Ex-TSA Agent Dishes on Image Screening Rooms

Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Ever wonder what happens in the airport back room where your body image is being screened by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents?

An anonymous blogger claiming to be an ex-TSA agent, says he or she has the answer. It's not quite as illicit as you may think.

The blogger, who runs the site TakingSenseAway.com, wrote in a Dec. 19 blog post that while there were occasions of inappropriate behavior, most agents and practices were on the up and up.

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"I've never seen or even heard of anything malicious, illicit or illegal happening in the private screening room," the post reads.

However, the blogger claims the I.O., or image operating room, "is a whole different story." The I.O. room is where images are viewed at airports that still use backscatter full body scanners. The TSA promises no officers will see the passenger whose images they just viewed. In order to adhere to this, there is a rule, the blogger writes, that no one is permitted to leave or enter without ample warning - a rule that was occasionally violated.

In addition, the blog states:

"Personally, in the I.O. room, I witnessed light sexual play among officers, a lot of e-cigarette vaping, and a whole lot of officers laughing and clowning in regard to some of your nude images, dear passengers. Things like this are what happens (at the very least) when you put people who are often fresh out of high school or a GED program (although there are actually a few TSA screeners with PhDs, which I guess is sad on so, so many levels) with minimal training and even less professionalism, into the position of being in charge of analyzing nude images of people in a hermetically sealed room."

TSA spokesperson David Castelveter told ABC News, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, sometimes offered without foundation. We expect all TSA officers to conduct themselves in a professional manner. Where violations of professionalism occur, appropriate corrective action is taken."

The TSA also said that when it comes to the backscatter machines, images "cannot be stored, transmitted or printed, and is deleted immediately once viewed. In fact, the machines have zero storage capability and there is a privacy filter applied to blur all images."

In October, ABC News reported TSA had moved backscatter machines to less-busy airports. Major airports instead use millimeter wave technology. Millimeter wave, the TSA said, produces a generic outline of the passenger being scanned, while backscatter is more specific.

It seems, however, the blog owner has an axe to grind with the backscatter machines, calling them "useless," and stating they "should never have been put into use to begin with." He or she writes "TSA officers should never have been viewing nude, radiation-rendered images of passengers in those private rooms, period."

TSA maintains the images are not "nude" images.

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