Virtual strip searches on US airports may be shelved soon

June 7th, 2009 - 5:35 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 7 (ANI): The US Transportation Security Agency’s plans to use “virtual strip searches” at airport checkpoints may be discontinued soon.

On Thursday, the US House of Representatives approved legislation that curbs the growing use of X-rays to peek under air travelers’ clothes.

According to critics, the low-energy backscatter X-rays allow “a highly realistic image to be reconstructed of the traveler’s nude form.”

The TSA, however, says it has made improvements to its scanning technology, including a “privacy algorithm” that will provide the operator with vaguer outlines of body parts.

The House vote attached an amendment drafted by Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, says that whole body imaging “may not be used” as the primary method of passenger screening, and that passengers have the right to refuse it and “shall be offered a pat-down search.”

It also prohibits the storage or transmission of the whole-body images after they’re no longer necessary for screening.

“Nobody needs to see my wife and kids naked to secure an airplane,” CBS News quoted Chaffetz, as saying.

Chaffetz’s original bill made it a federal crime for a TSA screener to share or copy a passenger image; that penalty vanished in the final version attached as an amendment.

Backscatter X-rays are relatively low-power and are believed to be safe even for frequent flyers.

One manufacturer, Rapiscan Systems, boasts that its equipment can detect “explosives, narcotics, ceramic weapons” such as ceramic knives that traditional metal detectors can’t. (ANI)

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