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Italy Starts Body-Scanners On Passengers At Airports

  • Sabina Castelfranco

The first body scanner in Italy went into operation Thursday for passengers flying to the United States from Rome's Fiumicino airport. Authorities assured that privacy will be guaranteed and that the scanners are not harmful in any way. Italy is the latest European country to make use of body scanners after Britain, France and the Netherlands.

Italy is the latest country in Europe to begin experimenting with body scanners. For the next four to six weeks body scanners will be tested in Italian airports. The first one began to be used Thursday at Fiumicino airport's Terminal 5 in Rome. For the time being it is only for passengers traveling to the United States.

Passengers can still choose not to walk through the open cabin and opt for the hand search. But if the experiment goes well this will no longer be possible in the future. Body scanners are also planned for Milan's Malpensa airport and Venice. And in the future they will be used on other sensitive flights to Britain and Israel.

Authorities have rejected all criticism about the new body scanners. They say they are not a waste of time. It only takes a passenger 6 seconds to go through. If the light is green there is no further delay. But if an object is detected, then passengers must also be hand searched.

The body scanners detect all metallic and non-metallic items: liquids, gels, plastic, ceramics, weapons, standard and assembled explosives, drugs, money and paper.

Everyone will be subject to them including children, pregnant women and passengers with pacemakers. They must raise their arms and walk through.

Health Minister Ferruccio Fazio assured the scanners are absolutely safe and cause no problems to health. He said a commission of experts from his ministry confirmed this.

Only passengers with certified disabilities and medical conditions will be able to avoid the body scanner.

The monitors reproduce a standard human image and personnel have been trained to cancel scan records immediately after they're made.

Transport Minister Altero Matteoli said he does not think there are any problems with regards to privacy. Particularly after seeing how it works one has all the guarantees one needs.

Travelers say they wish they weren't needed but because of the terrorism threats since September 11, it's something the world must learn to live with.

This passenger said it's a price that one must pay for security when you travel because security is of utmost importance.

Even Pope Benedict XVI clearly appeared to be referring to the use of body scanners when he said 10 days ago that human dignity must be preserved even when countries protect their citizens against acts of terrorism.

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