Friday, January 8, 2010

Here Come the Body Scanners

As part of the Obama Administration's plan to beef-up air transport security, the President announced yesterday that the U.S. is urging foreign governments to deploy full body-scanners.  See Spencer S. Hsu, U.S. to Push Foreign Governments to Use Full Body-Scanners at Airports, Wash. Post, Jan. 8, 2010 (available here).  This move may not sit well in Europe, which is in the midst of its own debate over the use of scanning technology:

But even as the European Union’s aviation security experts met to discuss scanners, Belgium’s secretary of state for transportation, Etiennne Schouppe, described the enhanced measures as excessive, saying security requirements at European airports were already strict enough.

Spain, too, has expressed skepticism on the scanners, and the German and French governments remain uncommitted.

A German Interior Ministry spokesman, Stefan Paris, said the bloc’s rules on flight safety needed to be changed before scanners could be used. Germany’s position, he said, is that the scanners cannot be deployed until it has been shown that they will improve security, that they are not a health hazard and that they will not be so invasive that they harm individuals’ rights.

Some countries in the European Union have expressed concern that full-body scanners will be dangerous because of the radiation they emit.

See Europe Debates Use of Full-Body Scanners at Airports, Assoc. Press, Jan. 7, 2010 (available here).

Understandably, some conservative religious groups are also concerned that the technology amounts to an incursion on modesty and have asked that measures be put in place to ensure that only men scan men and women scan women.  See Matthew Wagner, European Rabbis Worried Over Body Scans, Jan. 7, 2010 (available here).  And, finally, the always outspoken former American Airlines Chairman and CEO, Bob Crandall, has simply called the body scans a waste of resources.  See Fmr. CEO of American Airlines Calls Full-Body Scanners in Airports a Waste of Resources, FOX News, Jan. 7, 2010 (available here).

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