U.S. Government to Deploy Laser Technology for Searching People
Developed by the private tech company In-Q-Tel, nicknamed the “Wizards of Langley,” the Picosecond Programmable Laser (PPL) is leaps and bounds ahead of the x-ray machines, millimeter wave scanners, and residue detectors the TSA currently uses in airports across the country. In contrast to the current models, which all require either direct contact or extremely close proximity to the subjects, this new device works:
by blasting its target with lasers which vibrate molecules that are then read by the machine that determine what substances a person has been exposed to. This could be Semtex explosives or the bacon and egg sandwich they had for breakfast that morning.
In true Homeland Security form, this new technology offers relatively little for the war on terror. However, it does provide law enforcement with a dangerous new tool to circumvent the Fourth Amendment and freely search citizens for anything and everything in the name of security. For example, the PPL can detect an individual’s adrenaline levels, use of prescription drugs or medical marijuana, and even tell you if they recently had a cigarette.
If that weren’t bad enough, there are reports that the "data collected by these devices can even be tagged to your identity so that the government compiles a database of which chemicals were detected on you at each location, for each day of your life.” And what’s to then prevent the Government from sharing this information with, say, your health insurance carrier or employer?
There are already plans to “widely deploy [the PPL] across airports, roadside checkpoints, sports stadiums and anywhere else the government wants to surveil the public.” This raises seriously troubling questions about the Government’s ability to conduct searches without cause.
The good news is that there is some precedent to curtail the use of such a device in certain situations, like on DUI stops or home searches – see, e.g. Kyllo v. United States (thermal imaging of a home to detect heat consistent with marijuana grow operation was a search for Fourth Amendment purposes). However the current trend of weakening constitutional rights in the name of security does not bode well for the champions of liberty in this battle.Look for PPL’s to be in an airport near you starting in 2013.
Note: Nicolas M. Geman is a DUI & Criminal Defense lawyer in Denver, Colorado. You may know him by his alias, the TL Kid.
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