Documents Reveal TSA Research Proposal To Body-Scan Pedestrians, Train Passengers


Andy Greenberg

March 2, 2011

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.

The 173-page collection of contracts and reports, acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, includes contracts with Siemens Corporations, Northeastern University, and Rapiscan Systems. The study was expected to cost more than $3.5 million.

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1 Comment

  1. Tippy Canoe

    March 4, 2011 at 8:29 am

    The company that makes these backscatter vans is American Science & Engineering in Billerica, MA. This disturbing video is shot in Boston.

    AS&E’s contracts with the USG have exploded since 2005. These backscatter vans are in use in Iraq & Afghanistan and Border Patrol uses them. Several cities have also bought them. TSA even had a pilot program using them as far back as 2004. Also, larger units are used at ports. It was only a matter of time before other gov’t agencies got them.
    Annual reports ($$$) are listed under the Investor heading and are quite revealing.
    From the 2005 report:
    “In 2005, we booked $61 million in orders for ZBVs from the U.S.
    government (for use in counterterrorism and force protection),U.S.
    and international l…aw enforcement (for use in anti-terrorism and
    drug interdiction programs), and U.S. and international Customs
    (used in drug and trade fraud interdiction)….

    June 2004
    Major U.S. city becomes latest to acquire ZBVs for use in urban policing and counterterrorism

    July–Sept 2004
    ZBV and MobileSearch™ used in security applications at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions

    October 2004
    ZBV used for event security at the Boston Red Sox-NY Yankees American League Championship Series…”

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