Full-body scan or not? Europe divided on airport security steps
Belgium, Spain are skeptical that there's a need for more full-body airport scanning machines. France and Germany are uncommitted as European Union members meet today to discuss airport security measures.
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“The right not to be blown up on an airplane is a more important right” than privacy, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said.Skip to next paragraph
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The U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which uses 40 scanners throughout the United States, has announced plans to order dozens more.
Since the attempted terrorist attack on Dec. 25, the EU has been reevaluating its security regulations. Aviation experts now must assess whether body scanners can fit into EU legislation, officials said.
“We have to reach agreement together with the (European) parliament and member states,” Antonio Tajani, European Commission Vice President, said Thursday. “It’s best to have a European solution than having individual member states deciding on their own.”
Any significant action on the issue would have to be taken by the European Commission, and approved by the EU parliament — a process that could take several months even if all member states agreed on the need.
Schouppe agreed on the need for a united European Union approach.“We must have a common position for all European Union members states so that there is a real transparency between measures taken on the European side and the U.S. side,” he said in an interview with AP Television News.
“I have the feeling that (the Americans) are exaggerating. I don’t know what kinds of controls they were using previously, but here, in Belgium and in the large majority of European airports, security controls were strict enough,” Schouppe said.
Some experts have questioned the technical effectiveness of body scanners.
“I’m struggling to discover the logic for adopting the scanner technology,” said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, an independent watchdog on surveillance issues.
“Any security expert knows this is a red herring, a diversion from the real issue,” he said. “The biggest failure in this case was a failure of intelligence. That’s the Achilles heel of an effective counterterrorism strategy.”
EU spokesman Fabio Pirotta said no decisions would be taken at Thursday’s meeting of aviation experts.
U.S. officials say a Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried to destroy a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day by injecting chemicals into a package of pentrite explosive concealed in his underwear. He failed to ignite the explosive.
Abdulmutallab was indicted Wednesday in the US on charges including attempted murder and trying to use a weapon of mass destruction to kill nearly 300 people.
Associated Press Writers Nicole Winfield in Rome and Greg Katz in London contributed to this report.