The move reflected the determination of Prime Minister Gordon Brown to deploy the controversial technology as soon as possible in the wake of the failed attack Christmas Day on a Detroit-bound airliner from Amsterdam. Such scanners are already being tested at a smaller English airport.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson told lawmakers that body scanners would have stood a "50% to 60% chance" of detecting the explosives concealed by alleged bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his underwear before he boarded the holiday Northwest Airlines flight.
However, Johnson added, the machines at Heathrow will not be used on all travelers but rather "on a random basis" as part of a beefed-up security strategy that would also include deploying more sniffer dogs, training staff to spot unusual passenger behavior and installing sophisticated explosives-detection equipment in all British airports by year’s end. "The scanners themselves aren’t the magic bullet here," Johnson said. "We need to use this perhaps not as the first line, but as the second line . . . of our defense."
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