Full body scanners coming to security at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport

Yes, really.

A couple of local Savannah TV stations (WSAV and WJCL) have reported on this so far, but don’t have much on what is bound to be a significant local controversy.

Read Monday’s press release from the Transportation Security Administration, which I’ll paste here in its entirety, with a few key lines in bold:

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced 16 airports which are set to receive recently purchased millimeter wave Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) units. The machines will be deployed with new automated target recognition (ATR) software designed to enhance privacy by eliminating passenger-specific images while improving throughput capabilities and streamlining the checkpoint screening process.

“The deployment of this technology further strengthens security while also enhancing passenger privacy,” said TSA Assistant Administrator for Security Capabilities Robin Kane. “The ability to safely detect non-metallic threats concealed under layers of clothing provides TSA Officers with an invaluable resource.”

TSA plans to deploy units to the following airports in the coming weeks:

Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB)
Bangor International Airport (BGR)
Bismarck Municipal Airport (BIS)
Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL)
Des Moines International Airport (DSM)
Eastern Iowa Airport (CID)
Grand Forks Airport (GFK)
Juneau International Airport (JNU)
Ketchikan International Airport (KTN)
Louisville International Airport (SDF)
Little Rock National Airport (LIT)
Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP)
Portland International Jetport (PWM)
Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP)
Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV)
Will Rogers World Airport (OKC)
TSA will make additional airport announcements as plans are finalized. Many factors are taken into consideration before AIT units are deployed including airport readiness and checkpoint infrastructure.

AIT is designed to enhance security by safely screening passengers for metallic and non-metallic threats—including weapons, explosives and other objects concealed under layers of clothing. This technology has led to the detection of hundreds of prohibited, illegal or dangerous items at checkpoint nationwide since January 2010.

Imaging technology screening is safe for all travelers, and the technology meets all known national and international health and safety standards. In fact, the energy emitted by millimeter wave technology is 1000 times less than the international limits and guidelines.

In September 2011, TSA purchased 300 millimeter wave units equipped with ATR, which are currently being deployed. Currently, there are approximately 540 AIT units at more than 100 airports nationwide. President Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget included the purchase of 500 units, and the President’s fiscal 2012 budget requests funding for an additional 275 units.

For more information about AIT, visit www.tsa.gov/ait.

I’m not really opposed to these scanners on the basis of any particular principle, but I’m unconvinced that we need these additional layers of security.

If you’re worrying about a security screener seeing you virtually naked, that concern will probably be reduced by the attached pic indicating the view with the enhanced privacy software.

And there are obvious questions about the dangers that the scanners themselves may pose. Check out New Study Raises Concerns Over Full Body Scanners At Airports from CBS New York.

Or consider the fact that Europe has largely banned X-ray technology because of cancer concerns. From Time: Europe Bans Airport X-Ray Scanners. Should the U.S. Follow Suit? From The Hill: European Union bans airport X-ray machines.

Savannah/Hilton Head is an awfully pleasant airport to fly in and out of. I sure hope the new security measures don’t jeopardize that.