Somewhere George Orwell is smiling and thinking ‘I warned you’… I’ve always considered Mr. Orwell’s novel 1984 a bit far fetched, but this report from Computerworld makes me wonder if, perhaps, Mr Orwell wasn’t clairvoyant:
Documents obtained Tuesday by the Electronic Privacy Information Center suggest that the U.S. 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.
The documents indicate that DHS moved to develop the technology as part of an effort to bolster the ability of law enforcement personnel to quickly detect concealed bombs and other explosives on individuals.
EPIC obtained the documents from the DHS under a Freedom of Information Act request for data on mobile and static scanning systems it filed last year.
The documents show that the agency in recent years has signed contracts worth millions of dollars for the development of the new scanning technologies, said Ginger McCall, assistant director of EPIC’s open government program.
For example, DHS contracted with Siemens Corporate Research and Northeastern University to design and develop an Intelligent Pedestrian Surveillance platform that could detect improvised explosive devices concealed in backpacks and under clothing.
The system would use multiple cameras mounted on a so-called Z Backscatter Van to covertly scan moving pedestrians for potential threats, McCall said. A Z Backscatter Van is a mobile threat detection system that uses X-Rays to quickly scan through vehicles and buildings for hidden explosives and contraband.
The most chilling line in the article is this one: “The DHS believes it has very wide authority to implement its national security goals.” So much for Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures… DHS is looking more and more like an out of control agency operating without proper congressional oversight.
Bottom line, Congress needs to step up and reign in the beast they created before it tramples our civil liberties in the name of protecting us from terrorism.
Benjamin Franklin said it best “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Update: Andy Greenberg has the TSA’s official response over at Forbes.com.
- TSA Source: Armed Agent Slips Past DFW Body Scanner – KXAS TV Dallas-Fort Worth
- JetBlue passenger sparks terror scare after boarding plane with 3 boxcutters at JFK airport – New York Post