Body scanners unveiled at JFK Airport; Napolitano doesn’t volunteer

From the NY Daily News:

Body scanners unveiled at JFK Airport; Homeland Security Sect. Janet Napolitano doesn’t volunteer

BY Christina Boyle

Airline passengers might want to consider a trip to the gym before heading to the airport now that high-tech body scanners have been unveiled at Kennedy Airport.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday hailed them as an important breakthrough for airport security and the fight against terrorism.

Yet when it came to testing the devices – which produce chalky, naked X-ray images of passengers – she turned the floor over to some brave volunteers. [For which I am sure we are grateful.]

“These machines represent an important way to stay ahead of the ever-evolving threat that faces the aviation industry,” Napolitano said.  [Gotta wonder about that.]

About 300 of the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines are operational already at 62 airports across the country, and 450 will be in place by the end of the year, officials said.

JFK will have a “substantial” number, but officials would not reveal the exact figure.

Machines will be installed at Newark and LaGuardia airports within weeks. [Great.  Another terrorist driven industry.]

The machines work by projecting low-level X-ray beams at the passenger’s body to produce an image.

Any nonmetal objects hidden on the passenger’s body that wouldn’t be detected by the old-style scanners are easily spotted.

Going through one is optional for all travelers, but Napolitano hoped to ease any fears that airport staff would use them to leer at passengers.

“Those who read the images are not actually physically at the gate, so they cannot associate an image with an individual person at all,” she said.

“And the machines are set so that no image is retained.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. joanofarcfan says:

    Great. More x-ray exposure. Just what we all need.

  2. J Kusske says:

    Passengers who “opt out” of these scanners are given the alternative of a complete feeling-over by a TSA agent, and it takes a goodly amount of time. From what I’ve seen, only a small minority of passengers do opt out though. The assertion that images are not stored has already been shown to be false. In this one area, I hope the example set by Dubai of banning the devices is an example to the rest of the world.

  3. Liz says:

    Uh…creepy! Remind me to never leave my home…ever!

  4. TNCath says:

    Here’s a story from the Memphis newspaper, The Commercial Appeal that relates to this posting as well as the posting by J Kusske:

    “Memphis pilot Michael Roberts and his attorney said Friday on ‘Good Morning America’ that they’re planning to sue the federal government over air passenger screening procedures.

    “‘We’re moving forward with a lawsuit,'” Charlottesville, Va., lawyer John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos.

    “The institute, a nonprofit, conservative civil liberties advocate, stepped in to represent Roberts, who refused to submit to a full body scan or the alternative, a manual pat-down, at a Memphis International Airport checkpoint last week. Roberts was in full uniform and trying to commute to his job in Houston flying for ExpressJet Airlines.

    “‘But the thing I want to emphasize,’ Whitehead continued, ‘Michael did go through a metal detector, passed it. Scanners are strip searches, and in this country, the constitutional rule has been you don’t search anybody unless they’re suspected of criminal activity.’

    “Transportation Security Administration officials have said pilots are subject to the same screening procedures as other passengers.

    “Roberts, who lives in Memphis, has been negotiating with his employer over his job status. He told Stephanopoulos he’s willing to risk his job fighting the TSA rules as a Fourth Amendment violation.

    “‘Yes, I’m doing this for my children,’ said Roberts, 35. ‘I’m concerned about the world they’re going to grow up in and think that’s more important than my job.’

  5. robtbrown says:

    A friend, who is a ret VP with a major airline, told me that 99% of airport security check is little else than a feel good strategy. It really doesn’t make passengers safer, but rather makes they feel safer so they’ll travel by air.

    Further, the Middle Eastern mind is very indirect, so, IMHO, it’s unlikely that they would plan another attack using airplanes.

  6. frjim4321 says:

    I would be much more upset by being on an airplane with a person who has not been properly screened than I would by going through a body scanner. How in the world did U.S. Americans become so prudish about the human body and embarassed about nudity compared to other develped western countries? There are no laws forcing anyone to fly; so a solution for those who don’t want to be screened would be for them to choose an alternate form of transportation.

  7. frjim: I don’t think it is necessary because of prudishness that people might question whether or not we have these scanners. Many people wonder if we are making the best use of technology and all the tools for fighting terrorism.

    Some fellow lights his shoe and now millions of people have to deal with their shoes. Someone has a liquid that could explode if mixed with another, and millions of people are restricted. I wish I had bought stock in ziplock bags.

    In any event, much of this seems reactive rather than proactive, and the burden rests on people who have very little chance of being involved with terror plots.

    In the meantime, I fly a lot. A lot. I an glad to have safe aircraft. After a while, the inconveniences become routine.

  8. sejoga says:

    frjim4321, I think the problem people have isn’t so much about “prudishness” as it is about the fact that a government agency, the Transportation Security Agency (which is under the Department of Homeland Security), is asserting an ever-wider range of authority over how private airlines conduct their safety, and it is using this broadened authority to encroach on our rights not to be searched or have our assets seized without cause and a warrant. It’s a civil liberties issue, not a bashfulness problem or even a “safety” problem. Airlines have every incentive to keep their passengers safe without the TSA telling them exactly how and using what equipment, and doing it in a way that ignores the 4th amendment.

