“Virtual Strip Search”: Whole Body Imaging Campaign

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently made some surprising changes to the way whole body imaging is to take place at airports across the nation.

Prior to the changes, the TSA had said that whole body imaging, aka ‘the virtual strip search’, would be used only as a secondary screening tool, and that even then, it would be voluntary. Passengers would still have the choice between going through a virtual strip search and a pat down search. That is about to change. The TSA has announced that whole body imaging will be phased in as a replacement for primary screening, i.e. the metal detectors, and it will cease to be voluntary.

As a result of this announcement, many privacy and civil liberties groups have launched a campaign against the use of these machines as the primary method of screening (see links below).

As ACLU lawyer Chris Calabrese says: “A choice between being groped and being stripped, I don’t think we should pretend those are the only choices. People shouldn’t be humiliated by their government in the name of security…”

Please Help Us

Write a letter to Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security and let her know of your concerns or use the Privacy Coalition’s sign-on letter. Here is Secretary Napolitano’s address:

Secretary Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Keep it short, no more than a page. To see the text of the Whole Body Imaging Campaign letter, see the first link below.
Here are some topics that you may want to include:

• Request a 90 day rule making process that allows public comment on the issue
• Urge that the use of these machines be suspended until the privacy and security risks are fully evaluated
• The machines are designed to capture and record images. Ask how we are to know that storage and dissemination of these images isn’t happening, especially since the TSA has arbitrarily reversed itself on the secondary versus primary screening issue
• Ask that our basic civil rights and dignity be respected, especially when the vast number of passengers are suspected of no wrong doing
• Ask about medical risks, particularly to frequent travelers, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions, and children
• Ask that less invasive means of screening be explored (such as the chemical puffer machines)

For more information

EPIC’s campaign (sign-on here)
EPIC’s whole body imaging and air travel page
Congressman Jason Chaffetz’s comments on whole body imaging
TSA page on whole body imaging
Budget Traveler’s Blog (note the comments)
House Bill: HR 2027, use Thomas to search


2 Responses to ““Virtual Strip Search”: Whole Body Imaging Campaign”

  1. Lillie Coney says:

    Balloting Ends today!

    A more transparent government may mean that they do not expect for us to bare all. Vote on each of EPIC’s Recommendations for Federal Open Government:

    Don’t Track Users on Government Web Sites:

    Promote Open Government and Protect Privacy:

    Apply Meaningful Rules for Public Comment Across All Platforms:

    Stop the Commercialization of Personal Data Held By Government Agencies:

    Apply the Privacy Act to All Data Collected by the Government and Government Contractors:

  2. “Virtual Strip Search”: Whole Body Imaging Campaign says:

    Karl Pou…

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