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CLA criticises no opt-out for body scanners

CLA criticises no opt-out for body scanners

Full body scanningThe announcement that full body scanners will be used at Australian airports is drawing flak from many quarters. It is particularly galling, CLA says, that the Australian Government won’t allow “opt out” alternative procedures, as occurs in Europe and the USA. This amounts to ‘digital strip searching’, CLA Director and media spokesperson, Tim Vines, says.

CLA criticises no opt-out for body scanners

Civil libertarians are worried by proposed legislation meaning passengers will not be able to opt out of undergoing full body scans at Australian airports, the ABC reports.

The Federal Government will introduce legislation this week (6 Feb 2012) so the technology can be rolled out in all of Australia’s international airports.

The move follows a trial in Sydney and Melbourne.

Except for travellers with serious medical conditions, all passengers will have to go through the scanners if asked by airport staff.

Civil Liberties Australia director Tim Vines says the scanners will amount to an unnecessary digital strip search of citizens who want to travel.

He says passengers should be allowed to request a pat-down.

“In the European Union, where they do allow these types of scanners, they have issued a directive that says governments must provide citizens with an option to opt out,” he said.

“We think that, as in the US and in Europe, people should have the option of opting for pat-downs rather than having to go through the digital strip search of the full body scan.”

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says people’s bodies will appear only as outlines, and the images will not be able to be copied and will not be stored.

“[The scanner shows] a generic male outline, a generic female outline – it simply will identify the spot on the outline where there’s something that needs to be checked,” Mr Albanese told Sky News.

‘Perfectly safe’

Full body scanners were introduced as airports ramped up security after the foiled 2009 plot when a Nigerian man boarded a plane with explosives in his underwear.

Their use in the US has been criticised on health and privacy grounds, and flyers there can opt to receive a pat-down instead of going through the machines.

But only one type of full-body airport scanner – the backscatter x-ray machine which is used in some US airports – exposes individuals to ionising radiation.

The Federal Government says that type of machine will not be used in Australia.

“The millimetre-wave body scanners are perfectly safe and one body scan is comparable to passive exposure to a mobile phone used several metres away,” Mr Albanese said in a statement.

Mr Vines says he is pleased a “safer, if still intrusive,” technology has been chosen but believes the devices have no track record of making airports safer.

He says a security agent in the US was able to smuggle a handgun through a full body scanner multiple times.

“What we’ve seen is a huge amount of money, a huge amount of focus, thrown towards what’s called in the US ‘security theatre’.

“It’s an expensive production just to show that something is being done, whether or not that something is effective,” he said.

“In response to each incident – which we were told wouldn’t happen because of the technology that was in place before it – new technology is brought in to assure us that everything is safe.

“But there is no guarantee that these new devices will be protective, and what we’ve given up in terms of civil liberties and our privacy is a real loss.”

Mr Albanese said tens of thousands of Australians had volunteered to be checked during the trial at the Sydney and Melbourne airports.

“We have the most secure and safe aviation record of any country in the world and we need to make sure that we keep that,” he said.

“The public would rather that there are not security threats, but given that there are, they need to know the Government is doing all in its power.”


  1. I mailed the Australian Dept of Infrastructure and Transport on their official contact mail address and asked them for the reports they were basing their information that millimeter wave scanners were proven to not be harmful to pregnant women. No answer at all.

    Suffice to say that I will not visit Australia on my Asian trip.

  2. Please for the love of God and freedom do NOT allow these scanners to go ahead. I know its too late but its important for the Australian people to fight this, look what happened to the United states, its a total police state. Australia was never attacked and doesn’t have any potential of terrorism yet we follow this illusion that terrorists are everywhere waiting for blow us up. Random searches will encourage racial profiling, radiation will kill us and the whole thing is an invasion of privacy and our freedoms.

  3. Anthony Albanese’s office has just confirmed that the scanners WILL pick up the prostheses worn by the tens of thousands of women who are breast cancer survivors. These are not metal, but made from a soft fabric, and for these women flying from now on, could well be a humiliating and highly offensive experience.

  4. An Open Letter To The Australian Government.

    After many years of travelling to Australia I and many (Approx 400) of my fellow travellers will not be coming to your country this or any subsequent years, why?, body scanners.

    I have requested on many occasions evidence that your proposed scanner technology will have any effect on my pacemaker implant. Not even a reply.

    What I need from your government is an absolute guarantee that if the settings on my pacemaker are changed as a result of going through one of these machines and that if I am unable to travel BACK home that you will cover the cost of resetting the implant or an alternative method of transport.

    The only other way that we will be satisfied is to provide me/us with the actual proof of safety, this WILL be verified by my cardiologist who will OK this for insurance purposes.

