We have a rare piece of good news, Bay Area air travelers: You'll still be taking off your Nikes and throwing out those bottles of Crystal Geyser at the security line -- but at least a TSA agent won't be looking at an X-ray picture of your naked body.
Mineta San Jose and Oakland international airports on Friday said they will soon be removing the Bay Area's last remaining scanners that allow security agents to peek under your clothes. By June, they'll be replaced by similar scanners that provide only a generic stick-figurelike outline, or avatar, along with a picture of any items that you may be stowing away under your clothes.
The switch is part of a nationwide changeover in which the Transportation Security
Some San Jose passengers on Friday afternoon said they'll be counting down the days until the machines are gone.
"They make me very uncomfortable," said Marcela Sanchez, 54, as her family from Colorado waited for a flight after a visit to the Bay Area. "Especially for us women. I'll be very happy when they get rid of these machines."
Her husband Luis, 53, agreed, adding that the government "needs to use some common sense" on the issue.
Other travelers, however, said they've simply gotten used
"It's just another one of those intrusive things," said another Colorado traveler visiting Silicon Valley, 54-year-old Vicki Burrows. "It doesn't really tick me off."
It comes after an outcry from privacy activists and passengers led Congress to demand the machines be swapped out. The TSA ramped up installation of the machines after a man deemed the "underwear bomber" was caught with explosives under his clothes on a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009.
The TSA said the San Jose airport will replace its eight scanners while Oakland airport will replace five. Most of the machines were installed in 2010.
Passengers who don't want to use the screeners get a pat-down by a TSA agent -- which usually takes longer and can be more invasive. Passengers will still have that choice once the new machines are installed.
The TSA said the machines by Torrance-based manufacturer Rapiscan will be removed because the company was unable to replace them with new machines that do not show the naked-body image. Rapiscan will pay for the removal of the machines, though the TSA did not say how much the new machines would cost or how they would be funded.
The new scanners are made by New York-based L-3 Communications, the kind already in place at SFO, which show screeners the avatar image using a technology known as Automated Target Recognition.
The TSA began using the machines in 2007, and they were tested at airports such as SFO in 2006. SFO received the L-3 machines in 2009 and 2010.
Privacy activists celebrated Friday's announcement.
"I think it's one less thing to worry about," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that sued to block the machines.
The new scanners, he said, "don't allow TSA officials to view air travelers stripped naked. And that is a big difference."
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at Twitter.com/RosenbergMerc.