Friday, April 17, 2009

ADMINISTRATION PLANS COMPUTERIZED STRIP SEARCHES FOR ALL AIR PASSENGERS

NY Times - In a shift, the Transportation Security Administration plans to replace the walk-through metal detectors at airport checkpoints with whole-body imaging machines - the kind that provide an image of the naked body.

Initially, the machines were supposed to be used only on passengers who set off the metal detectors, to provide them with an option to the customary secondary physical pat-downs and inspections by electronic wand.

But Robin Kane, the agency's acting chief technology officer, said that the initial results from pilot tests at some checkpoints at 19 airports in the United States had been so good that the idea of using the machines as the standard checkpoint detectors made sense. Those results included, he said, positive feedback from passengers.

The plan now is that all passengers will "go through the whole-body imager instead of the walk-through metal detector," he said.

"We're just finishing some piloting in six airports in the primary screening position," he said. Assuming tests continue to be positive, the machines will eventually be used at most domestic airports. . .

Bruce Schneier, a security technology consultant, said the body-imaging machines are the equivalent of "a physically invasive strip-search.". . .

In interviews, agency officials stressed that the technology remained in a test phase. They said that they expected initial contracts to produce the machines to be awarded this summer and that passengers will start seeing the machines at some checkpoints soon afterward. They had no timetable for when the machines would be installed at most airports. . .

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