Pope Speaks Out Against Airport Body Scanners

Over the weekend, Pope Benedict XVI spoke out against body scanners, insisting that "it is above all essential to protect and value the human person in their integrity."

Speaking to an audience of 1,200 airport workers, the Pope acknowledged that airports were at the forefront of the terrorist threat, but added: "Even in this situation, one must never forget that respecting the primacy of the human person and attention to his or her needs does not make the service less efficient nor penalize economic management."

"For you this reality represents an even more task of complex organization and it is a labor that if often discreet and barely known, not always noted but which does not escape the eyes of God, who sees all of Man's work even those that are hidden."

Although he did not specifically use the words "body scanner" during his speech, it was clear to the audience what he was referring to.

The use of airport body scanners has caused controversy in recent months because the equipment produces images where travelers appear naked. Many have expressed privacy concerns over the new technology, calling the scans a "virtual strip search." In January, we visited Dulles International Airport and combed through hundreds of reader responses to find out what real travelers think about body scanners.

Even though airport officials insist the scans are deleted immediately, Indian film star Shah Rukh Khan claimed his naked image was printed and circulated amongst female staff at Heathrow Airport in London, according to a report by the Huffington Post on February 10th. "It makes you embarrassed-if you're not well endowed," the Bollywood superstar said.

Additionally, the Guardian asserted body scanners violate child pornography laws and claimed the technology reveals if women have breast implants.

Today, body scanners are used in 19 U.S. airports, and the equipment is due to be phased into all airports by the end of the year. To learn more about the technology, read our Airport Body Scanners FAQ with TSA spokesman Jon Allen.

The Pope travels exclusively in a special plane dubbed the Shepherd One on Italian carrier Alitalia.

Update: On February 25th, Jon Allen from the TSA contacted us to let us know the allegations made by Shah Rukh Khan have been disputed by British airport authorities, who say their body scanners do not have printing capabilities. You can read more about the account on the TSA Blog.
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