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Most travelers say TSA body scanners are OK, online survey finds

December 6, 2010 |  1:17 pm

Tsa-fullbodyimageMore than half of travelers surveyed on a travel website say the full-body scanners increasingly used at airport security checkpoints are the best ways to stop would-be terrorists.

In the survey of more than 1,000 visitors to airfarewatchdog.com, 56% of respondents agreed that the scanners used by the Transportation Security Administration are "the best way to make sure a would-be terrorist isn't hiding explosives or weapons, perhaps in a body cavity."

The scanners use low-level radiation to create what resembles a nude image of the screened passengers to uncover weapons or contraband hidden beneath clothing. The scanners cannot penetrate the skin or reveal items hidden inside the body.

The TSA still searches most air travelers using traditional metal detectors or pat-down search techniques.

Only 36% of those surveyed said they don't want to be scanned because the scanners are "a gross invasion of privacy," according to the survey.

And 7% of the survey takers said they would prefer to be searched using the TSA's newly enhanced pat-down technique.

George Hobica, founder of airfarewatchdog.com, said it was surprising, "considering all the emotion on this issue, that the majority of respondents voted in favor of tighter security over privacy concerns."

He noted that the survey was not a scientifically backed poll but rather a simple multiple-choice online questionnaire. Up to 65,000 unique visitors a day go to the website looking for travel bargains, Hobica said.

Since the TSA increased security measures at the nation's airports after a bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound plane last Christmas, several surveys and polls have tried to gauge the public sentiment.

Last month, a poll by Zogby International found that 61% of likely voters opposed the newly enhanced security measures, including the full-body scanners and the new pat-down search techniques.

Meanwhile, a poll by the National Business Travel Assn. found that 81% of professionals who manage the sales and purchase of hotel rooms, airline tickets and car rental services for big businesses support the new security measures.

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: A TSA official looks at an image from a full-body scanner. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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