Thursday, July 31, 2014         

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ACLU praises less detailed body scans

By Rosemarie Bernardo


New software that will eliminate detailed images of passengers on body-scanning monitors at Honolulu Airport is a significant step toward enhancing privacy, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii said Thursday.

Still, the ACLU said it remains concerned about scanned images and pat-downs.

In the next couple of weeks, the Transportation Security Administration will begin installing "automated target recognition" software to scanners that use millimeter-wave technology. The image will show a generic outline of a passenger rather than the detailed, X-ray-like image now viewed through monitors by security officers.

All six scanners at the Honolulu Airport are among 241 units at airports across the country to receive the new software. Installation is expected to be completed by September, TSA spokes­man Nico Melendez said.

Stanford Miyamoto, acting federal security director for Honolulu, said Thursday that if the scanner detects an anomaly, a yellow box will appear on the screen over the affected area of the passenger outline. The screened passenger will be able to see on a monitor the same image as the security officer. TSA officials said a separate officer will no longer be required to view the image in an enclosed viewing room.

Miyamoto said complaints about the body scanners are infrequent and that the public, for the most part, understands why they are necessary. Of the new software he said, "I think this is good progress the TSA is making to address privacy concerns."

Laurie Temple, ACLU Hawaii staff attorney, said Thursday she still has questions about the new software and noted travelers are still subjected to intrusive pat-downs, which a number of travelers equate with being sexually assaulted. Since the scanners were installed last year at the Honolulu and Lihue airports, the ACLU has received dozens of complaints of the "invasive pat-downs and naked body scans," Temple said.

Testing will begin this fall of new software for body scanners that use backscatter technology such as the one used at the Lihue Airport. Hawaii island and Maui airports do not yet have full-body scanners.

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