Naked! Airports Use See-Thru Scan

The next time you walk through an airport security scanner, you might be showing off more than you ever realized. The Transportation Security Administration is now installing body-scanning machines at the busiest U.S. airports that show images of people underneath their clothing. The images are so detailed that screeners can even see sweat droplets on a person's body.

The scanners, which show in detail intimate body parts, are being used on randomly selected passengers from Baltimore to Los Angeles and many airports in between, including Denver, Albuquerque, Dallas, Detroit and Las Vegas.

There's no use fighting it or getting embarrassed by it. "It's the wave of the future," James Schear, the TSA security director at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport told USA Today. BWI has two body scanners in use at one checkpoint. Schear says the scanners will eventually replace metal detectors at all 2,000 airport checkpoints and will be used on all passengers requiring a pat-down. "We're just scratching the surface of what we can do with whole-body imaging," Schear explained to USA Today. The scanners may also be used in rail stations, arenas and office buildings. They are already in use in some courthouses, jails and U.S. embassies, as well as overseas border crossings, military checkpoints and some foreign airports, such as Amsterdam's Schiphol. (You know that diet you always meant to go on? Now might be the time.)

How do the full-body, see-through scanners work? Instead of X-rays, harmless "millimeter waves" are used. Passengers stand inside a portal and raise their arms. A TSA screener in a nearby room views the black-and-white image, looking for objects that may have been hidden underneath clothing. If a suspicious object is spotted, the screener radios a colleague at the checkpoint. Passengers' privacy is protected since the face is blurred and the image is deleted immediately after viewing. The entire process takes about 30 seconds.

The scanners have one fault: They can't see through plastic or rubber materials that resemble skin.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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