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3/5/2010
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DHS Rolls Out Airport Body Scanners

Eleven airports are to be outfitted with advanced imaging technology units by the end of the summer, the Department of Homeland Security says.


TSA Body Scanner

What TSA sees: an image generated by millimeter wave technology.
(click for larger image)

Airports in 11 U.S. cities -- including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Diego --will receive full-body security scanning machines over the next several months as part of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) effort to improve security at airports.

The so-called advanced imaging technology (AIT) units are scheduled to be installed Boston Logan International airport on Friday and Chicago OHare International in the next week, with all 11 airports to be outfitted with the technology by the end of the summer, according to the DHS.

Forty AIT units are currently in limited use at 19 U.S. airports, but Friday marks the beginning of the first widespread deployment of the machines, which were paid for by the paid for by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The units require people to go through a full-body scanner that allows Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners to see if they have any metallic devices, including weapons or other harmful implements, beneath their clothing.

Not surprisingly, many have raised concerns about the machines regarding the protection of passengers privacy, but the TSA has assured that people are not identifiable in the images the machines produce. The images also wont be stored, the agency said.

Concerns have also been raised about health issues that may stem from the technology the machines use to generate images. The TSA maintains that there are no health risks, as the AIT units use what is called millimeter wave technology that is not harmful to people.

Millimeter wave technology uses non-ionizing radio frequency energy in the millimeter wave spectrum to generate an image based on energy reflected from the body. The energy projected by the system is 100,000 times less than a cell phone transmission, thus is not harmful to people, according to the TSA.

In addition to Logan and OHare, the other nine airports that will receive the AIT machines are: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FFL), Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (CVG), Mineta San Jos International (SJC), Los Angeles International (LAX), Port Columbus International (CMH), Oakland International (OAK), San Diego International (SAN), Kansas City International (MCI), and Charlotte Douglas International (CLT).

The DHS choose these airports to receive AIT units based on security and operational needs. Except for LAX, all of the airports are receiving the AIT units for the first time.

450 AIT units should be in place by the end of the year, and the DHS plans to unveil new airports that will receive the technology soon, the department said.

The ARRA which was signed by President Obama into law last February, committed more than $3 billion for homeland security projects through DHS and the General Services Administration (GSA).

$1 billion of that was allocated to the TSA for aviation security -- $700 million for screening checked baggage and $300 million for checkpoint explosives-detection technologies.

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