UK airports to use full-body scanners in security move


NEW FULL-BODY scanners are already being ordered by the British Airports Authority, British prime minister Gordon Brown said yesterday morning as he outlined a new regime of tightened airport security.

Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Brown pre-empted the findings of his own review by saying passengers must expect to be scanned by the controversial scanners. The devices have received mixed appraisals on whether they are suitable to detect the new type of explosive that 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is accused of using in an attempt to blow up an aircraft over Detroit on Christmas Day.

Since that attempted attack, an urgent review into airport security has begun. Britain’s transport secretary, Andrew Adonis, is expected to report its findings to parliament this week. BAA, which operates six British airports, said yesterday it would move quickly to install full-body scanners at London’s Heathrow.

“Now that the government has given the go-ahead, we will introduce full-body scanners as soon as practical,” a spokesman for BAA said. He added that BAA was only looking at introducing the scanners at London-Heathrow – Europe’s busiest airport by passenger numbers – at this stage.

A government source said passenger profiling and the purchase of more scanners are likely to be among the review’s recommendations and that the government will install the scanners “with or without” the international co-operation it had said it needed in the aftermath of the attempted terror attack. The source pointed to the decision by Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport to install the 17 scanners it first bought two years ago but was unable to activate after receiving EU advice that there were privacy and human rights implications.

This dictat was used by the department for transport to explain why four of the UK’s own scanners lay unused at Heathrow.

The prime minister’s eagerness to show his government is responding to the possibility of terrorists using different types of explosives came as he also had to admit Downing Street may have oversold his hand in moving to tackle the threat posed by Yemen, where the alleged bomber is thought to have been trained by an al-Qaeda offshoot.

Mr Brown announced on Friday that a conference on January 28th to address Afghanistan will now also address what he believed to be the “failing state” of Yemen.

Over the weekend Downing Street added that Mr Brown and Mr Obama had agreed in a telephone conversation that Britain and the US would jointly fund a counter-terrorism police unit in Yemen. Yesterday afternoon the White House said it was a discussion held only at official level.

This morning Mr Brown admitted there had been “no direct contact” between the two leaders on the issue and that the US and British counter-terrorism initiatives had been going on “for some time”.

The decision to support the installation of new £100,000 body scanners will be criticised since many industry insiders believe the machines are flawed.

– ( Guardian service)