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Why Europe doesn't want an invasion of body scanners

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"Scanners also take up a lot of space. So, I hope that they will be used selectively, and restricted to a percentage of people. Otherwise, there will be long queues."

In the US, where around 40 machines are in use at 19 airports, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spent $25 million buying another 150 in September. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Jan. 7 that there would be an "acceleration" involving the introduction of a further 300.

But a privacy group accused the TSA of misleading the public with claims that scanners would not store or send their graphic images. The Electronic Privacy Information Center produced TSA documents from 2008, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, in which the administration specifies that the scanners must have the ability to store and send images. The TSA responded by saying that this was for test purposes and the machines would be delivered without those capabilities.

Plans in Eur­ope face more serious hurdles, not least the opposition of the European Com­mis­sion's incoming justice commissioner. Passengers "must have the option of undergoing a body search," says Viviane Reding, who is to take up her powerful portfolio later this month. She could draft a law ruling out mandatory body scans at airports, but has stopped short of saying she will.

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