WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday approved Sen. Ben Nelson’s proposal aimed at preventing images from federal security body scanners from landing on the Internet.
The Senate voted 98-0 in favor of the aviation bill amendment, which would make it a federal offense to “inappropriately photograph, record or distribute images produced by body scan imaging machines at U.S. airports or federal buildings.”
Penalties would include up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 per violation.
Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., had initially expressed reservations about Nelson’s proposal, but he said Tuesday that he felt comfortable with the final version after Nelson, D-Neb., made a few adjustments.
Also voting in support were Republican Chuck Grassley and Democrat Tom Harkin of Iowa.
The proposal would apply to images made by body scanners run by any federal employee. It would cover not only the misuse of the original images recorded by the scanners, but also photographs of scans recorded and disseminated from personal cameras, cell phones and video devices.
Department of Homeland Security officials have said the body scanners used by Transportation Security Administration workers at airports are not capable of storing, copying or transmitting images. Each time a passenger is scanned, the image of the previously scanned passenger is deleted.
In arguing for the new offense, Nelson noted that 35,000 images from a scanner at a Florida courthouse were saved last year, and 100 were posted online.
Officials of the U.S. Marshals Service have said those images were made unintentionally by the service.
“It’s my hope,” Nelson said, “that by creating a deterrent, a very strong deterrent, and establishing criminal penalties for those who take and distribute body scan images inappropriately, that will help prevent that from occurring again.”
Contact the writer: