Naked fury over X-ray scanner at US airports
By Ben Fenton in Washington
from the Electronic Telegraph, January 3, 2000 (issue 1683)
AN X-ray scanner that shows airport customs officers the naked bodies of passengers has been greeted with outrage by American civil liberties watchdogs.
The BodySearch machine has been in place in New York and five other American cities for several months. Security officers can look at pictures of the human body in outline regardless of how much clothing passengers are wearing.
According to a spokesman for the manufacturers, the images of the body are not clear, although genitals and breasts are clearly distinguishable. "It is not like you are getting a photograph of a naked person," the spokesman said.
Anyone seeking to smuggle drugs or weapons was most likely to hide them in
areas untouched by body searches, such as the groin and, in women, the
chest. Raymond Kelley, commissioner for the Customs service, said the machine was introduced in response to passengers' concerns about intimate searches.
"People object to being physically touched and in response to that we brought in the scanners," Mr Kelley said. The Customs service is facing several lawsuits, mainly from women and members of ethnic minorities, claiming discrimination in singling out passengers for body searches.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it was considering legal action to prohibit use of the X-ray machine. "If there is ever a place where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, it is under their clothing," Gregory Nojeim, an ACLU lawyer, said yesterday.
The Customs service has refused to say where and how the machines are being used, but confirmed that it was planned to install them at all international airports in America by next June. The machines are expected to scan only passengers selected by Customs officers for special attention.