As the privacy controversy around full-body security scans begins to simmer, its worth noting that courthouses and airport security checkpoints arent the only places where backscatter x-ray vision is being deployed. The same technology, capable of seeing through clothes and walls, has also been rolling out on U.S. streets.
American Science & Engineering, a company based in Billerica, Massachusetts, has sold U.S. and foreign government agencies more than 500 backscatter x-ray scanners mounted in vans that can be driven past neighboring vehicles to see their contents, Joe Reiss, a vice president of marketing at the company told me in an interview. While the biggest buyer of AS&Es machines over the last seven years has been the Department of Defense operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Reiss says law enforcement agencies have also deployed the vans to search for vehicle-based bombs in the U.S.
This product is now the largest selling cargo and vehicle inspection system ever, says Reiss.
Heres a video of the vans in action.
The Z Backscatter Vans, or ZBVs, as the company calls them, bounce a narrow stream of x-rays off and through nearby objects, and read which ones come back. Absorbed rays indicate dense material such as steel. Scattered rays indicate less-dense objects that can include explosives, drugs, or human bodies. That capability makes them powerful tools for security, law enforcement, and border control.
It would also seem to make the vans mobile versions of the same scanning technique thats riled privacy advocates as its been deployed in airports around the country. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is currently suing the DHS to stop airport deployments of the backscatter scanners, which can reveal detailed images of human bodies. (Just how much detail became clear last May, when TSA employee Rolando Negrin was charged with assaulting a coworker who made jokes about the size of Negrins genitalia after Negrin received a full-body scan.)
Its no surprise that governments and vendors are very enthusiastic about [the vans], says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of EPIC. But from a privacy perspective, its one of the most intrusive technologies conceivable.
AS&Es Reiss counters privacy critics by pointing out that the ZBV scans dont capture nearly as much detail of human bodies as their airport counterparts. The companys marketing materials say that its primary purpose is to image vehicles and their contents, and that the system cannot be used to identify an individual, or the race, sex or age of the person.
Though Reiss admits that the systems to a large degree will penetrate clothing, he points to the lack of features in images of humans like the one shown at right, far less detail than is obtained from the airport scans. From a privacy standpoint, Im hard-pressed to see what the concern or objection could be, he says.
But EPICs Rotenberg says that the scans, like those in the airport, potentially violate the fourth amendment. Without a warrant, the government doesnt have a right to peer beneath your clothes without probable cause, he says. Even airport scans are typically used only as a secondary security measure, he points out. If the scans can only be used in exceptional cases in airports, the idea that they can be used routinely on city streets is a very hard argument to make.
The TSAs official policy dictates that full-body scans must be viewed in a separate room from any guards dealing directly with subjects of the scans, and that the scanners wont save any images. Just what sort of safeguards might be in place for AS&Es scanning vans isnt clear, given that the company wont reveal just which law enforcement agencies, organizations within the DHS, or foreign governments have purchased the equipment. Reiss says AS&E has customers on all continents except Antarctica.
Reiss adds that the vans do have the capability of storing images. Sometimes customers need to save images for evidentiary reasons, he says. We do what our customers need. (forbes.com, 8.24.2010, Andy Greenberg) http://blogs.forbes.com/andygreenberg/2010/08/24/full-body-scan-technology-deployed-in-street-roving-vans
"To Achieve World
Government it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism,
their loyalty to family traditions and national identification" Brock Chisholm - Director of the World Health Organization
"A society whose citizens refuse to see and investigate the facts, who refuse to believe that their government and their media will routinely lie to them and fabricate a reality contrary to verifiable facts, is a society that chooses and deserves the Police State Dictatorship it's going to get." Ian Williams Goddard
The fact is that "political correctness" is all about creating uniformity. Individualism is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of the New World Order. They want a public that is predictable and conditioned to do as it's told without asking questions.
"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first." Thomas Jefferson
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