The failed terrorist attack of 25 December 2009 on the Amsterdam-Detroit flight operated by Northwest Airlines puts the issue of aviation security back on the agenda. A committee of experts will meet on 7 January, announced a European Commission spokesman, to review a possible reinforcement of security measures in force in the EU. The question of body scanners will be discussed.

Several European countries have already announced the installation of this equipment to boost security checks at airports. There are no EU rules on the use of such scanners at present.

Just over a year ago, in late 2008, the Commission dropped plans to set up a framework for the installation of scanners at EU airports, saying it needed to "give itself more time" to analyse the suitability of such equipment. Body scanners emit waves that reveal passengers' anatomy through their clothing.

At the time, the technique raised an outcry in the European Parliament. MEPs considered it too intrusive and a violation of rules on the protection of privacy. Its consequences on health are also unknown. There could be a change ahead, however. Although there is not unanimity on the issue, some experts claim that the aborted attempt of 25 December would not have been possible if these advanced scanners had been used, since they would have revealed the explosives hidden in the undergarments of the young Nigerian, who attempted to blow up the aircraft. Classic metal detectors used at airports cannot detect this type of explosive.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has already announced that airports in the UK would gradually be equipped with body...

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