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Images created by a 'backscatter' scanner are displayed during a demonstration at the Transportation Security Administration's Systems Integration Facility at Ronald Reagan National Airport December 30, 2009 in Arlington, Virginia. Backscatter technology uses low level x-rays to create a two-sided image.
The Los Angeles International Airport will be among 11 airports to receive advanced imaging scanners, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced last week. The Transportation Security Administration will install 450 machines by this summer. It is not yet clear how many of the units LAX will receive. The airport has three similar machines already in operation.
Officials believe that the advanced imaging technology would have detected bombs a Nigerian man strapped under his clothing before boarding a flight to the United States on Christmas Day.
“By accelerating the deployment of this technology, we are enhancing our capability to detect and disrupt threats of terrorism across the nation,” Secretary Napolitano said in a statement.
The advanced imaging scanners will not likely replace traditional screening by metal detectors any time soon.
“From what I hear, the machines they are sending to us are slightly upgraded version of the machines we already have here,” Gina Marie Lindsey told the Contra Costa Times. The executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, the agency that runs LAX, continued, “Along with technology improvements, we would also need more room and these airport terminals were built at a time when we didn’t have the robust screening measures that we have now.”
In a press release the Department of Homeland Security outlined the benefits of the new machines. “Advanced imagining technology is designed to bolster security by safely screening passengers for metallic and non-metallic threats—including weapons, explosives and other objects concealed under layers of clothing.”
Privacy advocates, however, say the intimate portraits violate the rights of passengers.
“These scanners violate a basic sense of dignity and it’s offensive the the modesty shared by many religious groups,” Peter Bibring, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California told the Contra Costa Times. “More importantly, it’s questionable whether these are really effective enough prevention technology to warrant such an intrusion.”
The scanners will be funded by the Recovery Act, according to Secretary Napolitano.