Airport Scanner Technology Mounted On US Gov't Vans To Scan What's In Nearby Vehicles

from the illegal-search? dept

Already thought those full body scanners at the airports were a bit much when it came to privacy? How about having government officials sitting in a van next to you scanning your car as you drive by with the same basic technology, without you even knowing about it? Jay points us to the news that a version of the same backscatter x-ray scanner technology found in airports has also been sold to the US and other governments to mount on vans to scan nearby vehicles to see what’s inside. Apparently, the company has sold 500 of these already. Many of them are used in war zones to scan for things like car bombs, but apparently some of them are in use in the US, letting them see views such as the following on nearby vehicles:

Now, I can see the argument for using such a technology in a war zone, but it seems to open a lot of questions concerning how it’s used in the US. Is it an illegal search to scan a car without a warrant? A decade ago, the Supreme Court ruled that using thermal imaging to scan someone’s house (say, for potential marijuana growing) was a search, and thus subject to the 4th Amendment requirement for a warrant. I find it difficult to believe that a court would find this technology any different — so the fact that it’s already being used in the US makes me wonder if it’s only being used with a warrant… or if we should expect to see a lawsuit on this topic soon.

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Comments on “Airport Scanner Technology Mounted On US Gov't Vans To Scan What's In Nearby Vehicles”

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Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Only with a warrant

I am sure this technology will never be abused by those in power. Just like the wiretapping and how the FBI was awesome at following the rules there. *cough cough*

I am sure just like the wiretapping they will use this constantly without a warrant, and break every rule they can. Then when they get caught there will be zero repercussions for breaking the law because for some reason our government is above the law. *shakes head* 1984 is only a couple years away.

Casper says:

Re: Re: Re: Only with a warrant

“Anyone who thought that Obama was “the messiah”, a socialist, a fascist, 100% left wing or driven by non-corporate interests is a total moron.”

That is a weird phrasing. “Anyone who thought… 100% left wing” is a very odd item on that list. What constitutes 100% left? Are you inferring 100% means he is 100% in favor of freedoms or 100% against.

The reality is that he could be 100% left or 100% right on the political spectrum and end up in virtually the exact same place. The farther to the poles one travels, the more extreme and similar they actually become in mentality and functionality. Dictators come from both sides of the political spectrum, the only difference is what they use to excuse their actions. Beware anyone who is extreme in any political direction.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Only with a warrant

Erm, what? You seem to be parsing my statement in a very strange way. 100% left wing would not mean 100% to the left of the 50% mark, as you seem to be interpreting it. It would mean 100% left, as in 0% right-wing sentiment.

As for the extremes, that’s kind of my point. We hear a lot of morons talking about how Obama is some kind of perfect messiah who’s going to save the planet, or about how he’s a socialist dictator who’s going to drive the country down into communism, or any number of similar bizarre delusions.

The fact is that the man is a centrist who leans left on some issues, leans right on others and is about as far from the political extremes on either side of the aisle as you can get in American politics – which tends to be right-leaning compared to most other democracies. Therefore, if you think he leans totally to the left, you don’t know what you’re talking about – clear?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Secure Borders

“My money is that they are using it at border crossings to keep Canadians from sneaking into the US.”

That’s no excuse for blasting everyone with tons of harmful radiation. I don’t mind the search part so much (for me specifically, though as a policy I kinda disagree with it and think it infringes on our privacy), but the harmful radiation part I personally mind.

It’s interesting how the driver is in the vehicle while they’re scanning it, I thought the driver/any known passenger is supposed to step out while they’re doing it?

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Secure Borders

Well, we are crossing the border in hordes to buy up all the cheap land in Seattle and Portland, OR cause the locals can’t afford it anymore.

These things are also needed to ensure that we don’t smuggle oranges into the United States which might do something nasty to the orange crops in Florida and California when all we’re doing is packing a lunch for a day of shopping for deals and porn in Bellingham, WA.

As for the BC Bud we’ve found a way for it to piggy back on the oil pipeline Sarah Palin was so hot to have built from Alaska to the Lower 48 so it never goes near an inspector!

Please note that along with the State of Washington we here in British Columbia are engaging in a program so scanning vehicles for tell tale indications that the occupants are from California so that we can divert them into the Columbia River as it empties into the Pacific Ocean.

