Dutch to install scanners for all flights to US
Passengers flying to the United States from the Netherlands will have to undergo body scans after a bid to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner from Amsterdam, the interior minister said Wednesday.
The Hague--Guusje ter Horst told reporters that all available scanning machines at the city's Schiphol Airport would be put into use in January.
"It has been decided to use body scanners at Schiphol for all flights to the United States," she told a press conference.
"All 15 of the scanners currently available at Schiphol will be put into use within the next three weeks," once new software has been installed, the minister said.
This would "significantly improve passenger security as the machines can detect non-metal objects." Security at Schiphol is "good", she said.
Her announcement comes amid investigations into how a 23-year-old Nigerian was able to board a jet in Lagos bound for Amsterdam and then take a connecting flight to Detroit, while wearing underpants containing explosive chemicals.
Ter Horst said the investigation had so far failed to establish if Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had visited the Netherlands in the past.
The Dutch minister told reporters that the plot to blow up the plane over Detroit had been fairly professionally planned but that its execution was "amateurish".
"The preparation of the failed attack against passenger flight NW 253 Amsterdam-Detroit was fairly professional, but its execution was amateurish," ter Horst said.
"The explosive used is not easy to make and its production is not without risk," she added, quoting findings of the probe launched by Dutch authorities.
"The modus operandi and explosive are similar to earlier attacks," she said, without giving further details.
The attempt to blow up the Northwest airliner was foiled when a passenger leaped on Abdulmutallab as he struggled to detonate the explosives which had not been detected during a routine scan at the airport.
Body scans at airport security points are considered effective but privacy advocates oppose the machines because they scan beneath clothing to detect items that may be hidden from ordinary view.
Security experts believe, however, that the scanners could have detected the explosives that Abdulmutallab allegedly hid last week.
The Dutch government said after an initial scan, further checks would only be carried out if an anomaly was detected.
"This is a good alternative which respects privacy," ter Horst said, adding that the Netherlands did not need European parliament approval to use the system.
As Schiphol does not have enough scanners to screen all US-bound passengers, those not undergoing a body scan will be submitted to what she called a "deep search."
The EUR 150,000 (USD 215,000) scanning machines have so far only been used in random checks, said the country's national coordinator for counterterrorism, Erik Akerboom.
Airport spokeswoman Mirjam Snoerwang told AFP that only passengers on European flights were being screened if they agreed to the procedure.
Schiphol, the Netherlands' main airport, handles five million passengers to and from the United States a year, according to Snoerwang.
An Al-Qaeda affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula claimed Monday it was behind the failed bombing and threatened new attacks on the West.
In an Internet posting the group said a "technical fault" caused the plot's failure.