NPR : News

Filed Under:

'Invasive' Body Scanners Will Be Removed From Airports

The Transportation Security Administration will remove controversial body scanners from airport security after OSI Systems Inc. didn't update its machines' software to make scanned images of airline passengers less revealing.

"It became clear to TSA they would be unable to meet our timeline," Karen Shelton Waters the agency's assistant administrator for acquisitions told Bloomberg News. "As a result of that, we terminated the contract for the convenience of the government."

Privacy advocates have said that the images are offensive, particularly when children and the elderly are scanned.

"TSA will end a $5 million contract with OSI's Rapiscan unit for the software," Jeff Plungis reports for Bloomberg, "after Administrator John Pistole concluded the company couldn't meet a congressional deadline to produce generic passenger images."

Last year, 76 Rapiscan scanners were removed from the busiest U.S. airports. As Pro Publica reported, the TSA's main concern was that the scanners slowed down security checkpoints. The remaining 174 machines will be taken out of airports gradually.

Body scanners from another manufacturer, L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., which met the TSA's requirements, are now expected to be used in more airports.

L-3 scanning machines use millimeter-wave technology — radio frequencies that find metallic and non-metallic items — while Rapiscan uses "backscatter" technology that relies on X-ray radiation.

Scanners that used X-rays spread to more airports after Christmas Day of 2009, when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight with explosives in his underwear.

But in July of 2010, the Electronic Privacy Information Center sued the TSA, saying that the scanners violated privacy laws and that the imagery was equivalent to a "physically invasive strip search."

As Pro Publica reports, X-ray scanners worth about $14 million are now sitting in a warehouse in Texas.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

WAMU 88.5

Kate Mulgrew: "Born With Teeth" (Rebroadcast)

Kate Mulgrew, who stars as "Red" in the Netflix TV series "Orange Is The New Black", opens up in a new memoir about her complicated family and the baby she gave away for adoption as a young woman.


Swapping The Street For The Orchard, City Dwellers Take Their Pick Of Fruit

Urban foragers don't just pick their meals from the trash; many eat only the finest, freshest produce — picked from city trees. The League of Urban Canners harvests fruit from trees to make jam.

Reconsidering The Pilgrims, Piety And America's Founding Principles

Conservatives who want to emphasize America's Christian roots embrace the story of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact. But some historians say their role in the country's founding is overstated.

From Takeout To Breakups: Apps Can Deliver Anything, For A Price

Convenience is at an all-time premium — and a lot of smartphone apps promise to make many of the things we do every day easier. In a time-crunch or sheer laziness, how far will the apps take us?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.