Full-Body Scanners Arrive at JFK Airport

By Jonathan Dienst
|  Friday, Oct 22, 2010  |  Updated 6:25 PM EDT
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Full-Body Scanners Arrive at JFK Airport

AP

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee Angelo Peralta, left, demonstrates the use of the first Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) unit to a fellow TSA employee, who helped with the demonstration, at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Friday, Oct. 22, 2010, in New York.

The future is now taking off.

New hi-tech "body scanners" are now in place at John F. Kennedy airport to help security officials try to better detect weapons and explosives.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano joined Port Authority officials Friday in unveiling the advanced imaging machines at the American Airlines terminal.

The technology gives screeners an X-ray-like image beneath clothing to look for dangerous materials, including plastics. Traditional metal detectors only sounded an alarm for if a passenger was carrying metal.

Napolitano said the new machines will "help keep aviation safe."  She added the levels of radiation used are so low that there is no risk. 

The new machines do show non-explicit full body images, officials said. But privacy concerns are taken into account as a security screener reviewing the images is not at the checkpoint but in a separate back room, officials said.

That backroom screener would then radio the checkpoint if a weapon or suspicious object is detected. Officials said the images are not stored and soon erased.

Passengers were concerened possible privacy issues but most seemed to accept the machines will bring better security.

"I'm worried a little bit," said Denise Danz of Albany speaking about the image that would be taken as she approached the checkpoint.  "But I am all for security."

Gregor Romcaers of Holland joked that he had "nothing to hide." He laughed, "I'm ok with it. I can show myself the way I am."

Airport authorities said the new machines may mean slower lines at first but should increase checkpoint lines as passengers become familiar with the process. Fewer false alarms and resulting pat downs part of the reason officials think the lines will move faster.

Even with the new machines, passengers will still have to remove their shoes as nails and other metals will show up in the new machines.

Officials said if a passenger is concerned about the new images -- they can opt out and go through a traditional metal detector. But they would also have to be patted down by a TSA screener, TSA officials said.

DHS officials said more than 300 airports will be equipped with these machines this year.

``These machines have been tested and retested and retested,'' she said.

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