The Transportation Security Administration is removing its full-body scanner from Glacier Park International Airport today, meaning the return of the enhanced pat-down and “perhaps longer wait times” for departing passengers, airport director Cindi Martin said.
The millimeter-wave Advanced Imaging Technology machine was installed at Glacier Park International in March 2012. Martin said the scanner was well-received and streamlined the boarding process.
“We’re really disappointed that the TSA is removing them from our airport,” Martin said. “It is a great disservice to the flying public.
“People had become comfortable with the scanner. It certainly did speed the process and removed the need for the enhanced pat-down.”
A similar scanner is being pulled from the Helena airport on Thursday. The status of machines in Missoula, Bozeman and Billings is still up in the air, Martin said.
The millimeter-wave machines are being removed from numerous small airports throughout the country to replace 174 backscatter full-body scanners.
Those scanners are being taken out of larger airports because of the security agency’s failure to meet a June 1, 2013, congressional deadline to develop privacy software upgrades on the backscatter units.
The backscatter machines caused a public outcry when they went into service in 2010 because of the revealing images they transmitted to surveillance personnel.
The TSA installed new software on its millimeter-wave Advanced Imaging Technology machines in an effort to enhance privacy by eliminating passenger-specific images.
The millimeter-wave technology bounces harmless electromagnetic waves off the body to create the same generic image for all passengers.
“These new AIT scanners didn’t have the same health concerns that the first-generation ones did,” Martin said. “These had a gingerbread cutout of the human as opposed to the anatomically correct ones of the first generation. Privacy concerns were not as significant.”