Anonymous Coward says:

Arms race

And, as usual, we will see countermeasures:

1. X-ray detectors. Like radar detectors, would reveal the vehicles which have these scanners; a quick tweet later and the scanning van is not so secret anymore.
2. Extra shielding. Strategically placed plates of denser material.
3. Camouflage. Hide whatever you want to hide within a dense commonplace object (like a vehicular gas tank). This one is only useful if you have something specific to hide, however; it unfortunately does not help much with the invasion of privacy and the extra exposure to harmful radiation.
4. Lawsuits. Much less stupid than lawsuits against cell phone towers or wireless access points.

Note none of these countermeasures are useful for airport scanners, but suddenly become useful when they start scanning common vehicles on the street.

darryl says:

Old technology, you only know about it NOW ?

Get with the times !!! this technology has been around and used like this for years..

they have them (in the US) in trucks that can drive around car parks, and look into every boot, and also see any hidden drugs.

But its been around for years, every shipping container entering your country is x-rayed in this manner. And have been again for years.

Move along, nothing to see here. (unless you got one of these things :))

Next you will be telling us about this new things called “Television” where you can see MOVING pictures right there in your living room !!..

Ofcourse, there is NO safe minimum dose for X-Rays, so being exposed to X-Rays is always risky, and should be avoided. But who cares about safty when national safty is at stake !!! Oh wait …

Also, the X-Rays used that would have a high enough energy level to penitrate a shipping container or shielding is much higher than would be required for a medical X-Ray..

And again, would any of this be necessary if everyone just played by the rules ? .. No. if it is not necessary it will not be done…

Like you favorate, DRM, we would simply not have problems with the creation of copy protection systems if copy protection was not required. ie, people did the right thing, and did not FORCE measures to counter rising or potential problems.

If you purchased one of these things and never found anyone breaking the law, you would have no use for it, but they sold over 500 units, (over the many years they have been around). .So they are usefull and providing results.

Just like DRM is working, or it would not be implemented, and as DRM is broken better countermeasures will be put in place, until that point where the encryption is locked in firmware, that you cannot access (due to the blown fuse bit), and not only are you screwed but so is everyone else..

Ofcourse DRM and such are for those movies and content of value, the very ones that are most popular on the torrent sites. That is to save money, not to ‘advance the art’.

It’s more “I like that, so ill take it”..

There are laws against it, and there is technology being developed and improved to stop it, its YOU the file sharers that download blockbuster movies that stuff it up for the rest of us.

I used to download lots of public domain stuff from bittorrent, now I cant do that because well you know the rest.

A few greedy people, will always stuff it up for the vast majority.. (and think they are not doing anything wrong).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Old technology, you only know about it NOW ?


This person is not serious, he will not debate any issues and only appears to want to get angry responses to his posts.

He will repeat erroneous information even when people correct him multiple times.

Don’t waste your time answering to this person, he is a troll and will feed on negative emotions.

In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

Coyote says:

There are places today where your vehicle is subject to mandatory or random search (Military bases, Gov’t agencies, etc..) And it is clearly posted that this is the case…

It’s really not a big deal as far as those places go, and any business or owner of private property can legally require the same thing. Ever get frisked going into a club? Same thing.

I can see this being put into use there… I’m sure the random physical searches will still happen, but this would let anyone who has the right take a quick look at all vehicles entering the premises.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There are places like borders, too, where inspections are legally done without warrant and where you’re already being x-rayed as you cross. Both ways on major Canada-US border crossings.

That said what Mike is pointing at is use inside the country where one can reasonably expect that law enforcement will stay out of things unless they have reasonable grounds enough to get a warrant for this kind of stuff.

As it’s already on the road in the US I suspect our boys and girls in red serge up here in Canada are packing it around in their 4×4 SUVs now and scanning just as randomly as I suspect is going on in the US. Oh well.

By the way, I have a new line of x-ray reflecting clothing and bin liners for pickups coming out in a week!

In two weeks I’ll have a device when it detects a scan will send back an x-ray of something innocuous like a family of european tourists on a trip to do some serious tree hugging.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Customs

I don’t know that that would stand up in court, but even if so what if I’ve never crossed the border, and thus never been so notified? There’s no way every vehicle they search came across from another country.

IMO any defense is just rationalizing the reach for ever more power (not saying you’re doing that, but law enforcement is).

Donald Jessop (profile) says:

And People are worried about Google?

