U.S. and Dutch Spat Over Image Scanners

Passenger gets a full body image scan.
Passenger gets a full body image scan.
CBS

CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports Dutch and U.S. officials today offered new details of their apparent dispute over why body scans weren't already being used in the Netherlands.

In a letter, the Dutch Minister of Justice blamed the U.S. saying "the United States didn't accept (body scanners) as a primary screening resource until now ... and ... also wanted to have a metal detector" used.

In a statement, the U.S. Homeland Security Departmetn countered by saying the Dutch don't "need the United States' permission" to use better security, such as body scanners. "We obviously support advanced imaging technology, as we use it here."

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Wednesday, officials at Reagan National airport showed how 40 body scanners now in use at 19 airports can detect objects like a cell phone. There are plans to quickly deploy 150 more machines, with 300 more on the way.

Some say the scanners are an invasion of privacy. But they're more effective than pat-downs or metal detectors.

Explicit images are made of people who've done nothing wrong. But the images aren't stored, faces are blurred and the image reviewers don't see the actual passengers.

There's radiation exposure. But the exposure is tiny, equivalent to flying in a plane for two minutes.

Airline passenger Jenny Houck said, "It wouldn't bother me at all, as long as I'm getting on that airplane, and getting off."

Since even body scans won't catch every security risk, there's pressure to do more. Some say political correctness should be abandoned in favor of profiling passengers based on factors such as behavior, profession and age such as authorities do in Israel.

"I mean you have to put people in the right boxes, if I may say so, in order to have the right conclusion," said Pini Schiff, former director, security division, Israel Airport Authority.

One controversy with the body scans is that passengers in the U.S. and the Netherlands can "opt out" and instead get a pat-down, which is widely considered less effective.

In other words, a terrorist can actually defeat the body scan by simply choosing the full pat down instead. Security officialls differ on how much a pat down can catch.

More coverage from CBSNews.com:

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Yemen, North Africa: Terrorism's New Home
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Opposition Grows to Transferring Gitmo Detainees to Yemen
Dick Cheney: Obama Stance "Makes Us Less Safe"
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Obama: "Systemic Failure" Allowed Attack
Roommate: Abdulmutallab Shunned Women
Abdulmutallab's Missing Months in Yemen
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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.