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Chaffetz wants ban on airport body scans

Published: Thursday, April 23 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Saying that "nobody needs to see my wife and kids naked to secure an airplane," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, on Wednesday introduced a bill to ban whole-body imaging at airports.

"Passengers expect privacy underneath their clothing and should not be required to display highly personal details of their bodies as a prerequisite to boarding an airplane," Chaffetz said.

It is the first bill that the freshman congressman has introduced.

Salt Lake City International Airport is among six nationwide where the Transportation Security Administration has been testing the machines. TSA employees who view the images are in a separate room far from the security checkpoints because of privacy concerns.

"Whole-body imaging is exactly what it says. It allows TSA employees to conduct the equivalent of a strip search. Nobody needs to see my wife and kids naked to secure an airplane. At $170,000 apiece, we can hardly afford the machines," Chaffetz said.

He said he worries that while the public was told initially that the machines would be used only for secondary screening — after regular metal detectors or similar equipment warned of possible problems — he said TSA officials have been quoted saying plans now call for all passengers to go through them instead of metal detectors.

Chaffetz also posted on his Internet site, chaffetz.house.gov, a "cot-side chat" about the matter. In it, he sits on the cot where he sleeps in his office to further discuss the bill and why he is pushing it.

"Whole-body imaging goes too far," he said. "It basically looks at your body naked. It has a technology, amazing as it may seem, to look underneath your clothes. And a person in the back room is going to see you, literally, every detail. According to the TSA, they can even see the sweat on somebody's back."

He adds, "Somehow, someway, I think this is too invasive."

Chaffetz said that even though the technology is available, that doesn't mean we have to use it.

"I can see applications that might be appropriate, for instance, in a prison," he said. But "when you have good Americans getting on an airplane, I don't think we have to look at them naked in order to secure that airplane."

Chaffetz added that by pushing the bill, he hopes it will push "the TSA away from using this technology as primary screening."

He also warned, "If you're in one of those airports that's using it now, I highly suggest you think twice about doing it."

E-MAIL: lee@desnews.com

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