Report: Full Body Scanners to be Deployed in Street Vans

Giving "taking it to the streets" a whole new meaning: Via the ACLU, Forbes magazine reports that the full body scanners being used at airports are being deployed by the Government for use in street vans called called Z Backscatter Vans, or ZBVs.

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&E’s 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.

Video below of the vans in action: [More...]

Here's the ACLU's backgrounder on full body scanners.

< ACLU Protests Degrading Body Cavity Searches of CO Women Inmates | Thursday Morning Open Thread >
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    Fourth Amendment, Anyone? (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by The Maven on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 08:53:51 PM EST
    Within the U.S., I would have to believe (or at least hope) that this would be a pretty clear-cut violation of the Constitution, in the absence of a legitimately issued warrant upon probable cause.  Or is this the sort of thing that we can expect the government to contrive some national security- or FISA-based exception on the grounds that such searches are simply designed to keep us "safe" from terrorists in our midst?

    Yet another step down the primrose path to becoming a full-fledged surveillance state.

    It would seem to me (none / 0) (#13)
    by Zorba on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:36:56 AM EST
    to fall under the same type of Fourth Amendment violation as Kyllo v. United States, which prohibited using thermal imaging devices to search a house from the outside without a warrant.  On the other hand, courts have always been less strict about warrantless vehicle searches than about warrantless house sea.  On the other, other hand, Arizona v. Gant did set up a requirement, in warantless vehicle searches, that:
    law enforcement officers.....demonstrate an actual and continuing threat to their safety posed by an arrestee, or a need to preserve evidence related to the crime of arrest from tampering by the arrestee, in order to justify a warrantless vehicular search incident to arrest conducted after the vehicle's recent occupants have been arrested and secured.

    Any constitutional scholars want to weigh in on this?  (PS. Scalia wrote the majority opinion in Kyllo v. United States, and wrote a concurring opinion in Arizona v. Gant.)  

    The Court's analysis in Kyllo (none / 0) (#23)
    by Peter G on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 10:59:18 AM EST
    focused very sharply on the fact that the heat-sensing device used there intruded into the privacy of the home.  As PatHat suggests (comment #2) the Supreme Court has recognized much less of a privacy interest, for Fourth Amendment purposes, in cars parked anywhere other than on a driveway near a home (within the "curtilage," as they say); see Coolidge v. NH, 1971.  On the other hand, what they have said in that regard is not that cars on the highway or even parked on the street can be searched without individualized suspicion, but rather that they can be searched upon probable cause although without the necessity of a warrant.  These new devices, of course, will be justified for use solely for safety and emergency situations, and not for routine law enforcement purposes, which changes the Fourth Amendment analysis (as the cases about fire marshals' searches say).  At first, that is ....

    Thanks for (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Zorba on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 12:40:46 PM EST
    the info, Peter.  And your last sentence says it all.  " At first, that is ...."  They may justify its use only for emergency situations, etc, but when has law enforcement not taken a device (or a law) meant for a limited purpose, and failed to apply it to an ever-widening set of circumstances?  Give the authorities (local state and federal cops, local, state and federal prosecutors) a hammer, and everything seems to start looking like a nail to them.  Unfortunately.  

    Curtilage (none / 0) (#24)
    by coast on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 11:19:08 AM EST
    A concept that needs to be explained to the Ninth Circuit considering their decision regarding law enforcement officers being allowed to place a GPS device on your car while its in your driveway without needing a warrant.  I don't see how this would be any different.  Just pull the van in the driveway next to your car and scan away.

    Coast is referring to (none / 0) (#28)
    by Peter G on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 08:24:03 PM EST
    this recent and wrongly decided opinion of the Ninth Circuit federal appeals court (2-1 vote).

    Haven't they start printing (none / 0) (#15)
    by MO Blue on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:43:18 AM EST
    copies without the 4th Amendment yet? :-)

    Seems like the 4th has been made obsolete.


    Radiation can lead to cancer (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by mexboy on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 05:58:27 AM EST
    I hope the ACLU sues their *ss*ss off!

    Most experts say no. (none / 0) (#25)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 11:37:48 AM EST
    So are people who travel a lot going to be subjected to dangerous levels of radiation if they get backscattered too often?

    Most experts say no. According to the Health Physics Society (HPS), a person undergoing a backscatter scan receives approximately 0.005 millirems (mrem, a unit of absorbed radiation).

    American Science and Engineering, Inc., actually puts that number slightly higher, in the area of .009 mrem.

    According to U.S. regulatory agencies, 1 mrem per year is a negligible dose of radiation, and 25 mrem per year from a single source is the upper limit of safe radiation exposure.

    Using the HPS numbers, it would take 200 backscatter scans in a year to reach a negligible dose -- 1 mrem -- of radiation.

    You receive 1 mrem from three hours on an airplane, from two days in Denver or from three days in Atlanta. And it would take 5,000 scans in a year to reach the upper limit of safety.

    A traveler would have to get 100 backscatter scans per week, every week, for a year, in order to be in real danger from the radiation.

    Few frequent flyers fly that frequently.

    Although the exposure estimates are at (none / 0) (#30)
    by Jack E Lope on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 08:52:41 AM EST
    ...levels that are insignificant when compared to the background exposure we receive, I want to use your source's definition of "slightly higher" for my next payment negotiation with my employers.

