- The Washington Times - Friday, January 1, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO | As Ronak Ray hunted for his flight gate, he prepared for the prospect of a security guard peering through his clothes with a full body scanner. But Mr. Ray doesn’t mind: What he gives up in privacy, he gets back in security.

“I think it’s necessary,” said Mr. Ray, 23, a graduate student who was at San Francisco International Airport to fly to India. “Our lives are far more important than how we’re being searched.”

His position was typical of several travelers interviewed at various airports Wednesday by the Associated Press.

Airports in five other U.S. cities are also using full body scanners at specific checkpoints instead of metal detectors. In addition, the scanners are used at 13 other airports for random checks and so-called secondary screenings of passengers who set off detectors.

The Transportation Security Administration has ordered 150 more full-body scanners to be installed in airports throughout the country in early 2010, agency spokeswoman Suzanne Trevino said.

Dutch security officials have said they believe such scanners could have detected the explosive materials Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria is accused of trying to ignite aboard a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has 15 full-body scanners, but none was used to scan Mr. Abdulmutallab when he boarded. In Europe and the U.S., privacy concerns over the scanners’ ability to see through clothing have kept them from widespread use.

The technology was first used about two years ago to make it easier for airport security to do body searches without making physical contact with passengers.

Miss Trevino said the TSA has worked with privacy advocates and the scanners’ manufacturers to develop software that blurs the faces and genital areas of passengers being scanned. In all cases, passengers are not required to be scanned by the machine but can opt for a full body pat-down instead.

Critics of the scanners said the option to opt out was not enough.

Security officers looking at the images are in a different part of the airport and are not allowed to take any recording devices into the room with them, Miss Trevino said. The images captured by the scanners cannot be stored, transmitted or printed in any way.

The six airports where full body scanners are being used for what TSA calls “primary screenings” are Albuquerque, N.M.; Las Vegas; Miami; San Francisco; Salt Lake City; and Tulsa, Okla.

The remainder of the machines are being used for secondary screenings in Atlanta; Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall; Denver; Dallas/Fort Worth; Indianapolis; Jacksonville and Tampa, Fla.; Los Angeles; Phoenix; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Richmond; Ronald Reagan Washington National; and Detroit.

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