TSA ends contract with producer of full-body X-ray scanners

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is ending its contract with a company that manufactured controversial full-body scanners — complete with revealing images of passengers — used for airport security.

The machines manufactured by the company, Rapiscan, were meant to X-ray passengers as they passed through airport security checkpoints without capturing explicit images of the passenger's bodies. The agency said Friday that it was ending the agreement because Rapiscan could not produce generic-image scanners quickly enough to meet a congressionally-mandated June 2013 deadline.

TSA said it will meet Congress's deadline, however.

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“TSA has strict requirements that all vendors must meet for security effectiveness and efficiency," the agency said in statement. "Due to its inability to deploy non-imaging Automated Target Recognition (ATR) software by the Congressionally-mandated June 2013 deadline, TSA has terminated part of its contract with Rapiscan."

Despite the ending of the contract, TSA promised that "[b]y June 2013 travelers will only see machines which have ATR that allow for faster throughput.

"This means faster lanes for the traveler and enhanced security," the agency said. "As always, use of this technology is optional.”

Prior to the development of the ATR technology, problem areas during airline passengers' security screenings were pointed out on an image of an individual passenger viewed by a TSA official in a room separate from the room in which the passenger was being scanned.

Critics argued that the traditional "backscatter" X-ray scanners invade passengers' privacy, however, and TSA began deploying ATR machines in 2007 as part of its switch to "risk based" security measures.

Congress required the agency to completely eliminate passenger-specific images on body scanners by this summer in the $63 billion funding bill that was passed last year for the Federal Aviation Administration.