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Agency seeks faster screening system

In the near future, airline passengers may be screened for weapons without having to stop walking or remove their coats and shoes.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is pushing for private contractors to create a screening machine with "screen and walk" capability for use at the nation’s 160 international airports. The agency recently requested information from high-tech companies and other private firms about any new technology that can help speed up the security checkpoints managed by the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Protective Services.

Homeland Security asked for technology that can screen a minimum of 250 people per hour, which is slightly faster than the current pace of about 200 per hour for the full-body scanners. The new technology would not replace, but would add to the screening technology now used at airports.

"The system will detect an explosive or assembled IED (improvised explosive device) with and without divestiture of outer garments, shoes and through clutter depending on the deployment," according to the government request. "In addition, detection should occur through a minimum of 2 layers of clothing concealment where those layers are composed of cotton, cotton-polyester, wool, silk and leather materials among others."

The TSA has been under pressure from travelers and airlines to speed up the screening process, which Americans rank as one of the top sources of frustration when they travel.

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Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times

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