MSP INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Minn. -- The first high tech, full-body scanner at Minneapolis-St. Paul International is now installed and operational, and should be part of daily security operations in the next week or two.
The machines use X-rays or radio frequency energy to detect weapons and explosives beneath passengers' clothing, an essential security function in the days since the 9/11 attacks.
The scanner is set up at checkpoint 10 on the skyway level of MSP International. TSA spokesperson Carrie Harmon says going through the scanner is optional, but warns that if passengers say no they will likely be patted down.
Many have voiced concerns, likening the scanner to 'a digital strip search'. In fact, privacy advocacy groups have filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security to stop the use of such scanners, alleging they are an invasion of privacy.
"These are incredibly intrusive devices. They are as intrusive as a strip search and that is what they are used for, however unlike a strip search, they miss things for example, suicide bombers that conceal things in their body cavities," says Chuck Samuelson with the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The TSA's Harmon says a number of privacy protections are in place with the scanner at MSP International Airport. The employee reviewing the images will be in a room away from the scanner, and will only see the results of the scan and not the person being scanned. She maintains that the images cannot be copied, printed, transmitted or stored, and are deleted immediately after being viewed by security personnel.
Currently there are 174 full body scanners in operation at 48 airports across the U.S.
KARE 11 spoke to several passengers Tuesday about the new scanner. Some were concerned about possible delays, but most agreed with the use of the scanners if they enhance security.
"I think that they're doing a good job at protecting the community and I think that if that's what we need to do then that's what we need to do," says frequent flier Roberta Oveson. "There's a lot of lives at stake and if we have to surpass some of our privacy rights, then we need to do that because you never know what can happen these days."
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