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Government Privacy United States Your Rights Online

DHS Eyes Covert Body Scans 386

Posted by timothy
from the oh-do-they-ever dept.
CWmike writes "Documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) suggest that the US Department of Homeland Security has signed contracts for the development of mobile and static systems that can be used scan pedestrians and people at rail and bus stations and special event venues — apparently at times without their knowledge. Under consideration: An Intelligent Pedestrian Surveillance platform; an X-Ray Backscatter system that could detect concealed metallic and high-density plastic objects on people from up to 10 meters away; a walk-through x-ray screening system that could be deployed at entrances to special events or other points of interest, which could be installed in corridors and likely scan people walking through it without them knowing it, EPIC said."
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DHS Eyes Covert Body Scans

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  • No surprise really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @04:45PM (#35372868) Homepage

    What these guys clearly want is the right to search any and all persons without their knowledge and without anything remotely resembling probable cause. Right now, they can at least claim that you consent to being searched when you decide to board a plane. But this is something different, because you do not consent to a search when you walk down a street.

    Now show me your papers please.

  • by GizmoToy (450886) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @04:45PM (#35372872) Homepage

    But the safety of the machines is still somewhat in question. The government says they're fine, but researchers in the field aren't quite so sure. You can't just go around radiating people. Beyond the obvious privacy concerns, there are health concerns as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 03, 2011 @04:45PM (#35372876)

    Fuck you! Seriously. Ignorance is not bliss, it can give you cancer and kill you. But I guess you don't give a shit about that, or actual threat level or that these scanners are more dangerous than the actual criminals.. BIG BROTHER, PROTECT ME!!!!

  • by killmenow (184444) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @04:46PM (#35372888)
    "Safely" is the key word, imho. There's no reliable data (ie, not provided by the manufacturers of the devices themselves) as to the level of x-ray exposure and the long term effects of repeated exposures. There's no way to know how "safe" they are until longitudinal studies can be completed and that takes a long time. In the mean time, it's "take our word for it." I'd rather not.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 03, 2011 @04:48PM (#35372914)

    give a man the power of God.

    (I don't remember the exact quote)

  • pregnant women? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 03, 2011 @04:49PM (#35372926)

    Yeah, I'm sure covertly x-raying people will go down really well with pregnant women. I don't care if they say backscatter x-rays emit a safe level of radiation that poses no risk to a fetus. I wouldn't trust it. First, I'm not convinced they've done adequate studies. Second, I'm not going to trust an x-ray emitting device that is neither medically certified nor operated by trained medical professionals.

  • by Manip (656104) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @04:50PM (#35372948)
    The backscatter system is designed to penetrate the outer layer of the skin. Experts have written to the US Government with concerns only to be answered with "it is too low power!" But the fact is that these machines cause cancer, the only question is how much cancer and if we're happy with killing one additional person every year, ten, or over a hundred?

    Luckily it is impossible to show cause/effect between these machines and the cancers we know they will cause. Thus we can go on irradiating ourselves for many generations to come. I'd be very concerned if I was a frequent flier. You're a guinea pig. But now they want to expand this ineffective and unnecessary security theatre into the general populous? Very scary thought.
  • by snsh (968808) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @04:56PM (#35373030)
    The safety issue is a distraction from the real issue, which is that the 4th amendment is supposed to prevent DHS employees from doing these searches.
  • by paulsnx2 (453081) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @05:02PM (#35373108)

    Okay, let's just consider this for a bit. Storage costs are dropping like a lead balloon. Chip costs as well.

    Soon the idea that people are filming their lives constantly will be a fact rather than a story.

    Image processing of said films and audio will allow us to ask our devices where we put our keys, and they will answer (think cheap massive storage meets IBM's Watson).

    Our cars will drive themselves (seriously, 40,000 deaths per year because people can't drive well consistently WILL be converted into less than 400 deaths per year because automated cars have limits). First the cars will just kick in when they have to to save our lives, then they will just take over the job. And they will be able to record where we have been, and be able to discuss where we want to go within that historical and geographical context (car meets Watson).

    But then things get sinister. The TSA/FBI/CIA/... will be able to record all sorts of things, and ask about what people have been doing. (Video surveillance meets Watson). And there is going to be piles of video for "Surveillance Watson" to think about. Think traffic cameras, hummingbird sized drones, parking lot cameras, etc.

    People are going to go into a rage here about the radiation. But what happens when we figure out how to simply understand the changes to the background radiation just because people are walking about? We have all sorts of RF to use, all materials give off a certain amount of radiation, and we are walking through all of it. We have all sorts of sonic sources to process. The bottom line is that passive sensors will *at some point* be able to do what requires active radiation sources today.

