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House votes to limit airport body scans

WASHINGTON — The House voted last week to limit the use of whole body scans to screen airplane passengers, responding to objections that the technology invades traveler privacy.

Lawmakers voted 310-118 for an amendment that would give passengers the option of a pat-down search instead.

Whole body scans could be used if a primary search reveals something suspicious. But the images it creates could not be stored, transferred or copied under the amendment sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.

The machines are being tested at 19 airports, including McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

They use radio wave energy to create a three-dimensional image of the body that the Transportation Security Administration says can detect weapons concealed under layers of clothing without a physical search.

But although the face is blurred, the scan creates an image of the traveler naked, privacy advocates say.

“I just think this is too invasive,” Chaffetz said. “Nobody needs to see my kids … and see my wife naked in order to secure an airplane.”

Speaking against the amendment, Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., said pat-down searches can be more intrusive. The whole body images are viewed in a separate room, and the idea of TSA personnel ogling naked bodies “is sort of overblown,” he said.

Rep. Charles Dent, R-Pa., added the new technology is more effective than magnetometers in sensing what could be liquid explosives and nonmetal threats.

Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus, both D-Nev., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted to limit use of the body scans.


The House voted 258-154 to offer four weeks of paid family leave for federal employees to attend to births, adoptions and foster care.

Supporters, mostly Democrats, said the benefit will ensure the government can keep an experienced workforce and become more competitive in recruiting workers.

All but 24 Republicans opposed the bill. They argued it would impose a burden on taxpayers during the recession, noting a Congressional Budget Office report that it would cost $938 million over four years.

Berkley and Titus voted for the family leave. Heller voted against it.

Before passage, lawmakers defeated an amendment by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., that would have required federal workers to use all their accrued vacation and sick days before being eligible for the four weeks of paid family leave.

The amendment was defeated, 157-258. Heller voted for it, while Berkley and Titus voted against it.

Contact Stephens Media Washington Chief Steve Tetreualt at stetreault @stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.

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