Airport Body Scanners Still Radiating Controversy
UPDATED: 11/16/10 8:48 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s perhaps one of the most unpopular parts of air travel these days: the security check point.
Many loath the scrutiny, CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports.
“The body scanners are way too much. It’s definitely overkill in my opinion,” passenger Anthony Towles says.
Towles says the process is invasive, and he’s also concerned about possible exposure to radiation.
“I go to the dentist if I have to take an X-ray. I go to my doctor if I have to take an X-ray. I don’t what to be exposed to anymore radiation,” he says.
Other airline travelers, and at least one major pilots association, object to images produced by the body scanners. Some call them the equivalent of a “virtual strip search.”
“I don’t know who’s looking at them, and know what they’re going to do with it,” Michelle Kim said.
But U.S. Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano defends the use of the imagining technology.
“They in no way resemble electronic strip searches — all they do is ping in a private area away from the gate, with an image that is neither retained nor transmitted,” she said. “We built privacy screens into the machines, we built privacy concerns into the procedures when they were deployed.”
Napolitano and the TSA say the body scanners are an important safety layer that helps agents detect things like powders, liquids and gels which could be used in terrorist plots.
Some airline passengers say that’s enough for them to understand why the scanners are necessary.
“I don’t really see any problem with it as long as it’s keeping everybody safe,” passenger Mike Nolan said as he waited in the security checkpoint line.
A TSA spokesperson couldn’t provide the exact number of complaints they’ve received about the scanners since they were installed at O’Hare in March 2010. But he said 99 percent of passengers choose the body scanner over other screening methods, such as a pat down.
Even one of the nation’s most celebrated pilots, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, detects the frustration over ramped-up security hassles.
The recently retired airline pilot successfully ditched his damage US Airways plane in the Hudson River last year.
He says pilots are already the last line of defense on a plane, so shouldn’t be subject to such thorough checks.
Airline pilot Patrick Smith recalled being stopped by security because he had a butter knife in a bag. He asked why he would need a butter knife if he were up to no good. He says such incidents illustrate the absurdities of security procedures.
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