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Lawmaker: Let travelers choose between speed and privacy at airport checkpoints

Paul Beaty/AP

During a House hearing Thursday regarding malfunctioning privacy controls on 91 full-body airport scanners that are being held in storage, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., asked a novel question.

Why doesn’t the Transportation Security Administration place the malfunctioning scanners in airports and let travelers decide whether privacy or passing through the checkpoint quickly is more important, Rogers wanted to know.

TSA placed the 91 scanners worth $14 million in storage because software that replaces the near naked image of passengers being screened with a generic outline failed to do its job, Assistant TSA Administrator John Sanders told the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security.  

Rogers, who chairs the subcommittee, asked Sanders and TSA’s Acting Chief Privacy Officer Jonathan Cantor if the agency had discussed giving travelers at the airports where the scanners were scheduled to be located three options: one line for a machine that displays a “stick figure,” another for a manual pat down and a third for people who’d rather let TSA officers see a near naked image of themselves than wait in a longer line for the privacy-enabled scanners.

Both men said they were not aware of any such discussions.

Rogers said he personally didn’t care what images TSA employees saw of him if it made his security wait shorter but that he respects other citizens’ concerns about the invasive images. 

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