Spread Your Legs, Folks: Airport-Style Screening Coming to Senate


Planning a trip to see your senator anytime soon? Thinking of touring the U.S. Capitol? Don’t be surprised if, after your cross-country airline trip, you once again are raising your arms and spreading your legs inside an airport-style screening machine.

 

Capitol Police said three body scanners similar to those deployed by the Transportation Security Administration at airports will be used to screen Capitol visitors who want to sit in the Senate gallery or watch lawmakers at work.

Security screener

Police officers said they are similar to those already put in place outside the House visitors’ gallery.

 

“They could be here on Monday,” said one officer who described the training sessions that already have taken place in the Senate.

 

The House already has three L3 Pro Vision 2 screeners, which are described as TSA-approved security “people scanners.” The machines use radio waves to detect concealed objects. Unlike earlier scanners, which came under attack as “I can see you naked” machines, the company describes these as providing “image-free privacy.”

 

Police, however, are questioning the placement of the machines on the third floor of the Senate near the visitors’ gallery rather than at the building’s entry points. Lobbyists prowling the lower floors and basement of the building won’t be required to go through the scanners, they said.

 

The security equipment reflects heightened concern about the safety of lawmakers after this summer’s shooting at a baseball practice that seriously wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and also hurt two police officers in his security detail. A number of senators also were at the practice when the attack occurred.

 

House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving said in late June that there at least 950 cases this year of “threatening communications” aimed at members of Congress.

 

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), whose panel oversees security upgrades, told Bloomberg BNA that the recent rise in threats against lawmakers drove the decision to install the machines.

 

 

 

"The overriding issue is the safety not only of the people who work here but also the American people and others who visit here,” Shelby said.