AP News

US says airport footwear scanners fall short

NEW YORK (AP) — Airline passengers will have to keep taking off their shoes at security checkpoints because machines to scan footwear have failed to detect explosives.

The New York Times reported Friday that the Transportation Security Administration tested four scanners at different airports and all the machines flunked.

TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told the newspaper that the machines "didn't detect all the materials we were looking for."

The agency said in a statement Friday that it has taken many steps to use "a risk-based security approach" to airport screening. It said it will continue working with technology companies to come up with ways to allow all passengers to keep their shoes on at checkpoints without compromising safety.

In recent changes, children under 13 and seniors above 74 can keep their shoes on. So can frequent-fliers who sign up for a prescreening program.

The U.S. Travel Association says a 2010 survey found that removing shoes was travelers' biggest complaint with the security process — more than pat-downs or going through full-body scanners that see through clothing.

The association, which represents travel businesses such as hotels, car-rental companies and tourist attractions, believes the prescreening program needs to be expanded so that more people qualify. That would shorten the lines for everyone else, says Erik Hansen, the group's director of domestic policy.

"It's certainly a disappointment that the (footwear-scanning) technology doesn't work," Hansen told The Associated Press. "But you can't solve every problem with technology. TSA needs to look at risk. They're starting to do that" with the prescreening program that lets low-risk passengers skip the security line.

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