    Today the limits on processing random data streams limits what government can do with all these sources of information that produce tons and tons of junk for each ounce of "useful-to-three-letter-org" information. The law is increasingly irrelevant when it comes to restraining what these organizations do. What has saved us is that it is just too hard to process that much data.

    But at some point it will NOT be too hard to process that much data. We need to make the law RELEVANT in restraining how we are observed, because even if I am wrong about the details I gave above, I am not wrong about the trend. The fact is that technology is going to be increasingly on the side of those that want to know everything about us even if they have no right to gather that information. And we will increasingly see this used to punish those that oppose those in power.

  • by jijacob (943393) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @05:07PM (#35373178) Homepage
    So who says someone couldn't just walk up to the giant gatherings *outside* a stadium and blow those people up? Or release a highly poisonous chemical into the water system for the stadium? I doubt such a system would actually do much to increase security. I know they haven't done much for the air-based transport in the US.
  • by meerling (1487879) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @05:11PM (#35373236)
    Additionally with 'concealed' scanners you would be receiving and unknown and uncontrolled level of dosage. Where a paranoid nutjob that never leaves there home until they go on a killing spree will get no radiation zaps from these toys, the home team supporter may get hundreds or more in a year. Can you find any competent radiologist who would say that's acceptable? I really doubt it. Heck, I had one balk at giving me a fourth x-ray that year (it was still spring), how do you think they'd feel about someone getting zapped 5 times in one football game or court hearing? (Imagine the units were installed in stadiums, airports, bus/rail stations, malls, government buildings, schools, etc. Invisible things are place more than the same visible item because people don't raise a fuss since they don't notice them.)

    Worse yet, what if someone stopped and stood in the scan location. Yes, the scan location will be unmarked. You don't employ a 'covert' scanning device and put up a big flashing sign that says "stand here to be covertly x-rayed". And yes, people will do it if it's an entryway, they'll even do it in a doorway. You want to know how many people I've seen get hit by automated doors closing because they stood in the doorway itself where the sensor couldn't see them? Let's just leave it at a lot. Think about it, how often do you see people standing in entryways and the like, not caring if they are blocking the way for others. Even though you might like the idea of a little revenge on them, is possible death and other somewhat less serious health issues an appropriate punishment for being obliviously impolite?
  • by Culture20 (968837) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @05:14PM (#35373288)

    a lot of people carrying a lot of innocuous things will get hassled and have their personal belongings confiscated, all in the name of making stupid people feel safer.

    None of it is about weapons. It's all about concession stands (and preventing people from bringing in "outside" beer). Weapons are just an excuse to make people think rooting through your belongings makes sense.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 03, 2011 @05:29PM (#35373512)

    What about all the reports of the things these scanners seem to miss? Search the news--there are multiple reports of things getting through that shouldn't. Also, if they can't get in with their weapons of terror, they'll just do it outside. All the invasive full-body scanners didn't do a damn thing in Moscow. They'll just blow up the airport before the security checkpoint (where hundreds of people are probably waiting) instead. They don't really care. So they'll blow up the street outside the stadium where you're waiting to get in, or as you're leaving when you're stuck in a crowd or traffic.

    You people who say "They can do anything they want as long as it keeps me safe!" are idiots. To think that they're going to put an end to terrorism and keep everyone safe is moronic and naive.

    A terrorist's goal is to make people terrified. Of the terrorists. Of their governments. Of themselves. I'd say they've done a fine job of it, given the current state of the world we live in. Everyone is actually convinced that we should be spied upon right down to our private areas and give up our privacy under the illusion of safety. When you consider what these continually invasive actions and revocation of freedoms are doing to our societies, it would appear the terrorists are the ones who are winning this.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 03, 2011 @05:34PM (#35373590)

    AJ/InfoWars covers so many absurdities (planes changing the weather, nWo, etc) that when a real story like this comes around it gets buried due to their lack of credibility. A shame really.

  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @06:08PM (#35374000) Homepage Journal
    You know...honestly, I'm just NOT that worried about a terrorist attack.

    I'm more afraid of my own govt. irradiating me unnecessarily, tracking me, gathering information on me...etc.

    The potential chances of the govt misusing information on me, I feel is much more probably than me being injured or killed by a random terrorist attack.

    Hell, just by avoiding visiting NYC...I've reduced my changes over the years to almost 0%.

  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @07:01PM (#35374566) Homepage
    Blogger Bob, is that you?

