Monday, June 01, 2009

Calls for TSA to Suspend Rollout of 'Strip Search' Machines

{Photo: The image a backscatter whole-body imaging machine captured of a female TSA official in a test. Backscatters and another technology, millimeter-wave, are being tested to replace checkpoint metal detectors.}

A coalition of privacy-rights group is calling on the Homeland Security Department to suspend the expanding use of so-called "strip search machines" at airport checkpoints by the Transportation Security Administration.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and nearly thirty local, state, and national organizations sent a letter today to the Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, asking for a suspension of the use of whole-body imaging technology, saying that privacy problems have not been adequately addressed.

Here's the letter, which is being released as the annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference opens in Washington.

"Whole-body imaging systems, which operate under two basic technologies, backscatter X-ray and millimeter wave, capture a detailed image of air travelers naked," the coalition says, adding that the TSA "claims that these systems are necessary for airport security and that they will not save the images of American air passengers. However, the TSA also said originally that these scanners would be used only for secondary screening on passengers who had raised suspicions. Yet, earlier this year the agency announced that these new scanners would replace metal detectors as the primary screening device at all U.S. airports."

It went on: "Following the TSA announcement, EPIC launched a national campaign, urging that the program be blocked until the privacy risks are fully evaluated. EPIC also established the web site “” and created the Facebook group “Stop Airport Strip Searches,” which now has several hundred members."

EPIC and its associates said that the vendors of the technology would appear before Congress to answer questions about "how these systems really work."

[The TSA has said that the images won't be stored, and that screeners who view them as passengers submit to the searches can't enable the image-storage capability that is built into every machine. But people who know the technology dismiss this claim, saying the machines can readily be set back to a storage default.]

“The TSA’s reversal on the voluntary use of these devices makes clear the privacy risk with this program,” said Marc Rotenberg, the EPIC executive director. “There must be a thorough investigation of these systems and clear legal rules established. The privacy of American air travelers should not be left to the whim of federal officials with x-ray cameras.”

The EPIC statement continued, "Unlike many federal programs, the TSA has gone forward with the whole-body imaging program without any public comment."

The letter asks Napolitano to initiate a 90-day formal rule-making process to allow the public to comment on the agency’s use of these machines.

The groups also asked for a comprehensive investigation to evaluate the medical and health implications of exposure to this technology.

The organizations signing the letter included the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Consumer Action, Liberty Coalition, Patient Privacy Rights, and the Rutherford Institute.


1 comment:

Marcio said...

I still do not know Why you have the courage to ask something about the flight controllers of the world their "killer" or jatinho QO already forgotten that you were traveling the route was shifted to a plane with + - 200 people being dropped in the jungle and killing everyone, you and his companions fled the country pro and you will never pay for the suffering they cause to families today.
So before making inquiries about the flight controllers in Brazil think that you did your "killer".
And please never come back to our country.