Amsterdam Airport Authorities: Special Scanners Not Used Because of Privacy Rights (UPDATED)
The Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reports today that Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport was not using special millimeter wave scanners that would have detected the explosive powder that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab used to set off the fizzled explosion aboard Northwest flight 253.
According to Schiphol airport spokesperson Mirjam Snoerwang, “European regulations tell us we can only put people through them on a voluntary basis. And objections have been raised with regards to privacy.” She also said that the millimeter wave technology security scans are still in the test phase.
Apparently, Schiphol airport has had 17 of these scanners since 2007.
Further, according to the Handelsblad:
The question remains whether the explosives could have destroyed the plane. Missile and explosives expert Herman Schöyer, formerly with European space agency ESA, doesn’t think so. “Most explosive materials have [to] be placed in high-pressure containers for an explosion to occur. That was not the case here,” Schöyer said. Even if the man had not been subdued immediately, Schöyer doesn’t believe the fire would have been much larger. “Eighty grammes of PETN burns away within a second and the seats are fire resistant. Although quenching was of course necessary. ”
Abdulmutallab could have made a significant hole in the side of the plane had he placed the PETN in a box against a wall, according to Schöyer. “Depending on the altitude of the aircraft and the difference between air pressure inside and outside the plane, this could have been fatal to the passengers. But if someone, like this man, ignites loose powder, it has little effect.”
Dutch counter-terrorism agency NCTb said “no irregularities were reported”. But immediately added no security is airtight and passengers can “carry potentially dangerous objects” on board.
Dutch military police are investigating a lead from an American couple that said they saw Abdulmutallab with a tall, well-dressed man aged about 50 at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. They have claimed the man spoke for Abdulmutallab and attempted to get him aboard Northwest flight 253 without a passport.
“At this moment we have no information on whether there was another guy,” a military police spokesman said. “We are checking all clues and information we get.” The spokesman said it would be unlikely the man could board the plane without showing his passport at some point in the boarding process.
For more details, please read “Unused body scan could have revealed explosive powder,” in the NRC Handelsblad.
The Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reports that the millimeter wave scanning equipment at the Amsterdam airport which “would have” detected the package of pentaerythritol tetranitrate hidden under the Nigerian’s clothes, has been standing idle since 2007:
Schiphol is only allowed to test it with passenger’s express consent and the European Commission has suspended the implementation of the technology, which was originally scheduled for next year, saying it needed more time to review its pros and cons.
According to the Handelsblad, the technology is controversial because the scan is so detailed it can show a persons’ genitals: “ Last year Naïma Azough, a member of parliament for the Dutch Green party, challenged justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin to take the scan himself and prove it would not show his genitals” And, “On the opposite side of the political spectrum, right-wing liberals and Christian democrats on Monday demanded the technology be implemented immediately. Christian democrat Sybrand van Haersma Buma dismissed the privacy claims as ‘tall stories.’”