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Villaraigosa shows it all in support of LAX body-scan machines [Updated]

November 22, 2010 |  5:07 pm

Villaraigosa-lcb4junc Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared his "strong support" for body-scanning technology at LAX and attempted to quell passenger fears by putting his own body to the test Monday.

With cameras rolling, Villaraigosa stepped into a scanning device in Terminal 6, raised his arms and allowed an X-ray screener in another room to see through his dark suit and peach tie for signs of contraband. Within five seconds, the screening was done.

Villaraigosa said he welcomes the technology and hopes the public will embrace it too as the best way to detect dangerous materials that a terrorist might try to sneak on a plane. HIs comments came at the start of one of the airports busiest periods, with 1.53 million passengers expected to board flights through Sunday.

"Let me be clear: My job is to make the airport as safe as possible for all of those passengers,'' Villaraigosa said at a morning news conference. "I'm asking the public to understand that the reality of these times requires a higher level of security to be safe."

Officials are trying to head off potential unrest in security lines stirred up by an Internet-based campaign to "opt out" of the body scans Wednesday, as hundreds of thousands of fliers will be trying to reach holiday destinations.

Critics of the scans say they are an invasion of 4th Amendment privacy rights and are not a fail-safe deterrent to terrorism. Although many people have concerns about the scans, and about the alternative pat-down searches, very few refuse to undergo them once they get to the airport, officials said.

More than 2 million have passed through LAX security lines since enhanced security measures were introduced a month ago, but just two have opted out of the body scans, according to Randy Parsons, TSA's security director at LAX.

Villaraigosa said radiation from a single scan is equal to about two minutes of flying time, making it safe for passengers. The so-called advanced image technology machines were put into use beginning in January, after an alleged attempt last Christmas by Umar Abdulmutallab to use explosives concealed in his underwear to blow up a Detroit-bound passenger jet.

LAX has more than a dozen of the machines, which are used on a random basis, Parsons said. More of the machines will be put into use in coming weeks and months, Villaraigosa said. If other airport managers don't want them, he said, they should send them to Los Angeles.

The machines are just one of several layers of security used at LAX, including metal detectors, pat-downs and "behavioral detection," Parsons said.

Villaraigosa said those talking of opting out as a protest are taking the wrong tack.

"The vast majority of us understand we are living in a different time and we have to be vigilant,'' he said.


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[CORRECTION 5:38 p.m.:  An early version of this post incorrectly reported that 200,000 people had passed through LAX security lines since enhanced testing was introduced a month ago.]  

Photo: Mayor Villaraigosa at LAX today. Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times