Germany refuses full-body scanners for its airports

E.U. lawmakers vote to study the effects of the scanners on "health and privacy."

By Cyrus Farivar
Published October 27, 2008 3:10PM (EDT)

On Friday, Germany decided that it would not participate in European Union proposals for E.U. airports to use full-body scanner security checks, according to a spokeswoman for the German Interior Ministry, as reported by Reuters.

While the body scanners are currently in use in some E.U. countries, including the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, the spokeswoman called the use of these scanners "nonsense." Further, other E.U. lawmakers on Thursday had dubbed the scanners a "virtual strip search" -- and it's easy to see why.

As photos in the German magazine Der Spiegel clearly show, a full body scan of a woman clearly reveals the shape and outline of her breasts and vaginal area, while a scan of a man reveals his penis and testicles. Heck, based on the scan alone, you can just about figure out what religion he is -- perhaps this is the new security tactic for finding Muslims and Jews among us?

Given that our tax dollars are currently being used by the NSA to phone-tap "pillow talk" and phone sex calls between Americans abroad and their loved ones back home, I'm honestly surprised that a rogue TSA agent hasn't already figured out how to do a screen grab on those airport computers and post them on the Internet. Surely naked X-ray scan photos of celebrities should be worth something, no?

These same types of scanners have been used at some airports in the U.S. for at least a few years now, beginning in Orlando, Fla., in 2002, when the ACLU first made an issue of them. But in more recent years, they've been spreading pretty quickly at major airports in the U.S., and Las Vegas got them earlier this month.

Reported the Las Vegas Review Journal:

They are expected to be installed in Chicago; Atlanta; Newark, N.J.; Boston; Indianapolis; Tampa, Fla.; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and San Francisco.

According to a piece in the Boston Globe from July 2008, George Naccara, the TSA's federal security director for Logan, told the newspaper:

"They've turned down the intensity a bit so some of the images under the clothes will be fuzzy," he said. "They've also remotely located the person viewing the images so that person can't associate the image with the passenger. We don't have any capability to store or to print any of these images."

I call b.s. on "not having the capability to store or print any of these images." Dude, you're using a computer. It's designed to store information -- how can you not store any of the images?

Tampa's airport got the scanners in August, Miami got them in July, Baltimore's BWI airport got them in May, Los Angeles' LAX airport got them in April and Phoenix's airport began testing in February 2007. London's Heathrow airport has been using them in its Terminal 4 since 2004.

After the test in Phoenix last fall, an Associated Press report at the time stated that reporters were shown a censored version of the images.

Reporters were only shown an example of a female body image, which was a three-dimensional image of a very fit woman in her brassiere and underwear. TSA describes this as similar to a "fuzzy photo negative."

Privacy advocates say the images are more graphic than that.

"If you want to see a naked body, this is a naked body," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's program on technology and liberty.

So how long will it take before an American aiport follows the German example?

Cyrus Farivar

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