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Page last updated at 17:23 GMT, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

EU seeks rules on body scanners

Body scanner at Schiphol airport
At Schiphol all US-bound passengers will go through scanners

The EU will host talks on Thursday on the use of body scanners at airports, in response to the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a US-bound jet.

The European Commission will host the Brussels talks with aviation security experts from the EU member states.

The Commission says the 27 member states are free to use body scanners, provided the security checks do not contradict national or EU legislation.

The Netherlands and UK are introducing them for US-bound flights.

The Commission withdrew a draft EU regulation on body scanners in 2008, following objections from the European Parliament.

MEPs raised concerns about passengers' privacy and health, so the Commission decided that further technical analysis was required before EU-wide rules could be adopted.

The Commission says it "remains convinced that body scanners can play a very useful role as complementary means of screening".

Trial run

Schiphol airport in Amsterdam has been trying out the scanners, which use microwaves to see through clothing.

An official checks passengers' documents at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, 29 December 2009
US airport security measures have been tightened since the alleged plot

A Nigerian man on a US-bound flight from Schiphol tried to blow up the plane on 25 December as it prepared to land in Detroit, investigators say. He had not gone through a scanner.

Some governments argue that the scanners are a necessary tool in the fight against terrorism.

But some civil liberties campaigners say the equipment could breach child protection laws and invade people's privacy, as it produces a "near naked" image.

And some security experts question the scanners' effectiveness.

UK Conservative MP Ben Wallace, who used to work at defence firm QinetiQ, says the scanners probably would not have detected the failed Detroit plane plot.

The US has singled out 14 countries, including Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, for enhanced security measures for travellers.

Since November 2006 the EU has enforced a ban on carrying liquids onto planes in hand luggage. No liquids in containers bigger than 100ml are allowed.

That ban followed the exposure of an alleged terrorist plot to smuggle liquid explosives onto planes at London's Heathrow airport in August 2006.



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