Sunday, June 5, 2005 Column Do airport X-ray images come in 8-by-10 glossies? By Lori Borgman The Indianapolis (IN) Star I've given up tweezers, pocket knives and the rational-thinking parts of my brain in the name of airport security. Now they want me to give up my clothes. Just when you thought air travel couldn't possibly get any more fun -- lines, wands and pat-downs, oh my! -- the Transportation Security Administration announces plans to test backscatter machines in airports throughout the country later this year. The backscatter is an X-ray machine the size of a refrigerator that can see through your clothes, down to your birthday suit. It also can detect metal, plastic and organic materials hidden beneath your garments or between folds of skin. Flying round-trip? Naked you came and naked you shall return. Screeners will be able to tell if a traveler is packing heat or simply hot. Count me among the first to demand to screen my screener. I hereby request someone who has significant vision impairment and does not shock easily. Relax, the TSA says. Sorry, fellas. Relaxed and undergoing a virtual strip search are counterintuitive in my book. Ah, but males will screen males and females will screen females. Privacy will be ensured. Sure it will, and the price of gas will return to 93 cents a gallon. To calm jitters, the TSA is hinting at an electronic fig leaf of sorts to cover the more, uh, sensitive areas of the images. Privacy aside, there also is the matter of what will happen to the captured images. Last Christmas, airport terminals were overflowing with mountains of enormous bags and suitcases that had missed their flights or become separated from their owners. And now we are to believe the same people will be able to hold onto some small but highly entertaining images. These images are bound to find their way to the break room, the Internet and the tabloids faster than a stewardess can say, "Now boarding all children and small animals." There is a name to remember in all of this. Susan Hallowell. She is the director of the TSA security laboratory who will forever be known as the woman who "went first." Dressed in a dark skirt and blazer, Hallowell stepped into a backscatter and allowed the backscatter to do its thing. She appeared on the monitor naked as a jaybird, except for the gun and a bomb she had hidden beneath her clothes. In the interest of national security, Hallowell allowed the image to be released to news outlets. One Web site referred to her as looking like Uncle Fester from "The Addams Family." To put it more gently, let's just say Hallowell resembled Over-50 Barbie with a bad bloat. The backscatter is said to be the great leveler in that it makes everyone look naked and fat. (Will we be able to order 8-by-10s?) If the pat-down is no longer an option and the full-body scan becomes mandatory, it's not me I'll be feeling sorry for when I step into the machine. The ones I pity are the screeners. How will they ever close their eyes and sleep at night? Should this new X-ray technology thwart any would-be terrorists, the first phase of their punishment should be to sit in front of a backscatter monitor and watch the images passing by. Let's make it hurt them more than it hurts us. Attached Photo: She went first: Susan Hallowell, of the Transportation Security Administration, holds a weapon that was detected by a backscatter machine.