WASHINGTON — House Republicans controlling the Transportation Security Administration’s purse strings are moving to cut off new funding for those advanced airport scanners that have sparked outrage over their revealing images of travelers’ bodies.
Draft legislation released Thursday by the Appropriations homeland security subcommittee denies the Obama administration’s $76 million request for an additional 275 of the scanners, which many travelers dislike because TSA employees can view full body images of travelers.
The GOP move wouldn’t affect the 500 or so machines already in place at 78 of the nation’s airports or the 500 just funded in a recent spending bill. Efforts are under way to solve the privacy concerns with new computer software. TSA now gives passengers the option of a pat-down in private — a choice that most people find even more intrusive.
Panel chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., said his move was sparked by budgetary factors rather than protests from privacy advocates. And it comes as the TSA is trying hard to modify the machines so that they won’t produce revealing images. Instead, the agency is trying out new software that would have the machines read the images and alert airport screeners when there’s a potential weapon or other threat. The screener would then see the location of the threat shown on a stick figure of the body.