- The Washington Times - Monday, August 12, 2002

London Sunday Telegraph

LONDON British tourists returning from Florida are expressing outrage over an American airport security scanner that shows the naked bodies of travelers as clearly as a life drawing.

The machine is on trial at Orlando Airport in Florida as part of tighter security across the United States after September 11. A total of 600,000 British tourists will have used the airport during the summer holidays.

Passengers are offered the option of passing through the Rapiscan Secure 1000 to save time in boarding their homebound aircraft. Although they believe that security staff will see only a relatively hazy outline of their bodies, pictures released on an American cable television channel show that the images are far more explicit.

Footage obtained by MSNBC show the front and rear views of a man who had been through the scanner. He was naked except for a thin belt at his waist, with his genitalia and buttocks clearly defined.

No images of women passing through the scanner have been released by the airport or the device's manufacturer. Those associated with the project, however, say that it reveals everything women try to hide.

British vacationers returning from Orlando to Heathrow over the weekend were shocked at the idea that their bodies were being seen in their full glory. "It's not the kind of picture I'd want to see among my holiday snaps, and I don't see why anyone else should get to see it either," said one.

Airports across Britain have expressed interest in buying the scanner, which was designed to help detect weapons or drugs hidden on, or inside, a passenger's body.

The American Civil Liberties Union, however, said the trials of the new system proved that it is too intrusive. "We oppose widespread use of what I call I think, accurately enough a virtual strip search," said Barry Steinhardt, the associate director of the ACLU. "It's a very graphic picture of the naked body.

"We don't need to use this technology. In fact, we don't even need to test it. We know it works it works too well. Those of us who fly a lot know this won't remain voluntary for very long. This will become mandatory, and people will be embarrassed. There is no question that this has tremendous potential for embarrassment."

The machine, which is made by a Californian firm, employs a low-level X-ray technology to scan a body through clothing. It can detect plastics as well as metal.

Signs at the passenger security checkpoint stress that joining the line to pass through the prototype scanners at the Advanced Technology Checkpoint Project is voluntary.

Proponents of the system argue that the machines are a sure-fire, front-line defense against terrorists and drug smugglers and pose no health concerns.

They also stress that the naked image of a passenger is wiped from the computer memory bank the moment a person emerges from the scanning cubicle.

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