TSA’s naked scanner bait-and-switch

TSA is playing hide the truth from the American public once again.

Since the agency announced that it would swap out x-ray based backscatter machines for millimeter wave-based scanners, media outlets from around the country have screamed inaccurate headlines such as, “TSA Pulls Plug on Airport Nude Body Scanners“.

Once again, TSA’s greatest achievement is duping the press and uncritical journalists.

Here’s the reality: TSA is merely changing the naked scanners it uses to violate innocent travelers’ privacy.  The millimeter wave scanners, like their retiring backscatter complements, perform a virtual strip search (and an ineffective one at that) on every traveler who steps inside.  While the TSA is adding “privacy software” to automate the scanners ability to detect threats, these are still government-owned machines that are taking a naked picture of you.  Whether or not a pervert in a nearby booth is viewing the picture or not is irrelevant.  Would you let police officers photograph inside your home without a warrant instead of letting them search it?

This swap was a masterful move by TSA to try to mollify the public outrage around the virtual strip search machines.  But health concerns aside (millimeter waves are generally considered safe) the underlying objections to this technology stand:

  • It’s an unconstitutional search (read about administrative search doctrine for more on this)
  • It is invasive of privacy, even if less so than before
  • The machines slow down checkpoint operations while adding no actual security value


This savvy traveler is not fooled by the TSA’s optical illusion, and will continue to opt out every time.

  • Anonymous

    Fresh off of the $30 million Puffer scanner in 2009, TSA rushed into a $150 million mistake that violated the 4th Amendment, exposed passengers to unnecessary radiation, created child pornography and led to countless women being humiliated and harassed and they call that a success.

    These machines flat don’t work. They slow lines and cost millions in lost productivity. Hamburg, Germany reported a 54% rate of false positive alarms. Northern Ireland reported that they missed 43% of test items this year and Israel rejected them because of blind spots that allow explosives to be smuggled.

    TSA and the manufacturers should be forced to reimburse the taxpayers for this debacle through pay cuts and repayments to the Treasury.

    Savvy Traveler Reply:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself – well stated!

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