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Sun, Jul 10, 2011

Body Scanners Will Come To Europe

Passengers Will Be Able To Choose Pat-Downs As Alternative

After Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear on Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day, 2009, the US Department of Homeland Security quickly hastened the deployment of invasive body scanners at U.S. airports, despite concerns over privacy, propriety and passenger health. DHS also stressed to European partners the need for better detection of hidden explosives, but the European Union resisted, pending further study.

On Wednesday, that study culminated in the approval by the European Parliament to allow its 27 member nations to deploy the scanners, but lawmakers there want a program with passenger protections above those in the US.

The French news service AFP reports the conditional approval granted in Europe applies only to scanners which show a "stick figure," not those capable of producing the detailed images displayed by machines in the U.S. Passengers in Europe will also have the option to undergo a hand search if they don't want to pass through the machines. Europe will also limit scanners to those using non-ionizing radiation, or forms of radiation which do not risk altering DNA.

Several European governments have been conducting tests of scanners for use at airport checkpoints, including Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Finland. The Netherlands got attention last year for testing airport checkpoint scanners which could display generic body images with any suspected threats highlighted.

The European Parliament reserved the option to review its decision in three months. Abdulmutallab is expected to go on trial on at least six charges in October.

FMI: www.europarl.europa.eu/en/

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