Would YOU be happy to take the 'naked' body scan?
By Vanessa Allen
Last updated at 11:05 AM on 29th December 2009
Hi-tech body scanners can see through clothes to detect hidden weapons or explosives such as those used in the failed Christmas Day plot.
They produce an anatomical image of passengers' bodies, including breasts and genitalia, and have been attacked as too intrusive. Critics have described them as a 'virtual strip search'.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson said the Government was looking at the use of the full body scanners, but admitted there were cost and privacy issues.
The scanners are on a year's trial at Manchester Airport, where security officers have already been banned from using them on children following warnings that the images could break child pornography laws which outlaw the creation of images of youngsters.
The machines cost £80,000 each, meaning it would cost millions to install them in all
of Britain's airports. Inevitably the cost would be handed on to passengers through higher air fares.
But security experts have said they would speed up safety checks by quickly revealing any concealed weapons or explosives.
Heightened security ordered by the U.S. in the wake of the failed bomb plot has
caused massive delays on both sides of the Atlantic, as airports struggle to cope with the new measures.
The machines would speed up checks as they eliminate the need for passengers to take off their shoes, belts, coats and scarves and would reduce the number who were then subjected to 'pat-down' searches.
Instead, the fully-clothed passenger steps between two screens and is instructed to stand with fingers touching the sides of the head, to provide a clear image of the body.
The machine performs a simultaneous front and back scan using electromagnetic waves, similar to a low-level X-ray.
According to the manufacturer, Rapiscan, passengers can be scanned safely up to 5,000 times a year. They say a dental X-ray produces 20,000 times more radiation.
The scans show every contour of the body, including intimate areas, and also reveal body piercings, colostomy bags, false limbs and even breast enlargements.
Airport security officers inspect the images in a separate office, away from the scanner, to reduce the potential embarrassment for passengers.
If the scan is clear the whole process should take around 20 seconds, and the image is then deleted. If security officers see anything suspect, the passenger is searched.
Officials have said the images cannot be stored or captured, but the scheme has led to fears that scans of celebrities could be leaked on to the internet.
Civil rights campaigners have expressed fears that the scans are too intrusive and could prove offensive, particularly for Muslim women. Security officers at Manchester have been warned not to scan under-18s over fears that the legislation could lead to them facing criminal charges.
There have been no known terrorism arrests at Manchester since the trial began in October. It is not known if the machines have been used to detect other offences at the airport.
When the trial ends in ten months, the Government will decide if the scanners should be used nationwide.
In the scheme, passengers can opt not to have a full body scan and to go through a traditional metal detector and 'pat-down' search instead.
But critics have questioned how useful an 'optional' search is, and whether it would be feasible if the scanners are installed permanently.
The Home Secretary said the Government would weigh the privacy and cost issues against national security.
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Incident mystifies officials; no one injured
A wind turbine weighing nearly 190 tons collapsed early Sunday morning in rural Madison County , leaving experts stumped as to what could have brought down the towering structure.
The windmill, located on Buyea Road in Fenner, northeast of Cazenovia and several miles south of Canastota, fell into a cornfield at about 4 a.m., shutting down the 19 other turbines in the wind farm operated by Enel North America, officials said.
No one was injured.
It was the first time the company had seen one of its turbines topple.
"This is just not an everyday occurrence," Enel North America spokesman Hank Sennott said. "I'd rather wait until we have a chance to investigate rather than speculating as to what could have happened."
However, Sennott said he doesn't believe sabotage occurred. He also said he doesn't believe the force of the wind could have knocked over the turbine, which soared more than 200 feet above the town's rolling countryside. But he would not answer questions about what possibilities the company is considering for the cause of the collapse.
Buyea Road resident David Kalenak said the crumpled remains of the wind turbine attracted hundreds of onlookers throughout the day on the rural road, which usually sees just one or two cars each hour.
"I think a couple of my neighbors are a little nervous," said Kalenak, who didn't hear the crash. "This one was in a field, but others are in the line of homes."
The turbine was one of 20 erected at Fenner Wind Farm in 2001. The farm's turbines produce enough electricity to serve at least 10,000 homes, Sennott said.
Wind turbines have become an increasingly common feature of the Central New York landscape. In Lewis and Madison counties, there are five established projects, most along U.S. Route 20 or in the Lowville area.
There are no wind farms in Oneida or Herkimer counties, but three projects are pending in Herkimer County, according to data from New York Independent System Operator, a nonprofit organization that operates New York's electrical grid. One plan for the Herkimer County town of Litchfield has raised the ire of residents near Sauquoit in Oneida County; they say turbines would mar the landscape and pose possible risks to home values and health.
Fenner town Supervisor Russell Cary he was shocked by the incident, but didn't think it should spark cause for concern.
"I think it's a freak thing," said Cary, who noted he fielded calls from concerned residents throughout the day.
"This isn't something that normally happens," he said. "It's been an exciting day."
Sennott said the company is not concerned about the possibility of another turbine collapsing. Instead, he said, the company's efforts will be directed toward securing the site of the crash and discovering what caused it.
Safety fencing was erected around the site of the crash Sunday night, and company workers planned to stand guard to ensure no one would be able to remove debris from the site. The company plans to hire security officers in the coming days to protect the site.
Replacing the turbine would likely cost between $2 million and $3 million, but it's not likely a replacement turbine would be installed immediately, Sennott said.
"It's not like we have an extra one of these things sitting in the backyard," Sennott said.