    I know I will get no response so this is to inform you that we will taking our holidays in any country which does not have these machines IE New zealand.

    Thank you for all the wonderful holidays maybe we’ll see you all in a decade or so.


    David Stanton (England)

    David Stanton
  5. Interesting that Albenese says they’re safe (sorry, Perfectly safe which to me means they cannot do harm to anyone).
    If that’s so then why:
    ”Aside from those with serious medical conditions, any passenger who refuses may be denied the right to board their flight”.?

    I found this study on the TeraHertz waves that these milliwave body scanners use.

    Sounds perfectly safe for the politicians that don’t need to be scanned.

    And can someone tell me what the role of journalists are nowadays?
    Is it just to parrot whatever our ignorant or criminal (it has to be one or the other) politicians have to say.
    Or should they look a tad deeper? Using this story as an example perhaps the statement “But Mr Albenese these scanners are NOT perfectly safe as shown in peer reviewed science, could you respond please?”
    I’m beginning to believe that msn now exists to assist in the dumbing down of the population as well as to assist with whatever corporate/political agenda is being pushed at the time.

  6. Are Pregnant women and children and babies and senior also being forced to use body scanners? These 2 articles indicate full body scanner increase cancer risk, especially
    1. People over 65 years old, because it is harder for their bodies to repair DNA

    2. Cancer Survivors

    3. Pregnant Women

    4. Children under 12, because they are rapidly developing tissues which is sensitive to radiation.

    The millimeter wave scanners emit a wavelength of ten to one millimeter called a millimeter wave, these waves are considered Extremely High Frequency (EHF), the highest radio frequency wave produced. EHF runs a range of frequencies from 30 to 300 gigahertz, they are also abbreviated mmW. These waves are also known as tetrahertz (THz) radiation. The force generated from tetrahertz waves is small but the waves can ‘unzip’ or tear apart double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the DNA that could interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication

    Sarge Sa, on CLA's Facebook wrote
  7. I welcome the advent of security body scanners at Australian airports. I have several metal protheses and and a metal screw in my body. Every time I go through a security check at an Australian airport, I trigger the metal detector alarm. I am then subjected to quite invasive “pat downs” Several of these “pat downs” would be best described as gropes. My protheses are in my knees and the screw is in one of my heels. Feeling around my groin during these “pat downs”, can only be regarded as a grope.

    I feel that my civil liberties are more endangered by the present system than by body scanning.

    Best Regards,

    Carl Clifford

    Carl, Sydney
  8. I was taught that freedom is having the right to say NO. Well there goes the illusion that I am free. What next. Observation drones in the sky. Oh wait, they are nearly here too.

    Wish I was on the security industry gravy train.
    Mags, Brisbane

  9. To the Minister for Transport
    This is the first time I have felt compelled to write to a Minister on a subject.

    The proposal to install body scanners at all Australian airports is unnecessary, dangerous, invasive, and frighteningly Orwellian and I respectfully urge you to disregard this proposal. It is wrong and completely unnecessary to have such dangerous and invasive devices in our airports, or anywhere for that matter, for (including but not restricted to) the following reasons:

    • There is simply no justification for these devices as there have been no significant instances of terrorism in Australia
    • Any terrorist threats in Australia are minimal and do not justify the action proposed 
    • Statistically there is more chance of dying from a bee sting or a champagne cork that by terrorism
    • There are University studies (John Hopkins University, Columbia University et al) that show that these devices cause increased risk of cancer in passengers
    • The same University studies (John Hopkins University, Columbia University et al) show that these devices cause a massive increase in cancer to the operators
    • Pregnant women and children are particularly at risk of cancer from these devices 
    • As well as the unacceptable prospect of killing Australian workers, the costs of cancer treatment is an onerous and unnecessary burden on Australian society
    • The scanning process is a humiliating invasion of privacy
    • These scanners would apparently not stopped the alleged “underwear bomber” in any event 

    In the USA the installation of scanners at airports has been followed by a incremental proliferation of further draconian “Police State” measures such as mobile scanners on roads and at football games. Corruption and abuse has accompanied the administration of these devices in the USA with sexual assault, theft and publishing of private images and information 

    These devices are unnecessary in Australia, prompting the question: who is profiting from their installation? By any cost benefit analysis there is not sufficient risk to justify the cost, inconvenience, humiliation and danger to Australian citizens from these devices 

    In addition to the logical points above – and very importantly – the implementation of these devices would be a descent into cowardly and fearful submission to the perceived risks of the real world unbefitting red-blooded Australians

    Please advise whether you will oppose this unecessary, draconian proposal. 


    Richard, Adelaide 

    Richard, Adelaide

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