Dear Mr. Hamilton:
Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns about the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) use of whole-body imaging scanners and pat-downs. I appreciate the time you took to write and welcome the opportunity to respond.
As you may know, the TSA began using advanced imaging technology (AIT) in February of 2007. These scanners produce a three-dimensional image of passengers, allowing TSA officials to quickly and efficiently search for prohibited carry-on items. Following the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 over the United States on December 25, 2009, the TSA has accelerated scanner installation, placing 450 whole-body imaging scanners across the country.
I understand you have concerns that full-body scanners and pat-downs may pose privacy concerns. You may be interested to know that the TSA has taken steps to ensure every passenger’s privacy. Specifically, images from AIT machines are viewed in a remote location, away from the screening process. Once the TSA official has viewed the image, that image is then permanently erased. In addition, only passengers who alarm a walk-through metal detector or a whole body image scanner or opt out of the AIT machines are subject to a pat-down. These pat-downs are performed by same-gender TSA officers and all passengers have the right to a private screening with a witness at any time.
I believe the failed Christmas Day bombing plot is a reminder that it is important to meet our critical national security needs. I understand these procedures have caused inconvenience and discomfort for passengers; however, critics of these security screenings must consider the possible consequences of relaxing our security measures. Protecting American lives from terrorist attacks is, and must be, the nation’s highest priority. Please know that I value your opinion and will keep your concerns in mind as I work to strengthen airport security, while continuing to protect individual privacy.
If you have general concerns about TSA policies, I would encourage you to visit http://www.tsa.gov to view current policies for travelers. Additionally, if you have not already done so, I would encourage you to contact the TSA directly to share feedback about current policies. This may be done either by phone at (866) 289-9673 or by email at TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov.
Once again, thank you for writing. Should you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.
United States Senator
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