In the wake of the attempt by a Nigerian to blow up a US-bound plane on Christmas day, security at airports across the country has been tightened, with full-body scanners expected to be installed at the O’Hare International Airport here by next year.

The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) plans to bring the full passenger body-scanning equipment, which see through a person’s clothing to detect suspicious packages or weapons, at the airport by the first 3-4 months of 2010, Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino told reporters on Wednesday.

“The full body scanners are coming to O’Hare. We have a large volume of people that comes to O’Hare and we need to ensure that the equipment works properly. The process is moving forward,” Andolino said.

She, however, did not give further details on how many scanners would be installed and their locations at the airport as that would be determined by the TSA.

The move comes days after Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a plane with explosives hidden under his clothes. He was able to get past security check as standard metal detectors failed to detect the explosives at Amsterdam airport.

For full body scans, passengers would be required to stand inside a phone booth—sized compartment, raise their hands over the head and place both feet, legs spread apart, on markings on the floor.

In a process that takes seconds, weapons or other banned items would appear on a screen as darker than skin.

Screeners would view images of both male and female passengers. But only screeners of the same sex would conduct physical pat-downs.

As airports work toward improving security since the Christmas day bombing attempt, the debate over installing such scanners is heating up.

While facial features are blurred, the scanners reveal images of body parts, raising privacy concerns.

Giving an update on airport security at O’Hare, the Department of Aviation Commissioner said passengers need to remain vigilant as the holiday travel season winds down.

She said more police and security officers would be deployed at the city’s O’Hare and Midway airports, adding that passengers should be aware of their surroundings and report anything suspicious.

Andolino said the Aviation Department expects 1.5 million passengers to travel through the two airports during the days up to the new year.

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