Random body scan checking to be mandatory

Airport news for Flights,Heathrow on 29/01/2010.

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Ministers confirmed that air passengers will be be given no excuses to avoid going through full body scanners once the devices are installed next week at Heathrow Airport. Full body pat down, which is NOW used to travellers at US airports, will not be implemented despite warnings from the Equality and Human Rights Commission that the new scanning devices, which capture images of naked bodies, could violate privacy laws under the Human Rights Act.

Transport Minister Paul Clark informed parliamentarians that airport security officials will randomly select passengers who would be scanned by the machines. Later this year, new sets of scanners that could identify liquid-based explosives will be introduced at airports as well.

Meanwhile, Counter-Terrorism Minister Lord West told that the UK government had firmly ruled out the use of ethnic or religious profiling. Instead, airport security staff will apply behavioural profiling to spot passengers who act suspiciously.

Earlier, Home Secretary Alan Johnson revealed its move to elevate the country’s level of terror threat to ‘severe’, which means that an attack is highly possible. Reports said that the decision was based on earlier threats from a Yemeni terrorist group.

Body scanner trials are due to be introduced at Heathrow next week. The trials will utilize two different scanning technologies: backscatter and millimetre wave. Backscatter technology, which is now used at Manchester Airport, exposes travellers to low level X-rays; while the second type of device, which uses millimetre wave system, reveals a 3D image of the traveller.

Both scanning technologies have raised privacy worries among travellers due to the semi-nude images that the devices capture. The Department for Transport however assured that the images cannot be saved, printed or transmitted.

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