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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I wear many hats but history, economics and political observance have always been a passion. I am a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Business with a degree in Information Systems and Digital Business with a minor in European History. I work for a small mom-and-pop IT consulting and software design company. We deal in servicing mostly government funded non-profit mental and behavioral health care agencies in the state of Ohio. In this I deal with Medicaid and Medicare funds and have a little insight on the boondoggles of government there. Thankfully the undemanding nature of my daily profession gives me ample time to read and stay aware of our current state of affairs which I find stranger than fiction in many instances. In addition to being in the IT field, I have also been self employed with a small contracting company so I might know a thing or two about the plight of small business that employs 71% of the American workforce. I however don't draw my knowledge from my day jobs, which I have had a few; I draw it from an intense obsession with facts and observation about the world in which I live. I do have formal education in things such as history, economics and finance particularly as it pertains to global issues, but I have come to find much of what I thought I knew from the formalities of a state university I had to unlearn through much time and independent research. I hope you enjoy what I bring you which is not often heard in the mainstream news outlets. I would like to think my own personal editorializing is not only edifying but thought provoking while not at all obnoxious. That last one may be a hard to achieve.

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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