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Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Advanced Imaging and Body Scans

Gathered by: B.Sobey

In 2010, the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) deployed a new technology in many airports throughout the United States. Instead of using metal detectors and restricted carry-on items, the TSA implemented advanced imaging techniques that complete a “fully body scan.” This scan reveals both metal and non-metallic potential threats, such as weapons, or chemical explosives, that may be concealed under clothing.

Commonly Used Names for the Security Scanners at U.S. Airports

  • Advanced Imaging Technology (ATI) Scanners
  • Whole Body Imaging Scanners (WBI)
  • “Full body” scanners
  • “Strip search” scanners

How Safe is the Advanced Imaging Technology for Body Scans at the Airport?

According to the official website of the TSA, the advanced imaging technology meets national safety and health standards. The body scanning machines at the airports use backscatter technology and were evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiologic Health, as well as the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology.

One body scan at the airport produces exposure equivalent to two minutes of travel on an airplane. The energy projected by the millimeter wave technology is thousands of times less than a cell phone transmission.

What Can TSA Employees See During a Body Scan?

The advanced imaging machines reveal the intimate contours of the human body. These areas include the breasts, genitals, buttocks, and any external medical devices. The employee who reviews the images of the individual being scanned is located in a remote location and does not have any direct contact with the traveler. The images taken by the body scanning machines are not stored or transmitted, and are deleted immediately upon viewing by security personnel.

How to Opt-out of the Advanced Imaging Body Scan

Passengers who do not wish to be screened using the full body scan machine can opt-out. In doing so, they will be subjected to a thorough physical pat-down screening that is more in-depth than in years prior to 2010.

If a passenger chooses to opt out of the full body scan, the TSA agent will advise that he or she will then be required to undergo a standard patdown procedure. The patdown procedure will take place in public unless the travel passenger requests a private location.

A TSA agent of the same sex will use his or her hands to touch areas of the body, including between the breasts, the buttocks and up to the top of the thigh, as well as in between the legs and in the groin area. Women who are wearing a tight skirt that do not allow the agent to screen in between the legs will be taken to a private area and asked to remove the skirt and replace it with a provided gown or towel.

Passengers who wear religious head coverings may be asked to remove them or allow a TSA agent to patdown the head covering area. If the agent requests the passenger remove the head covering, the passenger may request that it be done in a private area.

Passengers have the right to request a witness in the event of a private screening. If a passenger is traveling alone, he or she may request that the TSA provide a witness.

List of Airports Using Body Scanning and Advanced Imaging Technology Machines

According to the TSA, there are 368 machines currently in use in 68 airports across the United States:

Albuquerque International Sunport Airport
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport
Boston Logan International
Bush Houston Interncontinental Airport
Boise Airport
Bradley International Airport
Brownsville
Buffalo Niagara International Airport
Charlotte Douglas International
Chicago O’Hare International
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International
Cleveland International Airport
Corpus Christie Airport
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Denver International Airport
Detroit Metro Airport
Dulles International Airport
El Paso International Airport
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International
Fort Wayne International Airport
Fresno Airport
Gulfport International Airport
Grand Rapids Airport
Harrisburg International Airport
Harlingen/Valley International Airport
Honolulu International Airport
Indianapolis International Airport
Jacksonville International Airport
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Kansas City International
LaGuardia International Airport
Lambert/St. Louis International Airport
Laredo International Airport
Lihue Airport
Los Angeles International
Luis Munoz Marin International Airport
McAllen Miller Airport
McCarran International Airport
Memphis International Airport
Miami International Airport
General Mitchell Milwaukee International Airport
Mineta San José International
Minneapolis/St.Paul International Airport
Nashville International Airport
Newark Liberty International Airport
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
Oakland International Airport
Omaha Eppley Field Airport
Orlando International Airport
Palm Beach International Airport
Philadelphia International Airport
Phoenix International Airport
Pittsburgh International Airport
Port Columbus International
Raleigh-Durham International Airport
Richmond International Airport
Rochester International Airport
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Salt Lake City International Airport
San Antonio International Airport
San Diego International Airport
San Francisco International Airport
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Spokane International Airport
T.F. Green Airport
Tampa International Airport
Tulsa International Airport

Resources for Traveling with Advanced Imaging Scanners

The Official Website of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration
Options for Screening by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

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