Controversial TSA body scans involving revealing images of passengers will be retired soon, the Transportation Security Administration has announced.
The TSA body scans have long been hated by passengers as well as civil rights groups, due to the invasive images they produce and the questionable need for such a measure for travelers.
NPR reports on the change, mandated by Congress last year and confirmed yesterday in a letter from the agency’s head:
“In a letter Thursday from TSA Administrator John Pistole to the House Homeland Security Committee, the agency says that as of May 16, all U.S. airport scanners that had been equipped with the offending Advanced Imaging Technology, or AIT, have been loaded with software called Automatic Target Recognition, which shows only generic images of the passengers.”
The letter confirming the retirement of TSA body scans read in part:
“As of May 16, 2013, all [Advanced Imaging Technology scanners] are equipped with ATR capability… Additionally, TSA’s procurement of next generation AIT requires ATR capability.”
Going forward, the formerly invasive TSA body scans will instead show a “generic outline of a passenger to the operator” in lieu of a more revealing (and many argued, humiliating) full-body image. Contraband or possibly dangerous items will appear as a “colored box” on the retrofitted scanners.
The changes were part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which originally dictated the machines be removed by June 2012.
However, the TSA was given an extended deadline to alter the machines of May 31, 2013.
The TSA body scans were rolled out after the failed plot of the “underwear bomber” to take down a domestic flight on Christmas in 2009. The machines were not only controversial due to the revealing images, but also due to the “backscatter” radiation emitted — which has been linked to cancer in higher doses.