Netherlands to subject all US-bound air passengers to full-body scan following incident on Christmas Day

Friday, January 1, 2010, 20:29 by Jose Philip

The government of the Netherlands has decided that that all passengers flying from the Netherlands to the United States will have to go through a full-body scan.

This follows the incident on Christmas Day when a Nigerian man on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Detroit in the United States attempted to blow up the plane with explosives that he had hidden in his underwear.

A full-body scanner uses radio-waves in order to produce a picture of the body that shows substances hidden inside the clothing. It is far more advanced than the common metal detector, which cannot detect bombs.

Guusje Ter Horst, Interior Minister of the Netherlands, told a news conference in the Hague that the full-body scanners will be in place within 3 weeks. She explained that the scanners will be used for all flights to the United States since “no security is ever water-proof.”

Even though Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam already has about 15 full-body scanners, their use is restricted owing to fears over privacy since the scanner reveals “intimate areas” of a passenger’s body, Guusje Ter Horst said.

However, she added, a new software has removed this problem – with the software first scanning the image and alerting officials to any foreign object on the body, so that a full-body search can then be done and the foreign substance taken away.

According to Guusje Ter Horst, a full-body scanner may have spotted the explosives that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian, carried on him before he boarded the trans-Atlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on December 25, 2009.

Before boarding the Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit, Abdulmutallab had, in fact, gone through a full security check at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam – including having his bags checked and passing through a metal-detector. Also, the man had carried a valid Nigerian passport as well as a valid US visa.

Abdulmuttalab could not succeed in his attempt to explode the bomb in the plane as he was overpowered just before could detonate the explosive.

However, the use of the full-body scanners at airports has raised objections over the question of personal privacy.

The two types of scanners to be used at airports in the Netherlands – the millimeter wave screening device and the X-ray backscatter – can see through the clothing of a passenger to reveal concealed objects like liquids or compounds, which could be turned into explosives.

However, these scanners generate a detailed image of the body, which, according to critics, are “intrusive, potentially embarrassing, as well as problematic.”

According to the United States Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), 40 advanced imaging units are currently being used at 19 airports in the United States.