How Full-Body Scanners Work – and Fail
TSA has been introducing full-body scanners to perform a virtual strip search of air travelers. Although technically travelers have the right to opt out, the TSA discourages this behavior with aggressive and invasive pat-down searches. Initially, TSA denied punitive pat-down searches. Then they acknowledged testing a “more aggressive pat-down technique.” TSA began a more widespread implementation of this tactic at the beginning of November, and TSA agents have reportedly been quite open about that fact that the “enhanced” pat-down searches are specifically aimed to be so offensive as to coerce passengers into the scanners. In a blog post otherwise bluntly supportive of full-body scanning (the title, “Shut Up And Get In The Scanner,” gives a good idea of the tone of the writing), one former TSA screener writes:
It is a terror tactic by TSA to get you to walk through the more thorough body scanner. I can’t defend TSA on this one. I have talked to the TSA officers and it is no more effective than the old pat down procedure. They tested it out with trainers and each other. It is purely a terror tactic by TSA.
Other bloggers (with sharper tongues and stronger stomachs than I) have exhaustively documented the steaming mass of epic fail that is the TSA’s new policy. The aim of this post is to explain how full-body scanners work – and fail.
There are two kinds of full-body scanners: those based on backscatter X-ray technology and those based on millimeter wave technology.