Full-body scanners demonstrated at airport

Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma has implemented

Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma has implemented a full-body scan as part of tighter security measures. (July 6, 2012) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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As the Transportation Security Administration demonstrated the new full-body scanners at Long Island MacArthur Airport to the media Friday, passengers streamed through the machines, tugged back on their shoes and headed to their gate without complaint.

Instead of opting for the metal detector and full-body pat-down, a large majority went through the two Advanced Imaging Technology machines recently installed at the Ronkonkoma airport. The $150,000 devices come with privacy technology that makes them less controversial and invasive than the first-generation scanners that made headlines in 2010.

Instead of displaying passengers' intimate body details to the security screener, the new software shows a "generic, cookie-cutter" image of a person and indicates with a yellow light if something is concealed in their clothing -- even something as light as a tissue, said TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

"This [machine] bounces radio waves between skin and clothing, so if you have something in your pocket it does show up," Farbstein said, adding that the radio waves are "harmless."

For passengers who have metal joint replacements, it means a quicker trip through security.

"I love it," said Helen Palma of Massapequa, who has a knee replacement. She said going through a security checkpoint metal detector means enduring an embarrassing public pat-down, which can delay passage up to 10 minutes at a busy airport.

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"It enhances passengers' privacy while strengthening security," Farbstein said. She said there are 700 machines installed at 200 airports nationwide. Farbstein said since the privacy software became available in 2011, they've begun installing it at airports that already had full-body scanners.

Passenger Desiree Hall, 23, of Centereach, isn't sold. She said the three-second pausing and posing is inconvenient and uncomfortable.

Not so for John St. Pierre, who was on his way home to Tennessee on Friday afternoon. "Before this new system, it took longer -- the people with the wands, going through the metal detectors," he said. "This is just easier and faster, and you don't get felt up."

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