A new portable backscatter device designed to perform x-rays of objects is set to be used by police departments to inspect vehicles as well as for “public safety,” according to the company behind the new scanner.
The video for the handheld MINI Z Backscatter imaging scanner, developed by American Science and Engineering Inc (AS&E), brags that it will “allow operators to see more than ever in more places than ever.”
The scanner will be used by “law enforcement, first responders, border control, event security, maritime police and general aviation security,” in order to search for currency, drugs and explosives. Police will use the device to inspect “vehicle bumpers, tires, panels and interiors” and to detect IEDs.
According to AS&E, the scanner represents a “game changer” for law enforcement and border patrol and will be used to ensure “public safety.” However, the company admits that the device “is not designed to scan people” because it emits radiation.
The technology is based on a previous larger incarnation of x-ray scanner that was deployed via trucks to conduct roving scans of other vehicles on American streets and highways.
In 2010 it emerged that American Science & Engineering had sold many of the larger devices to U.S. law enforcement agencies, who were already using them on the streets for “security” purposes.
The company’s founder, Joe Reiss, told Forbes that more than 500 backscatter x-ray devices were already being used domestically by U.S. authorities and were being, “driven past neighboring vehicles to see their contents.”
Commenting on the roving x-ray vans, EPIC’s Marc Rotenberg warned, “Without a warrant, the government doesn’t have a right to peer beneath your clothes without probable cause. Even airport scans are typically used only as a secondary security measure. If the scans can only be used in exceptional cases in airports, the idea that they can be used routinely on city streets is a very hard argument to make.”
We previously noted how the ultimate end use of body scanners would not be limited to airports, and that they were going to be rolled out on the streets as mobile units that would scan vehicles at checkpoints as well as individuals and crowds attending public events.
Dutch police later announced that they were developing a mobile scanner that would “see through people’s clothing and look for concealed weapons” and that it would be used “as an alternative to random body searches in high risk areas”.
The device would also be used from a distance on groups of people “and mass scans on crowds at events such as football matches.”
The plans mirrored leaked documents out of the UK Home Office three years prior, which revealed that authorities in the UK were working on proposals to fit lamp posts with CCTV cameras that would X-ray scan passers-by and “undress them” in order to “trap terror suspects”.