ROME - Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini defended Tuesday the use of full-body scanners to boost airport security against complaints that they invade privacy, saying the need for safety was paramount.
Some airports are bringing in the scanners, which can see through clothing, after a Nigerian was able to smuggle explosive chemicals onto a US plane on Christmas Day but was stopped from detonating them by fellow passengers.
"It is the most reliable instrument," Frattini said in an interview on Radio 24.
The scanners could even detect "if a terrorist has swallowed a capsule full of explosives and could become a human bomb", which would escape a metal detector, he said.
Even if the scanners meant a "sacrifice" for passengers' privacy, the "right to security is essential for all other freedoms," the minister said.
Privacy is an inviolable right but if a person "does not have the confidence to take a plane because she fears that she could be sitting next to a man carrying explosives, that is a negation of liberty," Frattini said.
The minister said airport security may have been tightened since the 2001 attacks with hijacked airliners but we "cannot define as a collective psychosis the legitimate worries of millions and millions of citizens of the world".
Frattini said boosted security measures had already kept attacks in check, leading to the arrest of "several terror suspects" between 2006 and 2009.
But attackers were "seeking more and more sophisticated means to skirt the controls", he said.