Could Backscatter Scanners Be Coming To City Streets?

The TSA’s rollout of full-body backscatter scanners at airports hasn’t pleased too many people (other than the manufacturers of said scanners). Now a handful of newly uncovered documents show that the Dept. of Homeland Security has been considering bringing that invasive technology out of the airport and out to the public realm.

The documents (scroll down to read them), obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) demonstrate DHS’ interest in exploring the use of these scanners, among other devices, to monitor everything from city streets to train stations and large events.


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.

“This would allow them to take these technologies out of the airport and into other contexts like public streets, special events and ground transit,” says an attorney with EPIC. “It’s a clear violation of the fourth amendment that’s very invasive, not necessarily effective, and poses all the same radiation risks as the airport scans.”

She says such surveillance is tantamount to a police officer searching your bag without probable cause or consent.

A rep for the TSA tells Forbes that the agency “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.”

Epic Body Scan Foia Docs Feb 2011[1]

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

Thanks to Harper for the tip!

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