    Funny thing is, I don't remember reading that caveat anywhere in the 4th Amendment </sarc> Did you actually think through the repercussions of that interpretation before parroting the party line? Look what that logic (and I use the term loosely) does to the rest of the Bill of Rights:
    • "Of course you have a right to free speech, freedom of religion, and the freedom to assemble. You just can't do it on municipal, state or federal property. If you want to speak your mind inside your house, feel free. If you want to worship the FSM, you can do it inside your house, too. And you and as many of your like-minded friends and family who want to assemble can do it in your living room. You can even carry protest signs there, if you like. But if you want to do any of those things, you can't do them anywhere Big Brother is watching."
    • "Of course you have the right to keep and bear arms -- and that freedom is no longer interpreted as applying only to state militias. You just can't leave your house with your weapons. We aren't forcing you to go anywhere firearms are prohibited, after all. If you want to step outside of your property, you are choosing to do so."
    • "Of course you have the right to remain silent...unless you are on a public street. We aren't forcing you to leave your house, after all, so if you choose to go to the shopping mall or the gas station and we question you, you have chosen to be somewhere that the 5th Amendment doesn't apply."

    I could go on, but you get the picture.

  • by 0111 1110 (518466) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @07:42PM (#35374978)

    Actually the right to travel without government interference *is* guaranteed in the constitution. Or more to the point the right to stop you from traveling is *not* given to the government in the constitution. Also keep in mind that a drivers license is more analogous to a pilot's license than to airline passengers being allowed to passively sit in a seat. It has more to do with driving competency than safety. If you want to make a fair comparison compare it to being a passenger in a car. By that logic prepare for your children to be strip searched and photographed naked every time they get into your SUV. After all you don't have to drive. You could walk or ride a bicycle or even a horse. The fact is there is no clear line that can be drawn where 4th amendment violations are acceptable and where they are not. They should never be acceptable and any supreme court justice who rules otherwise should be charged with treason and hanged. That may seem crazy to you but it wouldn't to the people who founded this republic in the first place.

  • Ahem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Safety Cap (253500) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @08:29PM (#35375370) Homepage Journal

    Your chance of being injured or killed in a Random Terrorist Attack(TM) is already ZERO (since it is not a repeatable event), so this tempest in a teapot is just that.

    No need to avoid NYC or anything (unless you really hate the best Chinese food, pizza, hot dogs, etc. you could ever lay your hands on).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 03, 2011 @08:56PM (#35375590)

    BULLSHIT

    The TSA is part o the government, period. Only TSA can screen people at airports, according to FAA. So, FAA says only TSA "contractors" can "screen" travelers. Hence it is ALL the government, not the airlines. If it was up to the airlines, there would be "freedom airlines" or something like that where people could just go on the plane with the swiss army knife and without getting probed. Heck, if it was only airlines, they would institute no additional "security theater" after 9/11 because such a thing could not happen ever again - the passengers do not tolerate hijackings anymore.

    So please stop with the bullshit. Government is requiring airlines to only use TSA agents. If they don't, they can't fly. No matter how you dress the pig, it's still the pig. This is a blatant 4th amendment violation - it's amazing how shallow thinking people are. Or maybe you are thinking last millennium, where your scenario was actually correct.

  • Exactly! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by objectdisoriented (1973024) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @09:59PM (#35375940)
    The US government spent the 7 years following 9/11 keeping people terrified. If you read that as the government doing the terrorist's job, you possess properly working higher brain function.

    In fact, the US reaction went way beyond anything "the enemy" could have hoped for.

    The alleged mastermind said directly that the attack was intended to bring financial harm to the US. The US responded with trillions of dollars of wartime debt. As a token of appreciation, the US threw in recruitment benefits that will help terrorist organizations for decades. While they were at it, the US government stomped all over rights of the its citizens. Heck, why not? As if that wasn't enough, they also work very hard at keeping the terror of 9/11 alive, playing with "threat levels" whenever the people don't seem terrified enough.

    The truly astounding thing is how much money they are continually throwing at things that do not improve security at all.

    This will not play well with the /. crowd, but these high tech electronic gizmos don't work. People have made it through screening with handguns. And as people have said since the get-go, people don't even need to get past the security check to terrorize at airports (presumably all terrorist targets are air travel centric).

    Maybe gizmos act as a deterrent, "Ooh, surely their superior technology form an impenetrable barrier, lets just give up trying" but I doubt it.

    Many people have been arguing for more effective, lower tech solutions that actually will work. Dogs and pigs can detect an enormous range of aromas, don't need to see a nearly undressed image of your body, don't need to physically touch your naughty bits, and don't expose you to radiation.

    If the government goal was effective security, wouldn't they use the very inexpensive and very effective dogs rather than the machines that cost millions and are not effective?

    What would be more intimidating, a refrigerator-sized machine or a pack of hungry looking German Shepherds sniffing at your pant leg?

The test of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Aldo Leopold

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