German politicians wary of full-body scanners | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 28.12.2009
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German politicians wary of full-body scanners

After a failed attack on a US airliner on Christmas Day, full-body scanners are being discussed as a possible security measure. But German politicians aren't quite ready for that much exposure in airports.

Full-body X-Ray scan

The use of full-body scanners is controversial

Full body scanners would allow security personnel to observe a computer-generated reproduction of the contours of a passenger's body, where well-hidden weapons or explosives might be visible.

In Germany, critics of the devices say the scanners are too intrusive concerning passengers' privacy, and have called for a solution that does not reveal as much of a person's body.

"We don't want nude scanners where the contours of the passengers' bodies are clearly depicted on a screen, and where we can't be sure if the passengers' private parts are visible," said Wolfgang Bosbach, chairman of the parliamentary Internal Affairs Committee, in an interview with ARD public television.

"But on the other hand, we obviously have to find a way to ensure that dangerous substances are recognized, be they solid or liquid explosives, so that materials that aren't picked up by a metal detector can't be smuggled on board," he added.

Gisela Piltz, deputy chairperson of the Free Democrats parliamentary party, said a device that did not reveal the private areas of a passenger's body was the right way to find a balance between privacy and security.

"If people's dignity is to be preserved, then we should invest in this kind of a system for the security of the passengers," Piltz said in an interview with the daily newspaper Rheinische Post.

The White House responds

US President Barack Obama

Obama says the US will use all its resources to find those responsible

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has vowed to track down everyone responsible in plotting an attempted terrorist attack on an American airliner on Christmas Day. Speaking from Hawaii on Monday, Obama pledged that his administration "will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable."

While al-Qaeda was not specifically mentioned by Obama, the group has claimed responsibility in a statement for the December 25 actions of Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.The 23-year-old man was charged by US authorities with attempting to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane en route to Detroit from Amsterdam with almost 300 people on board.

Officials say Abdulmutallab met with al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen, where he acquired the bomb and was taught how to use it.

In its statement, Al-Qaeda wrote that a "technical fault" caused the failure of the bomb to detonate, but said Abdulmutallab's act "dealt a huge blow to the myth of American and global intelligence services and showed how fragile its structure is."

US defenses to be tightened

Obama made it clear in his address that the United States would use all of its resources to combat future threats.

Full-body scan

Some worry that full-body scanners reveal too much

"We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the US homeland," he said.

The president also addressed the fact that Abdulmutallab was still allowed to travel to the US despite his father's warnings to American authorities of his extremist views, saying that a thorough review of the screening process has been ordered.

"We need to determine just how the suspect was able to bring dangerous explosives aboard an aircraft and what additional steps we can take to thwart future attacks," Obama said.

Dutch in favor of new microwave detectors

Amsterdam Airport

Dutch airport officials say they will make microwave scanners mandatory

In the Netherlands, airport authorities say they will make microwave scanners mandatory after the attempted attack.

Ad Rutten, the chief operating officer of Schiphol Group, told reporters the airport would introduce the more sensitive detectors once they are approved by European authorities.

Although the microwave scanners are not as powerful as see-through full-body scanners, they can spot unusual objects hidden under clothing or on a person's body. The scanners are expected to be fully implemented in the country within a year.


Editor: Chuck Penfold

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