UPDATED 12/15/10 11:09 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Midway International Airport is now the 75th airport in the country to use the full-body scanners from security screenings.
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As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, the machines make some passengers squeamish about strangers seeing their intimate areas on the scan, even if the screeners never see the passengers face-to-face.
But the alternative is a pat-down search that many call intrusive.
The machines have been in use at O’Hare International Airport for several months, and there are now some 23 in operation there. The first full-body scanner went online at Midway at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, with more sure to come.
Not everybody is happy about it.
“I’m not happy about it. I’m just not sure about the radiation,” said Sunita Ganeshan Ray of Naperville. “I think it’s just unnecessary, because if you go through the regular scanners, you get to see about any metallic items. If you go through the scanners, you can see if there are any liquids in your suitcases. So I just think this whole thing is just over the top.”
But many seem resigned to the new reality.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” said Kelly O’Brien of Danville. When asked if he thought it was needed, he said, “Yes, I do.”
“I went through it on the way up here, and it’s fine. It didn’t bother me at all,” another man said.
But to some the alternative, what the Transportation Security Administration calls an enhanced pat-down is even worse.
“I’ll probably end up just going through with it, just so I don’t have to deal with patting down,” a woman said.
TSA officials say the controversial machines are necessarily intrusive.
“They have great security value,” said TSA spokesman Jim Fotenos. “They allow our officers to detect both metallic and non-metallic items – so items like liquids, powers, gels – it gives our officers another tool; another layer of security to help keeping the traveling public safe.”
For those concerned about possible side effects from radiation, officials say the x-ray type machines emit a small fraction of the amount of energy produced from a typical cell phone call.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli and WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya contributed to this report.