Examiner.com 24th Feb 2010. The first full-body scanner at O’Hare is expected to go into operation early in March in Terminal 1, which serves United Airlines, as well as departures for Lufthansa and All Nippon Airways.
The scanner is slated to arrive at the airport next week, and should be up and running within two weeks, according to Transportation Security Administration spokesman Jim Fotenos.
The TSA is using funds from the Federal stimulus program to purchase 150 of the controversial scanners. O’Hare and Logan International Airport in Boston are the first to receive the machines, which provide images that can be used to detect objects hidden underneath a person’s clothing.
Faces can be blurred and screeners can be in a different room,
“Passenger privacy is ensured through the anonymity of the image,” said Fotenos. “The officer attending the passenger will not view the image.”
However, critics of the scanners say images of breasts and genitalia created by the devices violate an individual’s right to privacy. Even the pope has weighed in on the controversy. Pope Benedict XVI urged the 1,200 Italian aviation workers he spoke to Saturday to safeguard the integrity of the individual traveler.
“We must never lose sight that respect of the supremacy of the person and attention to his needs… represent important guarantees of true efficiency and authentic quality” and not the other way around, he said.
Fotenos said use of the full-body scanners by passengers is optional. However, those refusing to go through the scanner could be asked to go through other screening procedures, including a physical pat-down by a member of the same sex.
Supporters of the scanners say they provide additional security by potentially detecting objects that standard metal detectors do not. They point to the attempted Christmas bombing of a Northwest Airlines jet, in which alleged terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is said to have concealed explosive materials in his underwear.
A USA Today poll taken within two weeks of the incident found 78 percent approval for use of the scanners among American air travelers.
“It would seem much more thorough than the process that we’re doing now,” poll respondent Joel Skousen, 38, of Willcox, Ariz. told the newspaper. “It would put me more at ease getting on a plane.”
Some respondents worried that the TSA would store the images, even though they are supposed to be deleted immediately after screening. Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan recently claimed on a British television show that screeners at Heathrow Airport in London printed an image of him naked and he autographed copies for some girls. Even though he seems to have been joking, UK aviation officials took the matter seriously, quickly issuing a denial.