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Europe

Germany to Oppose EU Plans for Full-Body Airport Scanning

Germany is to oppose European Union plans to install full-body scanners at airports as protection against hijackers, a government spokesman said Friday.

A full-body x-ray

Civil libertarians say the scanners amount to a virtual stip search

The devices have been described as "strip scanners" because they construct an image of each traveller's body without clothing in an attempt to reveal any concealed weapons.

"I can tell you with complete clarity that we are not going to cooperate in this mischief," an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said Friday at a government news conference.

Nonetheless, German federal police said Thursday they would seek to commission an engineering study of the devices.

Full-body scanners are already in use at some US airports, as well as at London's Heathrow and Amsterdam's Schiphol airports, to speed up security checks and to avoid the hand-frisking of passengers.

EU lawmakers' opposition

An airport scanning station in Arizona, the US

Several body scanning methods are currently in use across the US and Europe

EU parliamentarians spoke out in droves this week against plans to test the scanners at European airports as an alternative to the current practice of sweeping hand-held metal detectors over travellers' bodies.

They said using full-body scanners would be a violation of citizens' privacy.

"This technology has the potential -- and, I stress, the potential -- to force air passengers to undergo what could be seen as undignified treatment, and this is certainly not a small technical step," Philip Bradbourn, a British conservative, said Thursday.

The plan to introduce the full-body scanners at airports throughout the EU was voted down by a margin of 361 to 16 with 181 abstentions in the European Parliament Thursday.

European lawmakers urged the commission to first carry out a thorough impact assessment to determine whether body scanners are harmful and worth the investment.

Civil liberties campaigners reacted angrily to the plans to test the full-body scanners, which they said amounted to nothing more than a virtual strip search.

Proponents of the virtual scanners said the devices are capable of detecting ceramic knives and plastic explosives, which are invisible to current detectors.

The full-body scanners would also eliminate the need for pat-down body searches, they said.

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