New airport scanners put passengers on a perp walk
Haraz N. Ghanbari, Associated Press
Full-body scanners, which can see through clothing, have been the focus of debate since a failed terrorist attack in December.
Readers report that the situation is not helped by bossy security officials and less-than-clear instructions.
By JOE SHARKEY, New York Times
Last update: June 27, 2010 – 8:40 PM
There was robust reader reaction to last week’s column describing those body-scan machines that the Transportation Security Administration is busily installing in airports — and my experience with one of them.
I can only summarize the responses here and offer a few excerpts. But in general, readers said they wished some screeners at the machines were nicer and did not order travelers around as if they were jailhouse perps. “With the new scanners, the agents have gotten really bossy,” Martha Keith wrote.
Meanwhile, I heard from a lot of readers who have metal implants such as hip or knee replacements, who were previously subject to physical pat-downs after they set off metal detector alarms. “I actually seek out the scanner,” said Roy Brunett, who had a hip replacement. He said the new technology “saves me lots of time and aggravation.”
On the other hand, the body scanners, which detect mass rather than just metal, have introduced complications for some women who are breast cancer survivors. One woman, who asked that her name not be used, said a female screener had asked her to step aside after a body scan.
“She asked if I had had any surgery to my chest area, and I responded that I had had a mastectomy and that I wore a silicone breast prosthesis. She thanked me, said, ‘Affirmative’ into the headset,” the woman said.
Asked about the readers’ comments, a TSA spokesman, Greg Soule, said passengers with medical devices outside the body, such as a breast prosthesis or a colostomy bag, “will be offered a private screening.”
By far, most readers wrote to complain about screeners who were rude.
Deb Green, who saw a screener talking by headset with the unseen person at the image monitor, said she felt, “from the comments and smirks, that they were appraising each of the women going through.”
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