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What Are TSA Backscatter or Body Imaging X-Ray Machines at Airports?

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TSA MIllimeter Wave Picture - TSA Backscatter Body Imaging Picture - image from the TSA Showing Body

TSA Millimeter Wave Picture (Xray Body Imaging Image)

© TSA
Question: What Are TSA Backscatter or Body Imaging X-Ray Machines at Airports?
Answer: The TSA has already installed backscatter, or body imaging X-ray, or millimeter wave images machines at 65 airports (as of October, 2010) across the US. The body imaging, or millimeter wave imaging machines, or TSA scanners, scan a passenger on all sides and transmit the image of the passenger's body, without clothing, to a TSA agent who will be seated 50-100 feet away from the TSA scanner. The object is to identify concealed (purposely or not) metal, plastics, ceramics, chemical materials and explosives via millimeter wave technology.

The TSA scanner images produced by the body scanning will not be saved or printed, according to the TSA (though you can find saved, leaked images from these scanners). As well, the TSA has this to say about privacy and your body parts:

    "For additional privacy, the officer viewing the image is in a separate room and will never see the passenger and the officer attending to the passenger will never see the image. The officers have 2-way radios to communicate with other in case a threat object is identified."

Passengers who "qualify" (and the definition of that seems to change from airport to airport, time to time, and agent to agent) after passing through the full body scanner may also get the patdown. And as of February 2009, the TSA decided that if you opt out of the "voluntary" millimeter wave scanner/x-rated x-ray machine at an airport where it's been put in place of the now-old metal detectors, you will get a pat down. Which will be intimate (edited 11/10/2010 to add: They did warn us...).

That's an actual TSA scanner image of two scanned bodies from the TSA backscatter body imaging machine above at right -- gives an idea what the TSA agent will see when he or she looks at a passenger's naked body through the backscatter body imaging machine. See more images from the scanners used by the TSA:

The millimeter wave machines began being tested at Phoenix's Sky Harbor and LA's LAX airports in 2006/7. The TSA has, as of late 2010, installed the backscatter body scanner devices at 65 US airports -- see the list:

Alarmed curiousity aroused? Read more from the TSA:

Poll: Will You Take the Scanner or the TSA Patdown at the Airport?

And will you hate it, or do you care? Take the Poll

Comment: Will You Walk Through An X Ray Scanner?

What do you think? Will you agree to walk through a full body imaging machine at the airport? Comment or read comments on the TSA's full body scanners.

Comment: Have You Had a TSA Patdown?

Have you opted out of the full body scanner and had a TSA patdown instead? What was it like? Would you choose to opt out again? Comment or read comments on TSA patdowns.

Pure Opinion

I don't plan to tape oversize tubes of shampoo to my torso, but even if I were so inclined, I would rather have them discovered through a pat down than have my abs of non-steel image sent to a TSA agent, who has complete authority to >save them and print them (though the TSA promises that those functions are disabled on the machines... but also that that will only happen if I pose a threat to national security -- which I must, since I periodically get the wand and pat down). I prefer trains as a mode of transport to begin with, and these body imaging machines at airports provide me with another good reason to take the train, I think... and start finding out more about freighter travel.

Read more:

Archived Air Travel News: But I don't want the TSA to see me naked... | London Terrorist Threat Causes Changes in Airport Security | Laptops and Airport Screening | Air Travel Escalating Into Hassle Travel | Services Mail Banned Airport Items Home

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