Austin-Bergstrom airport to roll out less intrusive scanners

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[Corrected Oct. 16: Added "generic" before silhouette in 8th graf]

By November, the Transportation Security Agency is scheduled to install full-body scanning machines using the latest technology at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, according to a TSA official.

Jason Zielinski, spokesman at ABIA, said there are currently no full-body scanners at the airport and no specific date has been set for the installation of the scanners.

Despite the TSA’s stated effort to protect the privacy of traveling passengers, the TSA has greatly overstepped its boundaries regarding passenger privacy in the past, said Ryan Haecker, founder of the UT Anscombe Society, a group that promotes modesty, chastity, charity and marriage.

“They have recklessly disregarded the privacy of passengers from the beginning,” Hacker said. “There is no reason to trust them now.”

Haecker, an information studies graduate student, said his biggest concern with the TSA is their immunity from criminal prosecution and the potential injustice this causes for passengers who want to press charges against the TSA.

“If you can’t be protected from the people who are meant to protect you then I think they pose a greater danger than the dangers they wish to protect you from,” Haecker said.

Haecker said it is unacceptable for an unelected bureaucratic agency to force passengers to sacrifice their privacy for safety or else be prohibited from travelling on airlines.

Luis Casanova, TSA regional public affairs officer, said the new scanners are part of the TSA’s latest attempt to increase efficiency and security of the passenger screening process at airports across the country. The new technology, which only displays the same generic silhouette of each passenger and not a photographic image, is designed to protect the passenger’s privacy and streamline the screening process for TSA agents, Casanova said.

“This is part of TSA‘s effort to improve the privacy and safety of individuals without compromising security,” Casanova said.

The airports using the new technology will benefit by needing less agents involved with the scanning process, Casanova said.

Casanova said the older technology requires an agent present with the passenger at the machine while the detailed images of the body are viewed by another agent located in a separate area who has no visible contact with the passenger. He said with the new millimeter wave advanced imaging technology the same agent who is present at the machine is now also the same agent who views the machine’s result, which can also be viewed by the passenger.

“Now passengers see exactly what the operator sees,” Casanova said. “We anticipate that it will be more efficient and cost effective because we don’t need a separate room to view the images.”

Casanova said the average cost for one of these new machines is $150,000 and the TSA plans to increase this security and privacy strategy in the future.

“We are looking at investing in more technology to do these things quicker and more efficiently,” Casanova said. “In the future, you will see improvements in all of these procedures with advancements in technology.”