|Body scanners unveiled at JFK Airport; Homeland Security Sect. Janet Napolitano doesn't volunteer
| October 22, 2010
Airline passengers might want to consider a trip to the gym before heading to the airport now that high-tech body scanners have been unveiled at Kennedy Airport.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday hailed them as an important breakthrough for airport security and the fight against terrorism.
Yet when it came to testing the devices - which produce chalky, naked X-ray images of passengers - she turned the floor over to some brave volunteers.
"These machines represent an important way to stay ahead of the ever-evolving threat that faces the aviation industry," Napolitano said.
About 300 of the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines are operational already at 62 airports across the country, and 450 will be in place by the end of the year, officials said.
JFK will have a "substantial" number, but officials would not reveal the exact figure.
Machines will be installed at Newark and LaGuardia airports within weeks.
The machines work by projecting low-level X-ray beams at the passenger's body to produce an image.
Any nonmetal objects hidden on the passenger's body that wouldn't be detected by the old-style scanners are easily spotted.
Going through one is optional for all travelers, but Napolitano hoped to ease any fears that airport staff would use them to leer at passengers.
"Those who read the images are not actually physically at the gate, so they cannot associate an image with an individual person at all," she said.
"And the machines are set so that no image is retained."