TSA Denies it Targets Attractive Female Passengers for Body Scans

Responding to complaints from female airline passengers that they were singled out for body scans by airport security agents for their looks, the Transportation Security Administration has denied that its agents target women who are attractive.

In a blog post published late Wednesday, a TSA worker known as “Blogger Bob,” said that all milimeter wave body scanners currently used in airports around the country have been equipped “for quite some time” with an upgrade that protect the privacy of passengers. Instead of displaying anatomically correct images that are viewed by a TSA agent in a separate room, upgraded scanners show only the equivalent of a chalk outline of a body, and then only if the scanner has found something suspicious on the person. If the person has nothing suspicious, the monitor simply shows a green screen with the word “OK” on it.

What’s more, Blogger Bob noted that the monitors showing this image are now on the scanners themselves, visible to both passengers and agents.

He noted, however, that another type of body scanner used at some airports, known as backscatter scanners, have not been upgraded and still require a remote viewing room for an agent to see the image of passengers in the scanner.

The blog post was published in response to a recent story out of Dallas, where a female passenger told the local CBS affiliate that she had been forced to walk through a body scanner three times. The woman said she believed TSA agents wanted to examine her body. The agent who directed her to pass through the scanner told her the image was blurry.

The woman never filed a formal complaint, because she didn’t know there was any process for doing so. Although other woman did file complaints that CBS obtained, indicating that female passengers seemed to be singled out for screening at Dallas airports.

Blogger Bob indicated that the alleged incident was six months old but had it been reported at the time, the TSA would have reviewed surveillance cameras and interviewed the agents in question. He didn’t indicate when exactly the TSA had upgraded the millimeter wave machines in Dallas to add the privacy feature to them, and TSA could not be reached immediately for questioning.