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Say Goodbye: Airport Body Scanners Being Removed

12:03 AM, Jan 19, 2013   |    comments
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The last of the so-called "naked image" body scanners will soon be removed from U.S. airports.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is severing its $5 million software contract with OSI Systems Inc. for Rapiscan "Secure 1000" units, after the company couldn't produce less revealing images in time to meet a congressional deadline, reports CBS News aviation and transportation correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

Seventy-six of the machines have already been removed from U.S. airports; there are currently 174 left.

But body scanners are not being removed from airports entirely. Still in use are machines made by L-3 Communications Holdings, Inc., which produce less-detailed images that comply with congressional mandates to better protect passenger privacy.

A TSA spokesperson for the southeast told WFMY News 2 that no airports in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia will be affected by the change. The airport in Charlotte changed to the new scanners last year. Raleigh and Greensboro airports have only had the newer, less revealing versions.

TSA released the following statement to WFMY News 2: 

"TSA has strict requirements that all vendors must meet for security effectiveness and efficiency.  Due to its inability to deploy non-imaging Automated Target Recognition (ATR) software by the Congressionally-mandated June 2013 deadline, TSA has terminated part of its contract with Rapiscan. By June 2013 travelers will only see machines which have ATR that allow for faster throughput.  This means faster lanes for the traveler and enhanced security.  As always, use of this technology is optional."

Use of advanced imaging body scanners at airports was accelerated after the so-called "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas 2009. That was followed by an outcry from privacy advocates and members of Congress who argued the naked images produced by the machine were too invasive.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) likened a scan by the machines to a "physically invasive strip search."

In August, 2010 the TSA asked the makers of the body scanners to make the images less revealing. L-3 accomplished the goal in 2011, but Rapiscan recently said it would not be ready with its fix until 2014.

That's beyond a June deadline mandated by Congress.

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