Security and Full-Body Scans
A Transportation Security Administration officer views a full-body scan during a demonstration of passenger screening technology, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009, at the TSA Systems Integration Facility in Arlington, Va. (AP)

A Transportation Security Administration officer views a full-body scan during a demonstration at the TSA Systems Integration Facility in Arlington, Va., on Dec. 30, 2009. (AP)

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The Christmas Day terror attempt on a flight to Detroit has thrown airport security and explosive underwear into the headlines.

It has also thrown a spotlight again on the technology for full-body scans — and the question of whether they should be the norm. Routine.

These aren’t x-rays, but scans that look at the body beneath the clothes. Proponents say it’s foolish not to look — and say Christmas Day was naked proof of that.

Critics say it’s a virtual strip search and an offense to dignity and privacy that is not worth it.

This hour, On Point: privacy, air security, and the call for full-body scans.


Joining us first from Baltimore is Benet Wilson, online managing editor for Aviation Week, where she’s reporting on airline security.

Joining us from Reno, Nevada, is Douglas Laird. He was director of security for Northwest Airlines from 1989 to 1995, and previously served 22 years in the U.S. Secret Service. He is currently president of Laird & Associates, an aviation security consulting firm.

From Washington we’re joined by Michael German, a 16-year veteran of the FBI, where he was a special agent in domestic terrorism and covert operations. He is now policy counsel on national security for the American Civil Liberties Union, a senior fellow at, and adjunct professor for Law Enforcement and Terrorism at the National Defense University.

Also from Washington we’re joined by James Carafano, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies. He is a 25-year veteran of the Army, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

And from Napa, Calif., we’re joined by Kate Hanni, founder of, a consumer advocacy group she started in 2006 to represent airline passengers.

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