Stepping into the 9-foot-tall glass booth, Eileen Reardon of Baltimore looked startled when an electronic glass door slid around the outside of the machine to create the image of her body. "Some of this stuff seems a little crazy," Reardon said, "but in this day and age, you have to go along with it."
Scott Shafer of Phoenix didn't mind a screener looking at him underneath his shorts and polo shirt from a nearby room. The door is kept shut and blocked with floor screens. "I don't know that person back there. I'll never seem them," Shafer said. "Everything personal is taken out of the equation."
Steinhardt of the ACLU said passengers would be alarmed if they saw the image of their body. "It all seems very clinical and non-threatening — you go through this portal and don't have any idea what's at the other end," he said.
Passengers scanned in Baltimore said they did not know what the scanner did and were not told why they were directed into the booth.
Magazine-sized signs are posted around the checkpoint explaining the scanners, but passengers said they did not notice them.
Darin Scott of Miami was annoyed by the process.
"If you don't ask questions, they don't tell you anything," Scott said. When he asked a screener technical questions about the scanner, "he could not answer," Scott said.
TSA spokeswoman Sterling Payne said the agency is studying passenger reaction and could "get more creative" about informing passengers. "If passengers have questions," she said, "they need to ask the questions."
Passengers can decline to go through a scanner, but they will face a pat-down.
Schear, the Baltimore security director, said only 4% of passengers decline.
In Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, where scanners have been tested since last year as an alternative to pat-downs, 90% of passengers choose to be scanned, the TSA says.
"Most passengers don't think it's any big deal," Schear said. "They think it's a piece of security they're willing to do."