U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., today praised the Senate's passage of a provision to require the Transportation Security Administration to switch to computer software that will display only a generic stick-figure during airport body scans rather than the actual image of the traveler being screened. Both senators' offices have fielded numerous complaints from constituents that displaying the actual body images is unnecessarily graphic and an invasion of their privacy.
Under the provision, all Advance Imaging Technology (AIT) screening machines must be switched to the stick-figure producing Automated Target Recognition (ATR) software by January 1, 2012. This software has been pilot tested in major airports including Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
"It is of utmost importance to provide the strongest security possible to ensure the safety of our nation against terrorists. However, there is a careful balance we must maintain between security and an individual's right to privacy," said Isakson. "I believe this legislation achieves this goal. Not only does ATR technology protect our citizens from terrorist attacks, it protects their privacy."
"It's imperative that TSA strikes the right balance between privacy protection and utilizing effective security measures," said Chambliss. "That balance can be reached with this legislation."
The ATR mandate was included as an amendment to S. 223, the FAA Reauthorization Bill which passed the Senate on February 17, 2011 by a vote of 87-8. As a precaution, the mandate gives the Department of Homeland Security a way to delay implementation if there are concerns with the technology's effectiveness.
Isakson and Chambliss have previously expressed their concerns with the image produced by whole-body scanners at airports and have received a number of constituent complaints since the Transportation Security Administration implemented more aggressive security measures late last year.
In April 2010, Chambliss sent Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano a letter urging the TSA to explore ATR technology. In November 2010, Isakson, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, questioned TSA Administrator John Pistole on the progress of moving forward with implementing ATR technology. In addition, both senators' staffs have contacted TSA several times to convey Georgians' concerns on the issue.