Current Screening and Surveillance Technologies in the United States

The current international climate does not provide any reassuring predictions that the future will be free of security issues. Terrorist and criminal threats raise concerns and necessitate action to safeguard residents' safety. The United States remains one of the most active countries in the areas of security protection and the adoption of new advanced monitoring and screening technologies, which are used in airports to prevent illegal entry of those who can potentially endanger national and personal security (Frederickson and LaPorte 33). As a result, the study will examine modern monitoring and screening methods. which proved their effectiveness in terms of preventing terrorist attacks and ensuring national security in the country.
 Modern Screening Technologies

The main task of air transportation is providing passengers with an integrated security system that presupposes screening of all employees and visitors at the airport designed to solve the problem of spam (from the point of view of safety) of the passengers and their luggage (Bart et al.). In order to solve the problem of possible terrorist attacks, there are different screening and surveillance systems applied in the national airports (Frederickson and LaPorte 34). Some of them may even be applied to search for drugs and other prohibited substances and items. The currently existing technical and special means for pre-flight inspection of passengers are divided into the following main classes: metal detector, the system for video and visual control as well as backscatter X-rays for passengers (Homeland Security). Among the means of control and ways to prevent illegal access to the country, the airports and agency of national security have elaborated a range of mechanisms, including no-fly lists, biometrics and facial recognition systems, body scans, and other means of inspection (Homeland Security).

Metal Detectors and Scanners

With the aim of ensuring safety of flights, each airport of the United States is equipped with different types of scanners. Fundamentally, they are divided into two types. There are metal detectors (so-called ‘frames’) and scanners that create a full body image of the person on the screen (Mitchener-Nissen et al. 230). The second is considered more effective to search for prohibited items that can be potentially brought on board.

Unlike metal detectors, passing through which the person leaves no “footprints”, going through the scanner creates an image, which is very similar to the nudity. The security service of the airports argues that the anonymity of passengers is fully complied and the operator of the scanner does not see the faces, while scanned images are not saved (Mitchener-Nissen et al. 233). It means of scanning is very effective, because it provides security guards with the opportunity to see each detail of the passengers, who are entering the board (Seidenstat 275). It is required to guarantee that no prohibited items are taken to the plane.

Systems of Video and Visual Control

These systems are used in all leading US airports to control the movement of passengers and personnel on the territory of airport. Cameras are mounted inside and outside the airports to watch passengers’ actions and movement (Mueller 5). With the help of these systems, it is possible to trace any suspicious persons and actions. Due to this means of surveillance, many terroristic attacks and illegal infiltrations have been prevented.

Backscatter X-rays for Passengers

Scanners of the human body set in the U.S airports are based on two different principles. The first of them is similar to the x-ray machine; the rays, however, do not pass through the body, but are reflected (Hughes). It is done to see and detect any prohibited items hidden under clothes of passengers. Materials of different density are displayed in different colors. Less dense such as skin and muscles are light; what is denser is, for instance, metal. In order to obtain more information from the scanner, two shots are performed – front and back (Hughes). The effectiveness of such type of surveillance method is hard to deny, as it helps find the prohibited items, which are difficult to find in the process of manual inspection.

Additional Means for Security Protection and Surveillance

In addition to sophisticated technical equipment introduced by the U.S security department, the government has introduced additional means to control and check international citizens entering the territory of the sates.

Student Exchange Visas

The U.S education is considered one of the most effective and qualified; therefore, many students try to reach the country to enter American colleges and universities. However, there are continuing security challenges and unstable political situation in the world. Thus, the U.S Department of State has introduced additional measures to provide international students with exchange visas. In order to get visa, the student has to pass all means of control tests and verification to receive authorization for entering the U.S (Seidenstat 278).

No-Fly List

It is a list that has been created and is being maintained and added by the United States Federal Government’s Terrorist Screening Center. It consists of people, who are forbidden to board commercial aircrafts with the aim to travel within, into, or out of the country (Cox 337). In addition to control and restrict the entering of illegal tourists, the list has also been used to redirect aircrafts, which have no start- or end-point destinations away from the United States (Cox 338). This means of security control has become valid after the 9/11 events and is getting popularity as one of the most effective means of illegal crossing of the U.S territory.

Biometric/Facial Recognition

It means of personality verification gained popularity in all airports of the states. Like all biometrics solutions, facial recognition is used to measure and match the unique characteristics of the face in order to identify or authenticate the person (George and Whatford 159). Often controlling a digital or connected camera, facial recognition software detects faces in images and calculates their features, thus matching theme with the templates existing in databases. This means is effectively used to detect potentially dangerous persons or terrorists trying to have access to the U.S territory (George and Whatford 159). With the help of this technology, many attacks and unsanctioned penetrations have been prevented.


The terrorist attacks of September 11 have considerably changed the attitude to security. U.S government and department of homeland security have adopted a wide range of measures to control the illegal access of international visitors and guarantee safety of U.S citizens. The airports have been equipped with modern sophisticated equipment forwarded to detect terrorists, weapons, and possible threats. In addition to technical means in U.S airports, U.S Department of State stiffens rules for obtaining visas for international students and immigrants (Government Accountability Office). All these means have become effective in combat with international terrorism and prevention of possible threats and attacks on the USA. The U.S capabilities in terms of current screening technologies can be potentially improved by introducing new means of terrorist detection in the airports. Moreover, it is necessary to stiffen the surveillance measures in other places of mass destination such as bus stations and railway stations, since they remain the open gates for illegal access of terrorists.

Works Cited

Cox, Louis A. “Improving Risk-Based Decision-Making for Terrorism Applications.” Risk Analysis, 29.3 (2009): pp. 336-341.

Elias, Bart, William Krouse, and Ed Rappaport. “Homeland Security: Air Passenger Prescreening and Counterterrorism.” CRS Report for Congress. 2005. Accessed 26 Aug. 2017.

Frederickson, H. George, and Todd R. LaPorte. “Airport Security, High Reliability, and the Problem of Rationality”. Public Administration Review, 62.1 (2002): pp. 33-43.

George, Bruce, and Natalie Whatford. “Regulation of transport security post 9/11.” Security Journal, 20.3 (2007): pp. 158-170.

Government Accountability Office. Terrorist Watch Lists Should Be Consolidated to Promote Better Integration and Sharing. 2003. Accessed 26 Aug. 2017.

Homeland Security. “Advanced Integrated Passenger and Baggage Screening Technologies.” Fiscal Year 2016 Report to Congress. 2016. Accessed 26 Aug. 2017.

Hughes, John. “U.S. Airports May Soon Test Body Scanner with Privacy Upgrades, TSA Says.” Bloomberg News. January 13, 2011.

Mitchener-Nissen, Timothy, Kate Bowers, and Kevin Chetty. “Public Attitudes to Airport Security: The Case of Whole Body Scanners.” Security Journal, 25.3 (2012): pp. 229-243

Mueller, John. “Assessing Measures Designed to Protect the Homeland.” Policy Studies Journal, 38.1 (2010): pp. 1-21

Seidenstat, Paul. “Terrorism, Airport Security, and the Private Sector.” Review of Policy Research, 21.3 (2004): pp. 275-292.

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