The Department of Homeland Security has published a privacy impact assessment for the use of ‘Advanced Imaging Technology’ — in other words, ‘nude-o-scopes’ the whole body imaging machines that you step into and ‘assume the position’.
The document was reviewed by the person holding perhaps the single most Orwellian federal job title: Chief Privacy Officer for the Department of Homeland Security.
They published this assessment because they are changing the procedure for these machines, giving themselves the discretion to eliminate the option of passengers opting out of these machines.
TSA does not say the circumstances in which optional nude-o-scope screening becomes mandatory. They will decide ‘as warranted’ (in their sole, and unreviewable judgment). Thus a given screening may insist that a passenger go through the full body imaging devices, even when the passenger ‘opts out’, and they may insist upon this for any reason or no reason.
Playmobil Airport Security Playset — Traditional Metal Detector
The machines that TSA uses are now millimeter wave, rather that ‘backscatter’ machines that exposed passengers to an untested amount of radiation. And current software does not display or store fully naked images of passengers.
- TSA agents have been known to manipulate the machines so they could fondle attractive passengers.
- The machines can easily be fooled with a sewing kit (which the TSA doesn’t deny).
- And fooled by leather underwear.
- And fooled by tape.
- And they miss 95% of the weapons which pass through the checkpoint using these machines. But they’re so important that TSA needs to give itself the option of denying passengers their current right to opt out in favor of an enhanced physical screening (full body massage).
Backscatter Machines are No Longer in Use at US Airports
The use of these machines has been ruled illegal several times, most recently in October, because TSA has failed to follow federal law which requires it to promulgate a rule for their use.
Fortunately if you have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry (and thus TSA PreCheck) you are usually — although not always — excused from these machines. And you’re usually excused from them if you have PreCheck on your boarding pass and PreCheck is closed.