The TSA's New Xrays
Published: April 2009
By Barbara Benham
Comic-book technology is the future of the TSA.
One of the most promising airport security applications to date is the backscatter machine,
a whole-body screening device that visually strip-searches passengersshowing not just
hidden weapons and explosives but also a graphic view of a person's naked image. Not surprisingly,
the technology has created a stir among privacy advocates. Nevertheless, experts predict it
will soon be standard at U.S. airports.
The Transportation Security Administration, which has been testing the machines at its Atlantic
City site, says it will begin implementing backscatter technology at U.S. airports once it
is further refined. In August, the TSA gave American Science & Engineering, one of two
U.S. firms that make backscatter X-ray systems, $945,000 to upgrade its technology. The improved
version will eliminate distinguishing featuresrevealing an outline instead of curves
and anatomical details. And in October, Rapiscan Systems received a $912,000 TSA contract
to enhance its model. Last summer, the company sold three machines to the British Airport
Authority, which began testing them at Heathrow's Terminal 4 in November.