TSA to begin testing imaging technology at George Bush Intercontinental Airport

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Local Press Release
Friday, July 31, 2009

HOUSTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced today that it will begin testing two types of advanced imaging technology at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Imaging technologies quickly and unobtrusively screen passengers for metallic and nonmetallic threats without physical contact.

Millimeter wave and backscatter imaging technologies provide enhanced detection capabilities and are 100 percent optional for all passengers. Both technologies have privacy protections in place for the traveler. The security officer who assists the passenger through the screening process never sees the image the technology produces. The image is viewed by a remotely located security officer who never sees the traveler. Further, these technologies cannot save, print, or transmit images. Once the image is deleted it cannot be restored. To further protect passenger privacy, millimeter wave technology blurs all facial features and backscatter has an algorithm applied to the entire image.

"State-of-the-art technologies like these are critical tools to ensure the safety of the traveling public," said Dempsey Jones, Acting Federal Security Director, George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Transportation Security Administration. "Imaging technology screens passengers quickly and with a high level of threat detection while managing privacy protections."

Millimeter wave technology uses harmless electromagnetic waves and 10,000 times less energy than a cell phone to perform a single scan. Backscatter technology uses low-level X-ray and a single scan is the equivalent of flying on an airplane for approximately two minutes. These technologies produce an image that allows TSA to remotely screen passengers for threats without physical contact. Imaging technology not only enhances security, it reduces the need for pat-down searches for passengers with joint replacements and other medical conditions.

At George Bush Intercontinental, TSA will assess the operational efficiency and public acceptance of these technologies as the primary screening technology in lieu of the traditional metal detector. Both technologies are 100 percent optional for all passengers. Passengers that choose not to be screened by imaging technology will receive a physical pat down. It is anticipated the test will last approximately 60 days.

Why Imaging Technology

Imaging technology is a critical layer of security that enables TSA to screen passengers for a wide range of threats while maintaining passenger privacy. Layers of security, like this one, are integrated to mitigate risk and ensure the safety of the traveling public. For more information about imaging technology and a complete list of airports where it is in use, please visit www.tsa.gov.