TSA Budges on Body Scans for Pilots

VIDEO: Angry Customers Disapprove of Airport Pat Downs
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Although the Transportation Security Administration does not appear to be budging on the uproar over graphic body scanners and enhanced pat-downs ahead of the busy holiday travel season, the TSA has done an about-face with airline pilots, and is now allowing them to skip the scanners and pat-downs on their way through the airport.

The TSA's reversal on this measure is a major victory for the pilots, who had sued over the new security measures, calling them unnecessary and demeaning.

"To waste the resources, take them away from the true threat and apply them to our pilots is just absurd," Captain Garry Kravit, of the Airline Pilots Association, told ABC News.

Though the scanners and pat-downs have proven controversial -- particularly across the web -- a recent study found that an overwhelming majority of Americans support the extended security measures, no matter how invasive they may be.

According to the study, 78 percent of Americans approve of the new body scanners and 84 percent believe they will help prevent terrorism.

"If it keeps me safer, no problem," Gary Becker, a traveler at Houston Texas airport told ABC News.

Camile Olson, a traveler at Chicago O'Hare airport, said she thought the controversy over the scanners may be a bit overblown.

"I didn't have an issue today in terms of feeling that there was an invasion of privacy," Olson said.

Some travelers, including Catherine Bossi, have had entirely different experiences, and have been left feeling vulnerable and violated.

Bossi, a flight attendant and breast cancer survivor, said she was forced to remove her prosthetic breast while a TSA pat-down was administered.

"I was horribly shocked," she said. "Yes, I was I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I had cancer and this was the way I was being treated."

Erin Chase, a mother from Ohio who was recently traveling with her infant, said the TSA pat-down was a complete violation of her privacy.

"She went down to the bottom of my legs and moved up my inner thighs and touched my genital area," Chase said. "As a law-abiding American citizen, mom traveling with a baby, I should not have been subject to that sort of a search."

TSA agents have defended these practices by saying they are merely doing their jobs. Under new rules, security staff members are allowed to use the back or front of their hands to pat down any part of a passengers body.

"TSA are professional people -- they're public servants -- it has to be done with courtesy. It has to be done in the proper manner. With 35,000 people, are you going to have people make mistakes? Yes," John McGaw, first head of the TSA, told "Good Morning America" today.

Can TSA Full-Body Scanners Be G-rated?

Meanwhile, technology and political pressure may move American scanners in a more G-rated direction, even as foreign countries are getting more invasive.

The TSA is testing new X-ray technology that will show a "stick figure" instead of a passenger's full-body image. Viewers on the other end of the X-ray would see anomalies -- anything from a suicide vest to a cell phone on a belt clip -- highlighted on the anatomically-ambiguous figure.

The United States, however, is not the only country employing unpopular security methods. Canada installed full-body scanners at 16 major airports in January, which also is when it started aggressive pat-downs with airport officials running hands inside pants waistbands.

Over in Europe, London's Heathrow Airport has been using body scanners for the last eight months as part of a pilot program. Nearby countries, security experts say, also are looking into body scanners.

"Europe is certainly looking into the way the technology is being implemented in the U.S.," said Rafi Ron, CEO of New Age Security, a security consulting firm. "I think we can expect sometime soon similar technology [will] be another European standard."

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