Full-body imaging machines that see through clothes have significantly improved security in airports where they are deployed, and have revealed more than 60 "artfully concealed" illegal or prohibited items in the past year, the Transportation Security Administration says.
To date, no explosives have been detected by the machines, but their ability to spot even small concealed objects demonstrates their effectiveness as a security tool, officials said.
As evidence of the machines' capabilities, the security agency released five photos of drugs or suspected drugs that airport screeners found after scans revealed anomalies on the ghost-like images of people's bodies. The agency said metal detectors would not have revealed the items. Screeners using the technology also found a knife hidden in the small of a person's back at the Richmond, Va., airport, a concealed razor blade on a passenger in Phoenix, Ariz, and other concealed items such as large bottles of lotion, which are prohibited as carry-on items.
The agency field-tested the full-body imagers for more than a year before announcing last month the deployment of machines to 11 airports nationwide. Today, 46 machines are in place in 23 airports, and the agency is stepping up deployments and plans to have about 1,000 set up by the end of 2011.