Know Your Rights: New Airport “Virtual Strip Search” Raises Concern

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is alerting American Muslims concerned with personal privacy about a security procedure recently implemented by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that scans full-body images of passengers through their clothing, revealing intimate body parts to screeners, resembling a “virtual strip search.”

Photo Copyright USA TodayAccording to a report in USA Today, the body-scanning machines are being used on randomly-selected passengers at airports in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Denver, Albuquerque, and New York’s JFK airport. They are scheduled to be installed at airports in Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami, and Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C. in the coming month.

SEE: 10 Airports Install Body Scanners (USA Today)


The TSA website describes the process through which the machines bounce harmless radio waves off the passenger’s body, which constructs a three-dimensional image that is projected on a monitor in the security scanner’s room.

According to the TSA, the scanning machines do not store images and blur the faces of the passengers. It is stored twenty meters from the booth in a different room.

SEE: Whole Body Imaging – Millimeter Wave


CAIR-Chicago is urging passengers of all faiths to educate themselves about their rights and encourage the following:

1. Remain calm and courteous during the process.
2. You have a right to request the pat-down process rather than the body-scanner. Passengers also have the right to ask the pat-down screening to take place with screeners of the same gender and in a private room.
3. If you believe you have been singled out solely based on your race, religion or ethnicity, contact CAIR-Chicago at (312) 212-1520, or contact immediately.


1. As an airline passenger, you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel.
2. You have the right to complain about treatment that you believe is discriminatory.
3. If you believe you have been treated in a discriminatory manner, speak to a supervisor and contact CAIR to file a report immediately.

SEE: Know Your Rights as an Airline Passenger

ALSO SEE: CAIR Advisory on Your Rights Wearing Religious Head Wear