recommended reading

Key lawmaker wants to limit full-body screening at airports

A key lawmaker wants to prohibit TSA from using advanced imaging technology in primary security screening.Brian Kersey/Newscom

A key lawmaker wants to prohibit the Transportation Security Administration from using full-body scanners for primary screening at airports, a congressional staff member said Thursday.

An aide to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said the new chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations, which oversees TSA, plans to reintroduce legislation similar to a 2010 House-passed bill that stalled in the Senate.

The aide made the comment during a forum convened by the privacy group the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which organized opponents of whole-body imaging, including Ralph Nader and Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., to speak out against TSA's use of the advanced imaging technology machines. TSA did not receive a formal invitation to the conference, agency officials said.

A Holt aide said his boss would be supportive of similar legislation. The measure that Chaffetz co-sponsored last Congress was an amendment to the Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act, H.R.2200. The legislation also would allow passengers to opt for a pat-down search instead of walking through a scanner, and it prohibits TSA from storing, sharing or copying any whole-body images.

TSA ramped up deployments of the AIT scanners following the 2009 Christmas Day attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound commercial aircraft by a man concealing explosives in his underwear. In July 2010, EPIC sued the government to halt installation of the machines, pending an independent review, arguing the program is illegal, invasive and not effective at stopping terrorists. EPIC amplified its protests this fall, when TSA began subjecting more passengers to AIT screening after security and intelligence personnel uncovered a Yemeni-hatched plot to bomb cargo aircraft traveling to the United States.

Holt, a physicist and former chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, is concerned that the screening poses health risks and questioned whether it was even effective. Specifically, he has cited research that most radiation from the X-ray machines strikes the top of the head, which is where basal cell cancer frequently occurs.

Troy D. Stock, counsel for Chaffetz, said the congressman wants to explore Holt's concerns through robust hearings.

Earlier at the event, Bruce Schneier, chief security technology officer of BT, the global telecom firm, cast doubt on whether AIT scanners have protected Americans from terrorists following the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Since 9/11 two things have made us safer: reinforcing the cockpit door and convincing passengers they need to fight back," Schneier said. "We saw that with the Christmas Day underwear bomber. ... pretty much everything else is security theater."

In response to the criticisms aired at the forum, TSA officials told Nextgov that the agency has been forthcoming about all aspects of advanced imaging technology, including stringent privacy protections, since it began piloting the tool in 2007. Currently, TSA is exploring additional privacy protections.

Congress required TSA to employ technologies that reduce threats to transportation. Agency officials maintain the AIT scanners are the best available means of safely screening passengers for metallic and nonmetallic threats, such as weapons, explosives and other objects hidden under layers of clothing.

"Advanced imaging technology led to the detection of over 130 prohibited, illegal or dangerous items at security checkpoints nationwide in 2010," TSA officials said in a statement.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    View
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.