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The Mechanics
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Chicago Wed Feb 24 2010

Full Body Scanners to Arrive @ O'Hare in the Next 2 Weeks

In hopes of better security (and fear of invasion of privacy for many), the first full body scanner is set to arrive at O'Hare International airport next week. Jim Fotenos, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday that the scanner will be installed at United Airlines' Terminal 1 within the next two weeks, where randomly selected local passengers will have the option of going through the scanner or being subjected to a pat down. O'Hare and Boston's Logan Airport, which will receive three machines, will be the first to get new full body scanners purchased with federal stimulus money. The other machines will be distributed by the end of June to airports across the country. O'Hare will use the machine as an initial screening device, which will show an explicit silhouette of passengers that can identify explosives among other items concealed on the body. The use of only one full body scanner in an airport like O'Hare means that only a small percentage of passengers will be asked to go through the machine. The scanning is optional, however, and those who choose not to go through it will be screened by a metal detector and/or hand wand. Some have expressed concerns over the full body scanners and feel it's an invasion of privacy.

The full-body imaging machines peer through clothing -- showing shapes, folds of fat and other anatomical characteristics -- to identify possible hidden objects.

Even though facial features are blurred to protect privacy, the images reveal breasts, buttocks and other private parts, prompting some civil liberties groups to call the machines an unacceptable intrusion.

"We have continued to express concerns about the use of these machines as a primary screener because it's an invasion of privacy that isn't necessary," said Edwin Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. "There is no justification for compelling people to go through a virtual strip search to go on an airplane."

The passengers who agree to the scan will stand inside a phone booth sized compartment, raise their hands over their heads and place both feet on markings on the floor. The officers viewing the images will be standing away from the passengers and the person's face will be blurred.

"Passenger privacy is insured through the anonymity of the image," Fotenos said. "The officer attending the passenger will not view the image."

The Transportation Security Administration determines which airports get the scanners based on "risk, airport readiness and operational suitability," Fotenos said.

The use of machines in airports is a big part of the Obama Administration's plans to improve airport security, ordering hundreds more after the attempted Christmas day terror bombing of an airliner headed for Detroit.

 
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