Australian airports to get x-ray body scanners for 12 month trial

By danwarne, July 4 2011
Australian airports to get x-ray body scanners for 12 month trial

Full body scanners that penetrate to the skeletal level will be introduced into Australian airports for a year-long trial.

Legislation passed in Parliament today approving the use of the scanners, however the government will only say that they will be introduced "later this year" and won't say where, "for operational reasons".

However, Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O'Connor, promised the scanners will only be used on people for whom the police have "a reasonable suspicion that the person is carrying drugs internally".

The scanners will not be used randomly as they are in the United States, O'Connor pledged.

He also said they used a completely different technology to the "backscatter x-ray" scanners used overseas.

The scanners will be kept in a separate room at the airport, away from regular security checkpoints, and will only be used if a passenger was suspected of having concealed drugs internally to their body.

Suspected drug couriers will not even have to agree to the scan if they don't want to. “The option of an internal body scan will more quickly exonerate the innocent and ensure a minimum of delay for legitimate travellers,” O’Connor said in a statement.

"To conduct a body scan, Customs will have to form a reasonable suspicion that a person is carrying drugs internally and the suspect must consent to being scanned. If they refuse, they will instead undergo a hospital examination, which is the current practice."

O'Connor said that in the last year, AFP officers spent 4,600 hours in hospital waiting rooms, guarding 48 drug couriers who were intercepted with heroin, cocaine and other drugs secreted in their body.

The trial of internal body scanning technology will begin later this year, provided the legislation is passed.

Backscatter x-ray body scanners have been highly controversial in the USA, with pilots threatening to boycott their use.

Passengers who choose to opt out of the x-ray process are subjected to an invasive pat down, which requires TSA officers to thoroughly feel a passenger's sensitive genital region.

Australian authorities have shown no indication that they plan to go to the same lengths as the US in airport security procedures. Some airports do currently use backscatter x-ray scanners, but only to scan drink bottles to make sure they don't have explosive liquids in them.

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