The USA Today reports that the TSA plans to install 150 security machines at airport checkpoints that enable screeners to see under passengers’ clothes.

The installation will vastly expand the use of the controversial body scanners, which can reveal hidden bombs and knives. But the devices have been labeled as intrusive by some lawmakers. The House of Representatives in June overwhelmingly passed a measure that would restrict their use by the TSA to passengers flagged by other types of screening, such as metal detectors. The measure is pending in the Senate.

The $100,000 scanners shoot low-intensity X-rays that penetrate clothing, bounce off a person’s skin and create images that show solid objects as dark areas. The TSA machines have privacy additions to create images that look like etchings. Screeners view them on a monitor in a locked room near a checkpoint and delete them immediately after viewing.

Although the machines use X-rays, a 2003 report by the National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements, which Congress created to develop radiation guidelines, said people can safely be scanned by the machines up to 2,500 times a year.

The TSA has been testing scanners since early 2007, mostly on passengers who set off a metal-detector alarm and are taken aside for additional screening. The new scanners will be installed beginning early next year and will be used in place of metal detectors at checkpoints.

Passengers may choose to avoid the scanners and be screened by a metal detector, but those who do will be pulled aside for a pat-down.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Delta Air Lines has completed the integration of its frequent flier program with that of its subsidiary, Northwest Airlines.  The combined program has more than 70 million members.  The Chicago Tribune also reports that that about half of the old Northwest Airlines planes that will get Delta’s colors have been repainted, and the rest will be finished by mid-2010.
  • Fortune Magazine offers a good read about “Making business travel fun and easy.”
  • Late-night host Conan O’Brien was banned from Newark Airport after the comic took a swipe at the Garden State’s largest city.  “The mayor of Newark, N.J., wants to set up a citywide program to improve residents’ health. The health care program would consist of a bus ticket out of Newark,” O’Brien cracked last week.  Only Newark Mayor Cory Booker wasn’t laughing.  In a YouTube video, Booker blasts “The Tonight Show” host and informs O’Brien that he isn’t welcome at the city’s bustling airport.  “Try JFK, buddy,” Booker said.  Booker must have seen a swell in traffic to his website because, more recently, he’s released another YouTube video where he “extends” O’Brien’s ban to all of New Jersey.  (I wonder if we’ll see a third video where the good mayor extends the ban to the entire tri-state region?)