Yesterday, the Transportation Security Agency held its official unveiling of three new full-body scanners at the Portland International Jetport.  These are, of course, the same scanners that notoriously produced "nude" images of passengers and the corresponding heavy handed TSA policy of patting down anyone who refused to go through the machine.

To say these scanners have been a public relations nightmare for the TSA is putting it mildly.  So the agency listened and changed.  Slightly.

The scanned images of passengers are now an outline of a human form, with locations of possible threats marked by yellow spots.  The TSA also says the images are deleted once a passenger has cleared the screening area.  Passengers, as always, have the option to not go through the scanner but still may be subject to a full search for their refusal.  

While the TSA is taking pains to suggest that privacy is no longer an issue, the effectiveness and safety of the scanners is still very much in question.  Last September, the German government halted use of the scanners in the nation's airports because the devices sounded too many false alarms.  Even worse, the machines may not actually be that effective in detecting explosive material or metals.  Indeed, they not have detected the explosives on the individual that started it all, "Christmas Day Bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

In addition, the TSA needs to start addressing health concerns that passengers and screeners have about exposure to radiation.  Last week, the L.A. Times reported that the TSA plans to test its airport scanner operators for radiation exposure.  This suggests that these machines may emit more than the "harmless electromagnetic waves" that meet “all known national and international safety standards” as described by TSA spokesperson Ann Davis.

The ACLU continues to advocate for effective security screening measures that do not come at the expense of civil liberties.  Passengers are encouraged to report any abuse they encounter going through airport screening here.