Privacy Group Sues Big Sis Over Secretive Mobile Body Scanners
2011-05-27 0:00

By Steve Watson |

Previously released Federal documents show that the Department of Homeland Security is actively moving to install radiation firing naked body scanners in all manner of public places, beyond the nation’s airports.

However, the agency is refusing to release further details on the program.

Privacy watchdog EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) filed a lawsuit this week against the Department of Homeland Security for attempting to keep the program secret.

EPIC’s suit asks a federal court to order disclosure of nearly 1,000 pages of additional records detailing the controversial program – records the agency has repeatedly refused to make public, despite freedom of information requests and appeals over the last seven months.

The lawsuit points to an agency under the DHS umbrella, the Science and Technology Directorate, which has released only 15 full pages of documents on the mobile scanners, whilst heavily redacting another 158 pages and withholding 983 pages of documents.

In February, EPIC discovered (PDF) that the DHS had paid contractors “millions of dollars on mobile body scanner technology that could be used at railways, stadiums, and elsewhere” on crowds of moving people.

According to the documents obtained by EPIC, the Transport Security Agency plans to expand the use of these systems to peer under clothes and inside bags away from airports.

The documents include a “Surface Transportation Security Priority Assessment” [PDF] which revealed details of conducting risk assessments and possible implementation of body scanners in “Mass transit, commuter and long-distance passenger rail, freight rail, commercial vehicles (including intercity buses), and pipelines, and related infrastructure (including roads and highways), that are within the territory of the United States.”

The DHS maintains that it has discontinued the program, but has yet to provide the proof.

EPIC also notes that the DHS has actively deployed “mobile body scanner technology in vans that are able to scan other vehicles while driving down public roadways.”

“These vans, known as ‘Z Backscatter Vans,’ are capable of seeing through vehicles and clothing and routinely store the images that they generate.” EPIC’s lawsuit notes.

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