realize that we ALREADY have to go through a walk-through metal detector and then also possibly get a once over with a handheld unit as well ??? If this can only detect metal objects, what value is this adding ? Why not just have us go through 2 walk-through units ??? Please tell me that these units can be upgraded in the future to detect other types of objects too.

RE: lol?
By porkpie on 3/8/10, Rating: -1
RE: lol?
By porkpie on 3/8/10, Rating: -1
RE: lol?
By rippleyaliens on 3/8/2010 4:17:01 PM , Rating: 2
Actually Metal Detectors cannot detect carbon fiber knives.. IE VERYYYYY light weight, and undetectable.. And realistically there are MANY!!! Ways to smuggle things on aircraft.. IE, Childrens bottles.. HOW often does a TSA rep, check bottles for liquid explosives?? 2-3 bottles with different articles added together = Big boom.. A disposable camera w\ flash produces enough spark to ignite. The dumb african who tried on christmas, IF HE WAS GOOD, he would have just went to restroom, and did it, DUH!!! AND Technically, IT IS VERY EASY... 2x 50cal smiper rifles, Take out Pilots, or both engines at same time. IN WHICH THE BARRET w\ APIT (armor piercing incindary tracer).. The bio scanners are just for a good piece of mind, and to catch the idiot terrorists.

RE: lol?
By porkpie on 3/8/2010 5:16:32 PM , Rating: 2
"Actually Metal Detectors cannot detect carbon fiber knives"

Actually, these Terahertz scanners can detect carbon fiber knives.

"HOW often does a TSA rep, check bottles for liquid explosives??"

Since any bottle over a certain (very small) size is prohibited, and the TSA reps generally make you drink from anything even remotely suspicious, I'd say the restriction is more effective than you belive.

"The dumb african who tried on christmas, IF HE WAS GOOD, he would have just went to restroom, and did it, DUH!!"

Had he done so, the jet would not have been seriously damaged, and still would have landed...according to the most recent tests done by the NTSB.

RE: lol?
By munky on 3/8/2010 7:12:38 PM , Rating: 2
The dumbass african was already identified as a suspect threat by existing intelligence. Had airport security been allowed to do their job, he would have never gotten on the plane in the first place.

RE: lol?
By geddarkstorm on 3/8/2010 4:22:26 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, now you can be undressed... with SCIENCE!

But really, I'm not sure which side of the fence I fall on. These things are cool from a tech perspective, but for the security they provide is the cost of them justified? When's the last time we had an issue with a security breach endangering a domestic flight in the US? The Christmas thing was an international fail. Something like this will decrease the odds of that happening further, but it'll never be 0.

So I dunno, I feel we're at the point of diminishing returns with this.

RE: lol?
By arazok on 3/8/2010 3:13:59 PM , Rating: 2
As the photo clearly indicates, they are also good at detecting balls.

How does one design something that can detect your balls and guns, but nothing else. It’s genius!

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