Northwest 253 Aftermath: Europe Considering Full-Body Scanners at Airports

full body scanners

Full-body scanners are one step closer to being used in airports across Europe, after U.S. and Dutch officials briefed the European Union Thursday.

The British and the Dutch have already added the machines to the screening regimen used for passengers on transatlantic flights. But the European parliament has long harbored reservations about the machines -- similar to those expressed in the U.S. House of Representatives last summer -- because the full body images produced are so graphic.

A statement released Thursday said that at the conclusion of the briefing on Northwest Flight 253, the EU Regulatory Committee for Civil Aviation Security "unanimously underlined the need for an EU approach to addressing the security situation, including the use of imaging technology – commonly referred to as body scanners - as one means for screening passengers."

Finding the right balance for screening airline passengers has always been tricky, but as the demands for more intrusive security heighten, political leaders are becoming increasingly concerned that push back from the public will increase, too.

One official with the congressional committee that oversees the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said there are already signs that aggressive pat downs and long lines at airports are not being uniformly welcomed.

"It's a natural instinct for people to put the brakes at 100 percent after an incident like this, but I think we're already seeing that this level of screening would be very difficult to maintain, long term," the official said.

Money Matters

There is also the matter of cost. It's unclear whether the Homeland Security budget will be able to support the purchase of millions of dollars in new screening equipment and the costs associated with training and properly staffing the machines.

The American Civil Liberties Union Thursday pushed for British officials to make public the results of studies that some reports suggest show the airport screening machines would not have caught the type of explosives carried on to the Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas day.

"I would hope those studies are made public so the public has a way of determining the value of these machines and whether it's worth the sacrifice they are being asked to make," said Mike German, of the ACLU.

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