  9. ray from mn says:

    If those monitoring these scanner are not physically present at the time of the scan, how do we know they are monitoring them at all? They might be playing cards.

  10. frjim4321 says:

    I agree with those insights. It does seem at time that the tail is wagging the dog with respect to some of the security requirements. A lot of the publicity about the body scanners focuses more on the aspect of the images themselves. But I agree that issues around how security policies are determined and imposed upon the airlines are very significant.

    I find the restrictions upon liquids to be very inconvenient, not only because I used to enjoy bringing some “mini’s” of Maker’s Mark on board with me, but also because packing things such as contact lense solutions, etc., is very difficult since more than just four ounces is necessary for a several day trip. Yet again I realize how terribly explosive some liquids can be; a case in point being the easily contructed bombs that have been appearing in rural mailboxes of late.

  11. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    Seconding the “false sense of security” good security is an INVISIBLE thing, the planes are screened, the personnel on the ramps (most vulnerable area) are screened. Security measures are changed frequently as are “Flight line access badges” and “swipe cards,”

    When ever there is a reported loss in a “given” number of badges, uniforms, etc… security changes occur.

    TSA in the initial two years AFTER September 11, 2001, were mostly retired law enforcement and military personnel. Since then, many of the best and brightest left because of the petty bureaucracies that formed between personnel that KNEW the task and how to do it, without micro-management and the “bureaucrats that “micro-manged” that work force out the door.
    I had friends that were working in TSA, key word, “were,” not one is still there.

    You all have a choice, to submit like sheep, or demand both respect and dignity, as well as more than a cursory job performance.

    TSA is as much of a joke as the “security screeners” on September 10, 2001, except, now they have the law enforcement gauntlet of the Federal Government that now takes any form of “questioning” as defiance and an act of terrorism.

  12. Tradster says:

    Two questions…

    “Those who read the images are not actually physically at the gate, so they cannot associate an image with an individual person at all,” she said.

    Then how do they grab someone suspicious if they supposedly cannot tell which individual caused the suspicious image?

    “And the machines are set so that no image is retained.”

    Then how do they use them as evidence against the arrested terrorist-to-be?

  13. What Tradster said. Excellent questions.

    And if we are all to be electronically strip-searched getting on a plane, then what has become of the civilization we are supposedly trying to defend?

  14. pbjcinwy says:

    I have problems with getting the radiation from these scanners. I recently read this article and decided I would opting out of them.

  15. catholicmidwest says:

    She probably doesn’t want to break it.

  16. Discipulus Humilis says:

    As suspicious as I am of this measure,

    1) Person steps into scanner. Images appear on screen in another location. If something suspicious is seen, the security personnel communicates to the guard in charge of the scanner. Grabbing may then commence as needed.

    2) If something suspicious is detected by the scanner, there will presumably be a search of the scannee’s person, and whatever is found during that search is available as evidence.

  17. johapin says:

    I have been “randomly” selected for the scanner treatment 5 times, and I don’t fly that often. I opt-out every single time. When you do so, they treat you worse than cattle at the state fair. During my last trip, they had to close down one line because they were apparently shorthanded, just so the TSA worker could come pat me down. It’s ridiculous.
    Now, I can drive to the local airport, go to the general Aviation side, open my own hangar, and take out my own airplane and fly wherever I wish to go without ANYONE ever asking who I am, or looking in my bags. I could make the same 500 mile trip in about 4 hours. Basically, the same amount of time it takes to arrive at a Commercial Terminal, considering the delays, searches, etc. Sometimes it’s a no-brainer.

  18. Microtouch says:

    “And the machines are set so that no image is retained.” Yeah, also the checks in the mail…

  19. ipadre says:

    It’s all so Orwellian. We do need to be safe, but I wonder if Big Brother is pushing the envelope to control the masses. What’s next? Are they going to make us dress alike. (Some of us already do!)

  20. Dr. Eric says:


    We will finally be able to wear those silver jumpsuits the old movies predicted we would in the future.

  21. prairie says:

    Quote: Going through one is optional for all travelers, but Napolitano hoped to ease any fears that airport staff would use them to leer at passengers.

    “Those who read the images are not actually physically at the gate, so they cannot associate an image with an individual person at all,” she said.

    “And the machines are set so that no image is retained.”
    End Quote.

    Phew. They really had me going for a minute, but these quotes give me peace of mind about the scanners.
    End sarcasm.

  22. irishgirl says:

    Wonder why Madame Secretary didn’t go through the scanner herself?
    I haven’t flown since 2005, and I have the feeling that I won’t be anytime in the near future.
    In the ‘pre-09/11 years’, I got taken out of line once to be searched individually, and that was at Heathrow Airport in London, on my way home from a visit to England. I think it was due to the fact that I wore my hair short and had an Irish last name.

  23. q7swallows says:

    Body scanners aside, the “spread-em” pat down they did on me (probably the only woman in the vicinity wearing a non-clinging blouse and mid-calf length skirt) was utterly humiliating all by itself. It was obviously a slow time (there were only 2 of us in the security line) and they passed over the young man in front of me who had wires protruding from every pocket and five men stood around and watched the female officer pat me down through the completely clear Plexiglas cubicle. Through my violent blushing, I did wonder about the state of their souls . . . .

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