Airports around the world will quickly begin to employ controversial full-body scanners following last week's attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner, while Transport Canada said it is still examining the technology.
Officials from the Netherlands and Nigeria announced Wednesday that they will introduce full-body imaging that can reveal objects hidden beneath people's clothes. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab travelled through airports in both countries with concealed explosives before boarding Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day.
Dutch Interior Minister Guusje ter Horst said the scanners will be in place at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport within the next month, and will be used to screen all passengers travelling to the United States.
Nigeria's airport authority said it would buy and install 3-D full-body scanners early in the new year.
British and German authorities have also expressed a willingness to embrace the technology, even though previous attempts to introduce the machines throughout the European Union have been stymied by privacy concerns. The devices project an image of the naked body along with that of any concealed objects.
Maryse Durette, a Transport Canada spokesperson, said the agency is working with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to review a pilot program of the devices conducted at the airport in Kelowna, B.C., in 2008. But she said there is no schedule for bringing the scanners into general use in Canada, even in the wake of last week's failed attack.
"Keeping Canadians safe and secure is of the utmost importance for Transport Canada and the Canadian government," she said. "As far as implementing new technology, no decisions have been made."
Ms. Durette said Transport Canada has been focused on maintaining the flow of air travellers through Canadian airports during the holiday season, while exploring options for new screening technology.
Earlier this year, Canada's Privacy Commissioner approved a federal plan to adopt the use of full-body scanners after CATSA expressed a need to search passengers for weapons that can elude a conventional metal detector.
Under the approved plan, a security officer would view the holographic image generated by the scan in a separate room without seeing the traveller in person, Chantal Bernier, the assistant federal privacy commissioner, told a meeting of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies in October. Although the quality of the image makes it hard to identify the traveller's face, the plan also requires the image be deleted the moment the passenger leaves the screening portal. Travellers will also be given the option of a "pat down" instead of the 3D screening, making the scanner a "low privacy risk," Ms. Bernier said.
Full-body scanners are currently used in 19 U.S. airports. A plan to make the machines mandatory was blocked by Congress last year over issues of privacy.
On a visit to Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto Wednesday, U.S. ambassador David Jacobson said wider use of full-body scanners is being considered in a review of aviation security ordered by President Barack Obama.
"That is one of the possibilities, but there are others," Mr. Jacobson said.
With reports from Beatrice Fantoni, The Canadian Press and The Associated PressReport Typo/Error
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