10 U.S. Airports Install Body Scanners–Which May Violate Islamic Modesty Rules

Posted on June 14, 2008


Thomas Frank, USA today
BALTIMORE — Body-scanning machines that show images of people underneath their clothing are being installed in 10 of the nation’s busiest airports in one of the biggest public uses of security devices that reveal intimate body parts.

Body Scanners are Invasive

The Transportation Security Administration recently started using body scans on randomly chosen airline passengers in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Denver, Albuquerque and New York’s Kennedy airport.

Airports in Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas and Miami will be added this month. Reagan National Airport near Washington starts using a body scanner Friday. A total of 38 machines will be in use within weeks.

“It’s the wave of the future,” said James Schear, the TSA security director at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where two body scanners are in use at one checkpoint.

Schear said the scanners could eventually replace metal detectors at the nation’s 2,000 airport checkpoints and the pat-downs done on passengers who need extra screening. “We’re just scratching the surface of what we can do with whole-body imaging,” Schear said. [more]

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Muslim group reminds passengers of their right to request an alternative measure

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/13/08) The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today warned American Muslims and others concerned with personal privacy of a security procedure recently implemented by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that scans full-body images of passengers through their clothing, revealing intimate body parts to screeners.

The TSA website describes the process through which the machines bounce harmless radio waves off the passenger’s body, which constructs a three-dimensional image that is projected on a monitor in the security scanner’s room. The TSA characterizes the procedure as a “voluntary alternative to a pat-down,” and says it blurs passengers’ faces and does not store the images to protect privacy.

SEE: Whole Body Imaging – Millimeter Wave

However, concerns have been raised over the level of detail shown by the machines, which are capable of projecting graphic images of a person’s body, revealing private body parts and other intimate details.

SEE: ACLU Backgrounder on Body Scanners and ‘Virtual Strip Searches’

“CAIR is working with other organizations to address the privacy issues that this technology presents,” said CAIR Civil Rights Manager Khadija Athman. “In the meantime, it is important that you know that you have the option to request a pat-down by a security officer of your gender in a private room instead of going through the body-scanning machine.”

Athman said CAIR, in cooperation with other civil rights organizations, is insisting that the TSA implement a program of fully informing passengers who volunteer for the scan of its privacy implications.

CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR Strategic Communications Director Ahmed Rehab, Tel: 202-870-0166, E-Mail: arehab@cair.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787 or 202-341-4171, E-Mail: arubin@cair.com