Monday, June 08, 2009

Bill in Congress Would Limit TSA Use of Airport Strip-Search Machines

There's a move on in Congress to prevent the TSA from replacing all airport metal detectors with those strip-search machines that the TSA has been so eager to buy.

As I reported first, the TSA has plans to replace all airport metal detectors with the machines, which see through clothing and provide an image of a naked body to a screener in a separate room. The TSA said they body images couldn't be stored or saved, but that turned out to be not exactly true. Instead, the machines' storage capacity would have been turned off (and easily could have been turned back on).

For about a year, the TSA (which has been without a director since January) has been testing these so-called whole-body-imaging machines at various airports. In the tests, the machines were used as an option for those who triggered the metal detector and wanted to avoid the much-loathed full-body perp patdown. That was plan A -- to install the machines at airport checkpoints as an option to avoid being groped.

But as I reported, a Plan B evolved to fully replace the metal detectors with the whole-body image machines, which literally see Everything. When you're scanned by the machine (you have to strike two poses), it shows even a Kleenex in a pocket. You can't have your wallet on you. That's the value of the machine as opposed to the metal detector, which just detects metal.

On the other hand, the cost is what has been called a gross invasion of privacy for everyone -- and don't forget, children and teenagers would also be subject to virtual strip searches, Mom and Dad.

The bill (HR 2027) putting limits on the TSA's use of this technology was introduced in the House by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah.

It says in part that "Whole-body imaging may not be used as the sole or primary method of screening a passenger" and may be used only "another method of screening, such as metal detection, demonstrates cause for preventing such passenger from boarding an aircraft."

Also, a passenger so selected muct be given the option of "a pat-down search in lieu of such screening."

Also, "An image of a passenger generated by whole-body imagine technology may not be stored, transferred, shared or copied in any form..."


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