House committee votes to ban TSA ‘naked body images’

A House subcommittee voted Wednesday to require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to install technology on airport security scanners that will not capture specific images of passengers bodies as they are X-rayed.

The TSA said last week that it was spending $44.8 million to purchase 300 of the millimeter wave Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines it says will allow the scanners, which some argue invade passengers privacy, to identify potential threats on a generic image that would be used for all passengers.

But Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) introduced an amendment to the TSA budget bill that would require the agency to install the equipment on all its scanners within 90 days of the appropriations bill being approved.

The amendment will protect Americans’ dignity and ensure, to the extent an AIT machine can, our nation’s transportation infrastructure remains secure, Cravaack said in a news release.

The amendment was approved by the House Homeland Security subcommittee on Transportation Security. The committee was marking up the Department of Homeland Security’s budget request for 2012, which called for the TSA to receive $7.9 billion.

Earlier this year, House Republicans, who have pushed to privatize airport security, cut the agency’s funding by $270 million.  

Announcing the purchase of the new privacy equipment last week, TSA Administrator John Pistole said, Advanced imaging technology is one of the best layers of security we have to address the threats of today and tomorrow.

We remain committed to deploying this integral counterterrorism tool in order to ensure the highest level of security for the traveling public.

Cravaack represents Minnesota’s 8th district, the seat long held by former Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D). Prior to the 2010 election, Cravaack was seen as an underdog to the 18-term incumbent, who had led the Transportation Committee since Democrats took the House majority in 2007.

Because his district had been represented by a Democrat for so long prior to the 2010 election, Cravaack could face a tough race when he runs for reelection next year.