The next time you pass through security at a New York City airport, you may notice something different. The federal government started rolling out new X-ray machines Friday that has some travelers uneasy.
The new machines will give security screeners the ability to see underneath your clothing. The device is called a "backscatter" X-ray. It's a whole-body scanner that gives security screeners a computerized representation of your naked body. It allows screeners to see if someone is carrying a weapon - or just a few extra pounds.
The Transportation Security Administration says this is all in the name of airline safety and security. To ease the some travelers' concerns, those who object to the screening method will be given a pat-down instead.
Not all airports will be getting this new technology at once. Just a handful of them are being rolled out at JFK, Newark and LaGuardia airports in the next few weeks. Right now, the TSA has around 300 of the scanners deployed at 61 airports around the country.
It didn't sit well with a Tennessee pilot who says going through a full body scanner is an invasion of his privacy. Michael Roberts, a first officer with ExpressJet Airlines, recently refused a body scan. The Houston-based pilot was chosen for an X-ray scan last Friday at Memphis International Airport. But instead of complying, he refused that along with a pat-down and went home. The 35-year-old says he wants to go to work without being "harassed or molested without cause."
"Bottom line is, I'm not especially comfortable with being frisked by an agent of the federal government every day on my way to work," Roberts said. "Evidently they saw my discomfort with the situation as a threat to air transportation security."
Roberts says airport security is important, but he wants a better system to keep people safe and says he has a right to privacy.
The TSA says passengers have the right to refuse the body scans, but will be required to undergo other screening methods. The agency released a statement saying, "Advanced Imaging Technology is optional for all passengers. Passengers who decline to be screened using advanced imaging technology will receive alternative screening to ensure the safety of the traveling public. Anyone who refuses screening will be denied access to the secure area."
Roberts is currently waiting to see if he'll lose his job and is now seeking legal advice.
As you might imagine, this is sparking plenty of debate. Many of you are already sounding off on this story on our Facebook page.
One reader writes, "In this day in age, no one should have an objection to full body scanners. It is for our own safety. I am all for it."
Another says, "A good idea, but i think it is bordering on invasion of privacy. not everyone is so secure with their body, shape, figure, etc...so im sure there will be some sort of resistance."
And yet another person says his concerns are health-related, saying "I am against it totally, not for the invasion of privacy aspects, but from the health consequences. It's forcing the public to be radiated, without choice. I'd rather have someone do a hands on pat down, than to be zapped."
What do you think about the new scanning devices? Do you think they're necessary in this post 9-11 world? Would you object to being screened by one? If so, why? Leave your comments below.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this article.