Travelers’ choice: Shed shyness for security?
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – As Ronak Ray hunted for his flight gate, he prepared for the prospect of a security guard peering through his clothes with a full body scanner. But Ray doesn’t mind: what he gives up in privacy he gets back in security.
“I think it’s necessary,” said Ray, a 23-year-old graduate student who was at San Francisco International Airport to fly to India. “Our lives are far more important than how we’re being searched.”
Despite controversy surrounding the scans, Ray’s position was typical of several travelers interviewed at various airports Wednesday by The Associated Press.
Airports in five other U.S. cities are also using full body scanners at specific checkpoints instead of metal detectors. In addition, the scanners are used at 13 other airports for random checks and so-called secondary screenings of passengers who set off detectors.
But many more air travelers may have to get used to the idea soon. The Transportation Security Administration has ordered 150 more full body scanners to be installed in airports throughout the country in early 2010, agency spokeswoman Suzanne Trevino said.
Dutch security officials have said they believe such scanners could have detected the explosive materials Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria is accused of trying to ignite aboard a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight Christmas Day.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has 15 full body scanners, but none were used to scan Abdulmutallab when he boarded. In Europe and the U.S., privacy concerns over the scanners’ ability to see through clothing have kept them from widespread use.
The technology was first used about two years ago to make it easier for airport security to do body searches without making physical contact with passengers.
The idea of an electronic strip search did not bother Judy Yeager, 62, of Sarasota, Fla., as she prepared to depart Las Vegas. She stood in the full-body scanner Wednesday afternoon and held her arms up as a security official guided her through the gray closet-sized booth.
“If it’s going to protect a whole airplane of people, who gives a flying you-know-what if they see my boob or whatever,” Yeager said. “That’s the way I feel, honest to God.”
To further protect passenger privacy, security officers looking at the images are in a different part of the airport and are not allowed to take any recording devices into the room with them, Trevino said. The images captured by the scanners cannot be stored, transmitted or printed in any way.
The six airports where full body scanners are being used for what TSA calls “primary screenings” are: Albuquerque, N.M.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Miami, Fla.; San Francisco; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Tulsa, Okla.
The remainder of the machines are being used for secondary screenings in Atlanta, Ga.; Baltimore/Washington; Denver, Colo.; Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; Indianapolis, Ind.; Jacksonville and Tampa, Fla.; Los Angeles; Phoenix, Ariz.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; Ronald Reagan Washington National; and Detroit, Mich.