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A body scanner demonstration
Some say the scanners are a breach of passenger privacyImage: AP

Airport security

January 21, 2010

US Secretary of State for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is meeting with EU officials in Spain on Thursday for talks on boosting security at European airports, including installing full-body scanners.


EU interior ministers and the head of the US Department of Homeland Security are in Toledo, Spain on Thursday discussing how to enhance security at European airports, including the use of full-body scanners.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is looking to overcome European doubts about installing the devices. She is looking for the EU to follow the Obama administration's lead in beefing up aviation security, where body-scanner installation has been accelerated.

Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The security breach at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport left many concernedImage: AP

The EU, meanwhile, is divided on the scanner issue amid concerns that the devices may invade passenger privacy and pose health risks.

Spain, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said no official decision was expected but that the meeting was meant to gauge European sentiments on the issue.

Privacy issues

The talks come in response to a foiled terror attack on Christmas Day in which a 23-year-old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has been accused of trying to detonate a bomb on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

The US request to install body scanners at European airports has the backing of the EU's anti-terror coordinator Gilles de Kerchove.

"I am in favor of the body scanners as long as there are rules in place. They are useful for detecting cases such as the Detroit case where someone hid explosives around his private parts which were not searched by hand," he said earlier this month.

Incoming EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding
Reding says she won't allow invasions of privacyImage: AP

Meanwhile, the incoming EU justice and security commissioner, Viviane Reding, said she would follow the request of her predecessor, Jacques Barrot, in seeking guarantees that the images taken by the scanners are immediately destroyed.

"Europe's need for security cannot justify an invasion of privacy. Our citizens are not objects: they are human beings," Reding told the European Parliament last week.

Great Britain and the Netherlands have already installed full-body scanners at some of their airports, while France and Italy have said they would try out the expensive devices.

Other nations, such as Germany and Spain, remain more cautious and have said they will wait until the EU adopts a bloc-wide stance before making a decision.

Speaking to German public radio ahead of the Thursday meeting, Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, said he would be in favor of EU-wide use of the scanners.

Editor: Kyle James

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