Airport body scans prompt objections

  Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – The US began tightening security checks on international flights into the country Monday 4 January, including using more body scans, but the number of voices objecting to the scannerss is growing. Britain’s prime minister, Gordon Brown, Sunday promised to gradually introduce more of the scanners, but privacy and civil liberties groups say using the machines may break child pornography laws, reports the Guardian. A US congressman, Jason Chaffetz, argues that a bill is needed to protect privacy in the US. The bill has passed the House in Congress and is now under consideration by the US Senate.

The new measures are being taken in the wake of the 25 December suicide bomber attack on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan in the US.

The world had 2.2 billion air passengers in the 12 months to September 2009, 820 million of which were international travelers, and 140 million of these were international travelers on US routes.

The US domestic market accounts for 620 million travelers (Ed. note: figures, Iata).

Iata, the Geneva-based International Air Traffic Association, which represents 93 percent of the world’s airlines, says that it welcomes the shift in the US away from an emergency measure calling for all US inbound passengers to receive a pat-down check, but it earlier cautioned that long-term solutions must include improved technology and effective risk-assessment techniques. The 3 January announcement by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to replace the original emergency requirement for 100 percent pat-down screening of all US-bound passengers with threat-based and random screening is a welcome step in the right direction,” it notes in a press release issued Monday.

Iata’s North American security director, Ken Dunlap, told journalists at the organization’s annual media day in December 2009 – before the Christmas Day bomb attempt – that body scans are very costly and the technology is still imperfect. He and other Iata officials have argued for better coordination among international airports  as one of the keys to safety, rather than national “silo solutions.”

Iata notes in its Monday press release that “one lesson already learned from this incident is the importance of combining screening procedures with intelligence. Following the new TSA announcement, IATA calls on the US Deparment of Homeland Security and TSA to work with their international counterparts to look at a next generation checkpoint. This should give screeners access to effective intelligence to deliver proportional screening measures based on intelligence driven risk assessments.”

Links to other sites: Consumer Traveler, Guardian, Iata,