Page last updated at 14:46 GMT, Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Dutch press EU to adopt passenger scanners

Security scanner at Schiphol Airport
At Schiphol passengers can choose to be frisked or go through a scanner

Dutch airport authorities want the EU to make passenger scanners mandatory, arguing that they might have stopped a man who tried to blow up a US airliner.

Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport has 17 of the microwave security scanners, but their use remains voluntary because of continuing privacy concerns.

Schiphol now has software to scan the image, an airport spokeswoman said, "so we think the privacy issue is solved".

A Nigerian man has been charged with trying to blow up a transatlantic jet.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, targeted a Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam with explosives hidden in his clothes, US authorities say.

He was tackled aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit on Friday.

'Rules were followed'

Mirjam Snoerwang of Schiphol Airport told the BBC that check-in staff at Schiphol had followed the established procedure and "the first result shows we didn't make mistakes".

Footage of security scanner in use is courtesy of Schiphol TV

Mr Abdulmutallab was a transit passenger and did not go through a security scanner.

The passenger list was transmitted to the US authorities "in accordance with standard procedures," the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism (NCTB) said.

The security check took place "according to the rules and no irregularities were observed," the NCTB added.

Ms Snoerwang said Schiphol was awaiting more information from the US investigation to see whether the scanner would have picked up the explosives that Mr Abdulmutallab had concealed under his clothes.

Schiphol has scanners made by US-based L-3 Communications Holdings Inc, each costing 100,000 euros (£90,000).

The microwave scanner is not as powerful as the full-body X-ray machines used by border control agencies, which can detect items such as drugs concealed inside the body.

Graphic showing how a ProVision Whole Body Imager, or scanner, works

Invasion of privacy?

Schiphol's scanners are only used for European flights, and the US "still has to agree on the privacy issue," Ms Snoerwang said. "But this incident may make that quicker," she added.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (file image)
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been refused a UK visa (file pic)

Privacy watchdogs have raised concerns that the scanners could expose too much of a person's body and that the images could be viewed by airport staff.

Privacy concerns have delayed adoption of the scanners at EU airports.

Last month, the EU Transport Commissioner, Antonio Tajani, told Euro MPs that further testing was required to determine how such scanners might be operated.

"It is the Commission's view that the application of imaging technology as means of security screening at airports must be optional and passengers must be given the choice between them and physical control by airport screeners," he told the European Parliament.

He said the scanners currently in use "are demonstration means and cannot replace mandatory passenger screening through hand searches".

In October last year MEPs passed a resolution which said body scanners "cannot be considered mere technical measures relating to aviation security, but have a serious impact on the fundamental rights of citizens".

They asked the Commission to assess the scanners' impact on fundamental rights, health and travel costs.

Since the Christmas Day bombing attempt passengers on US-bound flights have been frisked before boarding and restricted to one item of hand luggage.

US-bound flights from London's airports have been delayed by two or three hours.

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