Body scanners everywhere

The Department of Homeland Security is looking at using its hated body scanners outside the airport:

Giving Transportation Security Administration agents a peek under your clothes may soon be a practice that goes well beyond airport checkpoints. Newly uncovered documents show that as early as 2006, the Department of Homeland Security has been planning pilot programs to deploy mobile scanning units that can be set up at public events and in train stations, along with mobile x-ray vans capable of scanning pedestrians on city streets.

The non-profit Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) on Wednesday published documents it obtained from the Department of Homeland Security showing that from 2006 to 2008 the agency planned a study of of new anti-terrorism technologies that EPIC believes raise serious privacy concerns. The projects range from what the DHS describes as “a walk through x-ray screening system that could be deployed at entrances to special events or other points of interest” to “covert inspection of moving subjects” employing the same backscatter imaging technology currently used in American airports. . .

One project allocated to Northeastern University and Siemens would mount backscatter x-ray scanners and video cameras on roving vans, along with other cameras on buildings and utility poles, to monitor groups of pedestrians, assess what they carried, and even track their eye movements. In another program, the researchers were asked to develop a system of long range x-ray scanning to determine what metal objects an individual might have on his or her body at distances up to thirty feet.

TSA responded to the Forbes story saying that they have no plans to test body scanners in mass transit environments, but that doesn’t explain why they are funding studies to do exactly that. (Forbes has the documents.) The answer might come from a loophole in TSA’s carefully worded denial: “TSA has not tested the advanced imaging technology that is currently used at airports in mass transit environments and does not have plans to do so.” This leaves open that a slightly different technology might be used.

But never mind that, it pales in comparison to the other part of the story: roving body-scanning vans. DHS vans would prowl the streets searching everyone, no warrants, no notification, no fuss.

Another great idea from the civil libertarians in the Obama administration.

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