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X-Ray Vision: New Security Scanner Sees Through Clothes, Sends Some Passengers Ducking for Cover

Aired April 7, 2000 - 2:25 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: A new security scanner used to screen some international air travelers may be a little too revealing. Instead of passing through the usual airport metal detectors, they're being electronically undressed.

As CNN's Mary Pflum explains, a super scanner makes some passengers feel like ducking for cover.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY PFLUM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not a bird, it's not a plane, and it may not have a cape, but now a machine of steel can do what the man of steel does:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SUPERMAN")

MARGOT KIDDER, ACTRESS: Is it true that you can see through anything?

CHRISTOPHER REEVE, ACTOR: Yes, I can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PFLUM: Undress international travelers with X-ray vision.

RAYMOND KELLY, COMMISSIONER, U.S. CUSTOMS: They're called body scans, and you might refer to it as X-ray light.

VINCENT DI GILIO, U.S. CUSTOMS, JFK AIRPORT: It sees through the clothes and does display an image of someone who, depending upon the operator, they can readily tell whether or not it's a male or female.

PFLUM: The revealing images are raising eyebrows.

GREG NOJEIM, ACLU: They literally strip your clothes off. The person who operates the machine can even see the passenger's belly button.

PFLUM: But navels aren't the scanner's aim; drugs and weapons are. The devices are used on international passengers who, for security reasons, are selected by customs officials for a pat-down search when entering the U.S.

KELLY: This is simply an option. This allows people to go before this machine and not be touched by another human being.

PFLUM: Passengers opting for a body scan are asked to provide the machine with a front and back image.

(on camera): Now, if anything fishy seems to arise on the monitor, they're asked to give one third and final image, that being a profile image. The entire procedure takes about two to four minutes, the same amount of time that a pat-down would take.

(voice-over): Currently, the machines are in international terminals in eight U.S. airports. By the end of the year, officials hope to have 10 more scanners in place. That worries the ACLU, which has asked Congress to ban the scanner.

NOJEIM: Look, people have their most private things underneath their clothing. There ought to be more protection.

PFLUM: The FAA says it has no immediate plans to use the machines in domestic terminals. So, for now, travelers flying within the U.S. need only be mindful of a man, not a machine, of steel.

Mary Pflum, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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