TSA screenings: What protections do you have?

2. The person who sees your scan never sees you

Jerry Holt / The Star Tribune / AP / File
A TSA screener looks at a millimeter wave image of a female TSA employee who volunteered for the Sept. 22 media event at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Agent Chris is looking at the scans in a locked room, so cannot see you in person or speak to you. Agents Pat and Chris can communicate via a headset. If anything shows up on the scan, Agent Chris will tell Agent Pat, who will direct you to a secondary scan. Instead of the familiar metal-detecting wand, the secondary screening is now an “enhanced pat-down.” A supervisor is listening to the exchanges between the agents, to ensure professionalism and integrity.

And yes, Agent Chris has been scanned, too. Everyone trained on the scanning technology has gone through it, says the TSA.

Most of the uproar around the scanners has focused on the machines’ ability to store images, but the TSA has consistently stated that they can only do so in test mode. “All functionality to store, export or print images is disabled before these machines are delivered to airport checkpoints,” the TSA announced in January, citing a Privacy Impact Statement that has been in place since the first pilot program in 2007. “There is no way for Transportation Security Officers in the airport environment to place the machines into test mode.”

Also, Agent Chris is forbidden to bring a camera, camera phone, or any other image-storing device into the screening room – it’s a terminable offense.

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