EU anti-terror chief favours airport body scanners
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Last Updated: Saturday, January 09, 2010, 10:18
  
Brussels: The EU's anti-terror coordinator Gilles de Kerchove backs the use of full body scanners at airports, saying they would be "very effective" as long as privacy concerns can be overcome.

"I am in favour of the body scanners, as long as there are rules in place" to assure passengers over the images displayed, he said on Friday.

The Spanish EU presidency called on Thursday for a common European stance on the use of body scanners at airports as member states bicker over the issue which has been highlighted by a failed plot to blow up a US airplane.

The controversial scanners are capable of peering through clothes to create three-dimensional images of passengers to reveal any concealed weapons or explosives.

The latest generation of scanners can, for example, prevent the naked image being identified, according to De Kerchove.

"Clearly there also needs to be rules so that the image is not conserved and that it is immediately destroyed," he added.

"It's useful, very useful even, for detecting cases such as the Detroit case where someone hid explosives around his private parts which are not searched by hand."

Several countries, led by the United States, have announced additional security measures at airports after Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was charged with trying to blow up a US-bound jet on Christmas Day.

It was foiled when explosives sewn into the man's underwear failed to detonate, and passengers jumped on him.

Britain and the Netherlands have already decided to install the scanners at airports.

Body scanners will also be introduced for experimentation in some French airports, France's civil aviation authority said on Wednesday.

Other countries, such as Spain, are less enthusiastic.

De Kerchove said it was up to border agencies to decide whether the expensive scanners should be introduced in all European airports, saying the major air hubs should be the first to get the new technology.

He agreed with the Spanish that it would be a "paradox" if the 27 European Union nations all took unilateral decisions on the use of body scanners, urging the European Commission to swiftly draw up a proposition on the issue.

However, De Kerchove said he recognised there is a political as well as a security aspect involved.

"A society which doesn't like risk is a society which will without doubt be less free, where data collection will multiply," he said.

Bureau Report


First Published: Saturday, January 09, 2010, 10:18


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