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TSA ends contract with Rapiscan, maker of full-body scanner

January 17, 2013|By Hugo Martin
  • A TSA agent demonstrates the full-body scanner at Los Angeles International Airport.
A TSA agent demonstrates the full-body scanner at Los Angeles International… (Los Angeles Times )

The Transportation Security Administration has ended a contract with the Hawthorne-based manufacturer of a controversial full-body scanner used to screen passengers.

Rapiscan, a unit of OSI Systems Inc., manufactured about half of the full-body scanners used by the TSA to screen passengers for hidden weapons at airports across the country.

But TSA officials said the agency has canceled its contract with the company because it had failed to deliver software to protect the privacy of passengers.

The Rapiscan scanner uses low-level X-rays to create what looks like a naked image of screened passengers to target weapons hidden under the clothes.

A second type of TSA scanner, built by L-3 Communications Holdings, uses radio waves and shows hidden objects on an avatar images on a screen -- not on an image of a passenger.

TSA gave Rapiscan until June 2013 to come up with a software upgrade to prevent the scanner from projecting the naked image. TSA officials said Rapiscan won't be able to meet that deadline.

"TSA has strict requirements that all vendors must meet for security effectiveness and efficiency since the use of this technology is critical to TSA’s efforts to keep the traveling public safe," the TSA said in a statement.

The TSA plans to remove 174 Rapiscan machines from U.S. airports, with the company absorbing the cost, according to TSA officials. The machines will be replaced by L-3 scanners.

A representative for Rapiscan could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The Rapiscan scanners have also be criticized by privacy advocates and some health officials, who question whether the machines expose passengers to too much radiation.

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Follow Hugo Martin on Twitter at @hugomartin

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