    If all is fair in love and war, I guess this (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Anne on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:43:31 AM EST
    means it really has come to being all war, all the time, everywhere, and there are no limits on what kinds of intrusive techniques we can be subjected to.

    The inevitablity of this was never in question, only how long it would take to bring the full range of techniques to our own streets, and make no excuses for treating us all like potential terrorists.

    I can't begin to describe how unutterably sad - and frightening - that is, especially when one considers that there has been no indication by the current leadership that there is anything the least bit unacceptable about it.

    It's inevitable blowback (none / 0) (#18)
    by jondee on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:56:14 AM EST
    for being up to our elbows in Afghanistan, Iraq; rattling sabers at Iran, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela and having 700 hundred bases scattered across the planet. And vehicle and body scanners, constant surveillance, high alerts and all the rest are nothing but the natural, organic outgrowth of the status quo.



    Maybe there is no expectation (none / 0) (#2)
    by PatHat on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 10:56:50 PM EST
    of privacy in your car or van. Thank god the cops didn't have this when I was a teenager!

    Do I really have to buy... (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdog on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 08:42:32 AM EST
    a lead automobile & a set of lead body armor...is that what the man is trying to tell me?

    The airport is one thing...intrusive, but you don't have to fly.  It's hard to live without walking and driving down your local streets.

    Talk about another new chapter (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by jondee on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:06:22 AM EST
    in The Sorrows of Empire..

    Someone was complaining about "the Left's" problems with the militarization of our so-called foreign policy? These kinds of things make it increasing clear - if it wasn't before - that we don't need the Weathermen to "bring the war back home" anymore; we as nation have opted for bringing the war back home. And as the technology of destruction advances and the enemies increase, the more the security state will move in the direction of perpetual high alert.

    And yet the same interventionists on the lookout for endless enemies still express faux-concern over "big government" out one side of their mouths.


    You just can't take... (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by kdog on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:17:48 AM EST
    these "anti-big government" cats seriously when they are quiet as church mouses when it comes to this type of government waste...waste of money, and more importantly, waste of that precious gift we call the Bill of Rights.  

    Speaking of the Bill of Rights (none / 0) (#12)
    by republicratitarian on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:34:04 AM EST
    Good article in Time yesterday http://tinyurl.com/2akmc3y

    Not sure if I linked that correctly or not. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided that it's ok for the government to walk onto your private property and place a GPS on your vehicle without probable cause and track you.

    Do we have privacy anymore?


    If we don't want the terrorists (none / 0) (#14)
    by jondee on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:43:06 AM EST
    to win, privacy will just have to go on hold for a while.

    I'm not (none / 0) (#20)
    by efm on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 10:17:26 AM EST
    opposed to the government having these things in cases like bomb scares, boarder crossings, maybe by customs.  But I would hope that their intent isn't to just drive them around looking for trouble. I think people on the left and the right would have a major problem with that.

    No... (none / 0) (#17)
    by kdog on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:46:16 AM EST
    no privacy anymore, technology in the hands of wanna-be tyrants pretty much killed it.

    yes, and fill it with unleaded fuel (none / 0) (#8)
    by republicratitarian on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:06:33 AM EST
    well (none / 0) (#10)
    by The Addams Family on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:24:08 AM EST
    if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to be afraid of


    If Orwell didn't use that one (none / 0) (#11)
    by jondee on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:30:36 AM EST
    he should have.

    War (none / 0) (#19)
    by squeaky on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 10:11:45 AM EST
    Time to repeal the Patriot act and the AUMF.

    Maybe we should look at this (none / 0) (#21)
    by KeysDan on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 10:48:22 AM EST
    as a good stock tip. American Science and Engineering seems well-positioned for the future. Their Board of Directors includes, of course, a retired general so that may help keeping the Pentagon contracts coming.  Haliburton, too, is listed so that we can participate in the profits (or in the unlikely event, losses). Bechtel, another big player, but quieter, does not offer that capability, being held privately and all.

    LOL... (none / 0) (#22)
    by kdog on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 10:53:03 AM EST
    too true K.D...investors without conscience will do exactly that.

    I was in a poker game Tues. night, one guy in the game was a day-trading stock gambler for a living...he couldn't stop talking about this fool-proof system he has to make a killin' everytime there is a natural disaster in the world.  I bit my tongue to keep from puking.


    coming soon (none / 0) (#27)
    by The Addams Family on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 01:46:32 PM EST
    the inside of your house

    I never liked (none / 0) (#29)
    by NYShooter on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 11:06:19 PM EST
    the road blocks, supposedly checking for sobriety, either. I know, I know, what's wrong with getting drunk drivers off the road? But, if ever there was a "slippery slope" argument, that was it. So millions of perfectly innocent drivers have to submit to stoppage, questioning, sniffing, etc. so that a few who measure above whatever the legal limit is, are identified.

    I really never understood the difference between that and allowing the police into your home for an involuntary search.

    And now, of course, the traffic cops have gotten a new toy: the license plate camera. This device takes an image of your plate and instantly reports back the legal condition of your vehicle; such as registration, insurance, etc.

    Sounds so simple, why would anyone object?

    So why does this drumbeat of ever increasing police intrusion, now aided by the latest technology, scare the hell out of me?