Despite a U.S. House vote in June to limit their use, electronic strip searches are routine now at an increasing number of U.S. airports. The Transportation Security Administration is gearing up to use these invasive searches, which literally see through clothing to reveal the passenger's body, on every person who goes through security at U.S. airports. Whoa, tiger.
The TSA's enthusiasm for the devices reverses its own policy, which until this year reserved whole-body image scanners for cases where additional screening was required for some reason. In other words, if you set off an alarm going through the standard metal screener, you could get the full-body scan that sees through your clothes or submit to a pat-down search.
Now the goal is to replace the metal-detecting screeners with the euphemistically named "image scanners." The machines use what's called millimeter-wave technology to provide a virtual strip search of a fully clothed passenger.
Where six airports were using the scanners about a year ago, more than 20 airports are using them now, and they've already replaced some metal-detecting machines.
The House voted 310-118 to restrict the scanners to secondary screening and imposed other limits to protect privacy. Passengers would have to be given information about the searches, and they could choose to be wanded or have a pat-down search instead. The House measure also banned any storage capacity for the images, so they would immediately disappear after the person cleared the security check.
Similar legislation is still pending in the Senate.
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