New Airport X-Ray Too Revealing?

Airport Screening, X-ray technology, gun in the butt CBS

It wasn't that long ago when this kind of airport security was the stuff of Hollywood fantasy, reports CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan.

But that fantasy has now become a bare bones fact.

Ever since terrorist Richard Reid tried to detonate a bomb hidden in his shoes, the government has been searching for a faster, more efficient way to detect plastic explosives.

"The technology we're using today, in some cases, can take 12 seconds to do a scan," says Randal Null, Chief Technology Officer of the Transportation Security Administration. "We'd like to drive that down to a few seconds."

So now, instead of looking at your shoes, Null says, "we are actually going to do a full body scan of an individual."

Airport security screeners have the ability to take the shirt right off your back, "so all anatomical features are shown," says Null.

It's called Backscatter X-ray — low levels of radiation that could deliver high levels of embarrassment at airports all across the country.

Cowan demonstrated what its going to end up showing folks to Diane Marsh who says, shaking her head, "Oh no. I don't like that. No I wouldn't like that."

Stacey and Elliot Goldstein of New York feel the same way.

"You feel like strangers are really looking at you," Stacey says. "I don't know; it would really creep me out."

But would you rather be patted down or would you rather go through this?

The $200,000 machine has already been tested at Orlando's International airport — where the x-rays of men were even more revealing.

Even the manufacturer was a little surprised at the clarity of some of its images and is now trying to do something to cover them up -- coming up with something the company calls an "electronic fig leaf." But even without it, some passengers say it's okay to bare all.

Tanya Van Dorn from New York says she would be okay with that, "as long as they're not saving it and putting it on the Internet."

Miriam Schwarz agrees. "It's not nice, but I guess in the world we live in today, it probably has to be."

For now, the only thing passengers will have to continue to bare is their feet — a temporary fix to a problem some wish couldn't be so 'clearly' solved.
  • Melissa Cheung

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