Sunday, December 26, 2010

Effectiveness of airport body scanners eyed

The full-body scanners in use at 78 U.S. airports can detect small amounts of contraband and hidden weapons, all while producing controversial images of travelers.

The 'good catches,' federal officials say, have largely gone unnoticed amid the criticism that erupted over the ghostly X-rays and 'enhanced' pat-downs.

The Transportation Security Administration, which intensified airport screening last month, points to several successes: small amounts of marijuana wrapped in baggies, other drugs stitched inside underwear, ceramic knives in shirt pockets.

But the machines could miss something far more deadly: explosive material taped to someone's abdomen or hidden inside a cavity. Researchers and security experts question the technology's ability to detect chemical explosives that are odorless and easily molded to fool machines and security screeners. Government testing has also raised concerns about the effectiveness of the full-body scanners.

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