Skift Take

Better screening equipment is never a bad thing, but even the TSA's most moderate critics agree that the evolution (or elimination) of the pat-down would be the agency's next best move.

Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal
By Trevor Anderson

The Transportation Security Administration on Thursday demonstrated the capabilities of its new advanced imaging technology recently installed at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport.

TSA has set up two of its $150,000 AIT screening booths at security checkpoints in GSP’s main terminal leading up to Concourses A and B.

The agency began deploying state-of-the-art advanced imaging technology in airports in 2007, but public outcry over previous screening machines, which depicted passenger-specific images, prompted TSA to seek a new solution.

In July, the agency introduced the AIT machines that use millimeter wave technology to detect potential threats and produce generic images of passengers being screened.

“Improvised Explosive Devices are the greatest threat to our security today,” said Jon Allen, Southeast public affairs manager for TSA. “This technology gives us the best edge in helping us detect those threats, while enhancing passenger privacy.”

AIT units can detect a wide range of threats from metallic and non-metallic items, including weapons, explosives and other objects concealed under layers of clothing, the agency said. The demonstration showed that the machines can even detect a business card.

At GSP, a passenger first will have to go through a metal detector. Then, they will be required to place their carry-on items in a bin that will move them through an X-ray machine.

While those items are being screened, the passenger will step into the AIT unit. A generic image of that person will be displayed via Automated Target Recognition software on a screen being monitored by a TSA agent waiting on the other side.

If an “anomaly” is detected, Allen said, the passenger will be asked to step aside and to remove any items on their person. They could be subject to an area-specific pat-down. At any time, the passenger can request to be searched in a private screening room, he said.

TSA said millimeter wave technology screening is safe for all passengers, including children and pregnant women. The agency said AIT meets all known national and international health and safety standards and is 1,000 times more energy-efficient than international limits.

Tests showed the machines do not impact passenger wait times, Allen said

“What we hear a lot from passengers is that they want to get where they’re going safely and securely without having to wait,” Allen said. “This allows us to do that in the best way possible.”

GSP is the fourth airport in the state to get the AIT units, behind Myrtle Beach International, Charleston International and Columbia Metropolitan. The technology has been implemented at 190 airports nationwide, the agency said.

“It’s very important for us to have the most up-to-date equipment so we can keep our passengers safe,” GSP spokeswoman Rosylin Weston said. “We’re very glad to have (the AIT machines) here. It’s a very good thing because customers can feel as safe here as they would in any other airport in the world.”

The airport is undergoing a $102 million renovation of its main terminal. The project is aimed at modernizing the terminal and enhancing passenger flow to make Upstate air travel more attractive, convenient, secure and efficient.

GSP has set up a special blog, which will be updated twice a week, to keep customers informed about the renovations. Passengers can view the blog at

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Tags: security, tsa

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