Tags: EU | Spain | Airport | Security

U.S. Security Chief: Airport Scanners Not Intrusive

Thursday, 21 Jan 2010 09:51 AM

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is seeking to allay concerns in some European Union countries over the use of body scanners in airports, saying that as the technology develops they will be less intrusive.

Napolitano says "some of the privacy issues that have been raised are dealt with effectively by the new iterations of the technology."

Speaking after meeting Thursday with EU interior ministers, Napolitano denied the U.S. was pressuring Europe to deploy the scanners.

But she says better screening technology is crucial to protecting travelers from terrorism.

The U.S. homeland chief says al-Qaida "is using its best minds against the international aviation system. We must do no less."

EU interior ministers met Thursday with the U.S. homeland security chief to discuss boosting airport security with full-body scanners after the failed plot to bomb a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day.

Janet Napolitano was expected to press European countries to follow the Obama administration's lead in ramping up aviation security. The EU is divided on the scanner issue amid concerns over whether the devices invade travelers' privacy and pose health risks.

The ministers gathered in Toledo, just south of Madrid, for the informal session to gauge European sentiment. Spain, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said no decision was expected at the meeting.

Spain and Germany are among countries which have expressed reservations about scanners, while Britain, the Netherlands, Italy and France have said they will either start installing them, add more or use them on a trial basis.

In the failed bombing attempt on Dec. 25, U.S. authorities say a young Nigerian named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear during a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Some officials have said a full-body scanner, which can 'see' through people's clothing to detect bombs or weapons, might have headed off the attack before it was attempted.

Thursday's meeting came just a day after another airport scare, this time in Germany.

Part of Munich airport was closed Wednesday as officials searched in vain for a man who left a security checkpoint with a bag containing a laptop after it had triggered an alert for possible explosives.

The incident appeared to have been a false alarm, with the passenger unaware of the alert and having left the security area in a hurry to catch a plane.

© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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