Authorities have announced that full-body scanners will be introduced at London’s Heathrow airport as part of an effort to prevent terrorists from smuggling explosives onto flights.
The scanners, which essentially produce naked images of passengers, will be online at all Heathrow terminals by the end of January, Stuart Butchers, a spokesman for BAA, which runs Heathrow, said. It’s not been decided if the scanners will be in use for all passengers, or only for those flying to the U.S.
The scanners are being implemented in the wake of the failed Dec. 25 terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam. Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab allegedly attempted to detonate smuggled explosives before being foiled by other passengers.
British Home Secretary Alan Johnson said the machines at Heathrow will be used on a random basis as part of a bolstered security strategy that will include more sniffer dogs, staff members trained to spot unusual passenger behavior and more sophisticated explosives-detection equipment, according to a L.A. Times report.
Critics of the scanners in Britain have called the technology “electronic strip-searching” because the machines see through clothing to generate detailed images of bodies, according to the L.A. Times. Johnson said the images are to be destroyed immediately after viewing, and the screeners would not be in the same room as the person being scanned, the L.A. Times reported.