Dutch authorities said Wednesday that they would compel airline passengers heading to the U.S. to submit to new advanced body scanners, in a sign that worries about the recent attempt to detonate explosives aboard an airliner from Amsterdam are trumping privacy concerns about devices that can see through people's clothes.
The machines, known as full-body scanners, have been used for several years on a voluntary basis in pilot programs in Europe and the U.S. They have sparked controversy because, in addition to highlighting weapons, drugs or cash hidden under a person's clothes, they also can depict medical implants and even provide images of a passenger's naked body.
The recent attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight recently may increase the proliferation of body scan technology across the U.S. and Europe. The scanners can detect hidden weapons, cash, or drugs under a person's clothes. WSJ's Beckey Bright reports.
Many politicians and civil-rights advocates in the U.S. and Europe have said the machines violate air passengers' privacy. Such concerns -- and the cost of the machines, which run around $150,000 apiece -- have slowed their deployment. Security specialists also note the machines can't spot objects hidden inside a person and don't replace human intelligence gathered before a potential terrorist reaches an airport or observations of their behavior at an airport.
The European Union last year tried to begin setting rules on use of full-body scanners, but abandoned the effort after objections from some member-states and members of the European Parliament, an EU spokesman said. But governments of the 27 EU member countries are free to set security standards stricter than EU-wide rules, as the Dutch have announced they are doing.
Debate on the issue shifted after Christmas Day, when a 23-year-old Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, allegedly attempted to detonate an improvised explosive device hidden inside his underwear on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport as it approached Detroit. U.S. politicians and some air-security specialists quickly called for wider deployment and mandatory use of the new body scanners. They say the scanners would have caught the would-be bomber.To read full Wall Street Journal story — Go Here Now.
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