Should the Use of Advanced Imaging Machines be Restricted? Two Congressmen Think So

The use of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines by the TSA in airports around the country has been a controversial issue. Security and health concerns have been expressed about the use of the machines, while others think the machines make flying safer. Two Congressmen are sponsoring legislation to restrict use of the machines in airports.

Today, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced legislation (HR 1279) addressing Whole-Body Imaging machines, now referred to as Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines. Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) joined Congressman Chaffetz in sponsoring the legislation.

The legislation was introduced in response to health and privacy concerns that have been raised surrounding use of the machines. To say the least, the AIT machines have been controversial.  There have been concerns about the potential privacy issues with the images that come from the machines, and more recently questions as to the radiation levels associated with the machines have surfaced.  The TSA maintains that they are safe, and a recent study would seem to confirm that, but undoubtedly some skepticism remains.

Chaffetz and Holt apparently share in this skepticism.

“Passengers expect privacy underneath their clothing and should not be required to display highly personal details of their bodies as a pre-requisite to boarding an airplane. These machines allow TSA employees to conduct the equivalent of a strip search.  Nobody needs to see my wife and kids naked to secure an airplane,” Chaffetz said.

“A number of reputable scientists have raised valid concerns about the potential health effects of excessive ionizing radiation exposure from the backscatter scanners, particularly if they malfunction. Our bill would ensure that the government investigates thoroughly the potential health risks associated with this technology before fielding it more widely.  We must also avoid a head-long rush to embrace fallible technology that will only give the public the illusion of increased security at the expense of their privacy and dignity,” said Holt.

The bill prohibits the TSA from using AIT machines unless the National Academy of Sciences determines that the technology poses no threat to public health, the technology is equipped with a privacy filter or other privacy protecting technology, and another method of screening (such as metal detection, explosive trace detection, or behavioral profiling) demonstrates reasonable cause for utilizing the technology.

The bill is an updated version of a bill Congressman Chaffetz introduced last Congress which passed the House as an amendment with an overwhelming 310 yea votes.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.