Thanks to last Christmas’ “Underwear Bomber” more and more airports all over the world have started digging deep into their pockets to purchase those insidious “full-body scanners” for screening passengers – starting, unfortunately, with Amsterdam’s own Schiphol Airport, where they probably are still feeling the embarrassment of being the place where Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab embarked on his ill-fated flight to Detroit. The awkward privacy and civil liberties implications of showing people virtually naked this way – in addition to these machines not being guaranteed to actually work as they’re supposed to – have given rise to a lot of fierce criticism, but with no tangible result so far in discouraging these expensive purchases.
But now, unexpectedly, and as Spiegel Online reports, opponents of these machines have a noteworthy new ally: Pope Benedict XVI, who over the past weekend took the occasion of a visit by a group of airline-industry representatives to try to bring his audience back to some elementary first-principles, like “the primary asset to be safeguarded and treasured is the person, in his or her integrity” and “it is essential never to lose sight of respect for the primacy of the person.”
Spiegel Online’s report actually was prompted by this piece in the Guardian that is even a little bit better (quite apart from being in English), in that it points out that the Pope is himself in that VIP-class of people who never need to worry about any sort of screening no matter how much they travel. Then again, one can also suppose that empathy is an important element of his job-description.
UPDATE: Could the revolution have already begun? The London Times now has this story about how two Muslim women, set to fly to Pakistan, refused to undergo full-body scans (by those £80,000 “Rapiscan” machines! Is “Rapiscan” pronounced with a long “a,” by any chance?) a short while ago at Manchester Airport. (I first found out about the incident, however, from the Nederlands Dagblad, which is itself a religious newspaper.)