NEWS

Body Scanners Used as Primary Screening Technology at Tulsa International Airport

By Matthew Harwood

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration's new body-scanning machines have been unveiled this week at Tulsa International Airport as the primary screening technology to favorable reviews, reports USA Today.

The machines have been in use at other airports for months, according to SmarterTravel.com, but they were used in conjunction with metal detectors.

The new scanning technology aims to retire the 35-year old reign of metal detectors so that airport security officers can identify nonmetallic-based weapons such as plastic explosives.

USA Today explains how it works:

The machines use electromagnetic waves to create pictures of energy reflected off people. The metallic-looking images show outlines of private body parts and blur passengers' faces. Two Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners in a closed room near the checkpoint view the images on computer monitors and relay information on radio headsets to checkpoint screeners.

The $170,000 body scanners could be installed at airports around the USA ..... TSA testing shows the body scanners excel at finding hidden items as small as a plastic button, agency spokesman Christopher White said.

The machines have already won widespread acceptance, reports the Tulsa World.

Only two of 1,039 travelers refused the body scanner for the traditional pat-down from a TSA screener. One woman was concerned how her body would look while another woman was afraid the machine could cause her pacemaker to malfunction.

TSA says the image generated only shows the contours of human private parts and also blurs the traveler's face for added privacy.

The body scanners do take longer than traditional metal detectors so as TSA expands the pilot testing to airports in San Francisco, Miami, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Albuquerque, it will watch closely to see if the body scanners lead to longer wait times or trigger other concerns from passengers.

For more on the future of airport security screening, see Assistant Editor Joe Straw's "New Views on Airport Screening," from the September 2008 issue.

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