Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A: Does hearing this about TSA surprise you?

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 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
We've heard about this idea before. The Touching Special Areas people deny it, of course, but two things about the denials:
Update: A TSA official responds in a statement that the “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.”
The tech that is currently used at airports, huh? What about related tech? You notice they don't say "We have not tested this type of technology and won't do it"; that'd be a flat denial with no wiggle room, whereas the actual denial...

A privacy assessment included in the documents for one aspect of the plans that focused on train security suggests that images wouldn’t be tied to any personally identifiable information such as a subject’s name. Any images shared outside the project or used for training purposes would have faces blurred, and employees using the system would be trained to avoid privacy violations, the document says. If the scanners were to adopt privacy enhancements deployed in new versions of the airport full body scanners currently being tested by the TSA, they would also use nondescript outlines of people rather than defined images, only showing items of interest on the subject’s body.
Translation: "Yes, we'd be doing warrantless searches at random but we promise your pictures that we take won't have personal information shown. So screw your 4th Amendment rights, we say we can do this." Trust in the TSA denial being decreased strongly by
In August of last year, Joe Reiss, the vice president of marketing of security contractor American Sciences & Engineering told me in an interview that the company had sold more than 500 of its backscatter x-ray vans to governments around the world, including some deployed in the U.S. Those vans are capable of scanning people, the inside of cars and even the internals of some buildings while rolling down public streets. The company claims that its systems’ “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.” But Reiss admitted that the van scans do penetrate clothing, and EPIC president Marc Rotenberg called them “one of the most intrusive technologies conceivable.”
Copy of the documents at the link.


Sigivald said...

Old news. And, well, planning a study doesn't bother me, no matter what EPIC hypeventilates about.

Seems like that's exactly the sort of thing that should be studied, because there are circumstances in which, if it's possible, it would be staggeringly useful and not a civil liberties concern.

I want the State to study such a thing, for that reason - and I also demand they not do the thing in ordinary circumstances.

(This reminds me of the periodic Surprised Hyperventilation over the fact that DoD has "plans" to invade Canada... of course they do.

I want them to have and update such plans - just as I want them to not use them in any normal circumstance.)

Firehand said...

I can see situations where it could be hugely useful in dealing with actual bad guys. Do I trust TSA not to misuse/abuse it? Unfortunately, no.

Keith said...

Any power will be used to its fullest extent, and then some.

That is the purpose of limiting and separating powers.