New X-ray vision shows air passengers naked

Date 7-Jul-2003 18:02:04
Topic: Miscellaneous News

The US government is considering using X-ray vision at airport security checkpoints to give a naked image of passengers.

The magnetometers now in use at airports cannot detect plastic weapons or substances used in explosives.

Susan Hallowell, director of the Transportation Security Administration's security laboratory, demonstrated the system which bounces X-rays off her skin.

To the eye, she is dressed in a skirt and blazer. On the monitor, she is naked - except for a gun and a bomb that she hid under her outfit.

"It does basically make you look fat and naked - but you see all this stuff," she said.

The technology is called "backscatter" because it scatters X-rays. Doses of rays deflected off dense materials such as metal or plastic produce a darker image than those deflected off skin.

Backscatter machines are already in use in prisons, to screen visitors, and in South African diamond mines where they are used to check workers at the end of shifts.

But they have never been used in airports. Ms Hallowell said the radiation dosage is comparable to sunshine but she accepts that passengers might not like the idea of staff seeing them naked.

The agency is trying to find a way to modify the machines with an electronic fig leaf - programming that fuzzes out sensitive body parts or distorts the body.

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