An Image Problem

By Chaffetz, Jason | Newsweek, January 18, 2010 | Go to article overview
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An Image Problem


Chaffetz, Jason, Newsweek


Byline: Jason Chaffetz; Chaffetz represents Utah's Third Congressional District.

Since being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives a year ago, I have boarded an airplane twice weekly to commute between my Utah congressional district and my office in Washington, D.C. Each time, like every other passenger, I stand in line to pass through security, remove my jacket and shoes, take out my computer, and pass through a metal detector.

Early last year Salt Lake City International Airport began testing a new device called a whole-body-imaging (WBI) scanner. The process seemed simple enough: people pass through the scanner with their arms above their heads, then wait a few seconds while a screener reviews the image. Last spring I met with the Transportation Security Administration in Utah to find out more about it. I had seen some of the images in news stories and on television--but, as I learned, there's a big difference between the two-inch image in the newspaper and the one the TSA sees on an oversize screen. As I looked at those detailed images, I imagined my wife and children having to pass through that scanner. I resolved that no one should be forced to expose their body to total strangers to secure an airplane.

In September, while on my way back to Washington, TSA screeners in Salt Lake pulled me from the security lane I had chosen and asked me to walk through the WBI line. In Utah, submitting to these scanners is optional, so I refused. I was given a pat-down search instead, but only after arguing with the TSA about my rights. I worry that, soon, none of us will have an option.

That's why, even prior to this incident, I proposed an amendment limiting the use of WBI scanners--passengers would have to go through them only if secondary screening was required. The amendment passed overwhelmingly in the House, where more than 300 of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle supported it (the measure has not yet been brought up in the Senate).

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