Chicago Tribune 
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Air travelers in Chicago will soon be literally exposed to a revealing full-body scan before boarding planes.
The new procedure, which is sure to make some passengers blush and others burn in anger over what critics call a virtual reality strip-search, is part of a “security evolution” at airport passenger checkpoints around the country.
It comes amid continuing concerns that Al Qaeda-trained suicide bombers are potentially only one plane ticket away from a U.S. attack, according to the nation’s top transportation security official.
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“If despite all our best efforts we fail to keep a [would-be] terrorist off an airplane, at least we must make sure that suicide bombers cannot smuggle the explosives they need to cause a catastrophe past the airport checkpoint and onto the aircraft,” said Kip Hawley, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, which is responsible for security at the nation’s airports.
Accompanying stepped-up efforts to counter that threat, authorities said they think passengers will prefer a no-touch alternative to a physical pat-down by airport workers searching for concealed weapons, explosives and other prohibited items.
Small but powerful bombs that could be attached to a terrorist’s body or camouflaged in ordinary travel gear represent the No. 1 threat to airport security, Hawley said last week in an interview at O’Hare International Airport.
The new full-body imaging machines that will arrive at O’Hare this fall look through clothing to create an explicit silhouette of the traveler—showing shapes, folds of fat and other anatomical characteristics—to identify possible hidden objects.