Wisconsin’s largest airport is now using full body scanners — the first airport in the Badger State with such technology.
General Mitchell International Airport has four advanced imaging technology units (at Concourse C, and D). James Fotenos is a spokesperson with the Transportation Security Administration — or TSA. He explains, these units add another layer of security to the nation’s airports. “It allows our officers to see items that are metallic like the traditional metal detectors, and nonmetallic, like powers or liquids or gels.”
In March 2010, TSA began deploying the controversial full-body scanners, which were purchased with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. They range in price from $130,000 to $170,000 per unit. Fotenos stresses that this procedure is optional at airports across the country.
“If a passenger feels uncomfortable with any aspect of advanced technology screening, he should inform a TSA officer and receive alternative screening, which includes going through the traditional walk through metal detector and receiving a pat down.”
Critics say the scanners conduct virtual strip-searches, but Fotenos says the TSA has put a number of safeguards in place to protect both the privacy and anonymity of passengers, including keeping the image reviewer and the passenger in separate rooms. The TSA uses two types of imaging technology — millimeter wave and backscatter. Mitchell has the millimeter wave technology. Fotenos says currently, there are 185 imaging technology units at 49 airports throughout the country.
NOTE: There are no immediate plans for scanners at any other Wisconsin airport.