So, Google inadvertently stores scraps of information that are freely being broadcast (much like normal AM/FM radio) and the world has a fit. The US government spies on what is not being publicly broadcast (i.e. the inside of your car/van/house) and this is accepted by those same people screaming for Google’s blood?

Kurt Erst says:

The constitution is dead

I have no issues with technology like this being used at border crossings or by US customs. I am sure this would speed up the already legal searches and probably catch more illegal items. However, I have no doubts this technology will be abused by the government. When they are caught they will cry ‘homeland security’. The terrorists have already won. Most folks if asked will gladly give constitutional rights for “security”. The mantra of ‘if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about’ is repeated over and over again. And most people actually agree. Benjamin Franklin and any sane person would disagree. As Benjamin said, “They that would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”.

darryl says:

Still any X-Ray can kill you, it takes only ONE to do it.. if your unlucky.

There is no minium safe dose for X-Ray radiation, (it does not acrew, or stay in your body). It only takes ONE X-Ray photon, to stike a DNA molocule in the right place to cause a mutation, that could lead to cancer.

Every time an X-ray is passed through your body, there is a chance it will kill you, it only takes ONE to do it.

So the more times you are X-Rayed the more chance you have of being affected by it..

The operators of the equipment know about this and stand behind think lead sheilding.. And yes they should take everyone known in the vehicle out before doing the X-Ray, to do otherwise is stupid and unnessarily dangerous.

The point I was making is that this has been around for years, its nothing new.
And I was just wondering out alout what was the point of this article, making out it is a new threat to deal with.

Its not, its been around for as I said, years..

If you only just found out about this technology, where have you been ? Are you having trouble keeping up ?

Feel free to complain, call me a troll or correct my spelling, if that rows your boat.. good for you..

The TROLL ALERT guy, when you post offtopic posts thats is what TROLLS DO.. You know the kind, that kind that does nothing to call out people for being trolls..

Very much like your posts, you coward 🙂

darryl's little buddy says:

Re: Still any X-Ray can kill you, it takes only ONE to do it.. if your unlucky.

The point I was making is that this has been around for years, its nothing new.
And I was just wondering out alout what was the point of this article, making out it is a new threat to deal with.

Yeah, X-rays have been around since the big bang at the beginning of the universe. Nothing new at all.

It’s a good thing we have darryl to point out how stupid Mike is.

Pete Braven (profile) says:

Re: Still any X-Ray can kill you, it takes only ONE to do it.. if your unlucky.

Well yes you do have a point. I don’t think that will remove X-Rays from hospitals though and to be honest, the risk of being killed by a random X-Ray is a heck of a lot less than the risk from a random IED driven into your town by a random religious nutter!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Still any X-Ray can kill you, it takes only ONE to do it.. if your unlucky.

“the risk of being killed by a random X-Ray is a heck of a lot less than the risk from a random IED driven into your town by a random religious nutter!”

The risk of being killed by smoking a cigarette or cutting yourself is less than the risk of getting hit by lightning, therefor you should do it. Maybe nobody will die from one of these X – Rays (though it might lower life expectancy by a minute?) but that still doesn’t negate any negative health consequences caused by them.

and a hospital X – Ray is taken for the purpose of figuring out what’s wrong with you to help make you better and it’s taken with your consent. A hospital X – Ray is justified by the fact that not taking it maybe worse for you than taking it if the doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with you. Any harm caused by these search X – Rays are unjustified, my health is more important to me than any governments overarching intrusiveness.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Still any X-Ray can kill you, it takes only ONE to do it.. if your unlucky.

the risk of being killed by a random X-Ray is a heck of a lot less than the risk from a random IED driven into your town by a random religious nutter!

Why do you say that? Something like 3200 people have been killed by terrorism in the US, ever. Right? How many have died due to x-ray scanning? Are you sure it’s “a lot” less than 3200?

darryl says:

Re: Re: Still any X-Ray can kill you, it takes only ONE to do it.. if your unlucky.

From memory, I think the statistics for X-Ray related illness is quite high, higher than what you would expect.

I think (again from memory), a full body scan with a CAT scanner has about a 2% to 3% of causing a cell mutation leading to Atypical cell growth.. ie cancer.

It was a trend for awile for people to pay for a full body scan just to make sure, but when the risk factor of the X-Ray exposure was calculated, it was found its safer not to take the full body scan. as a preventative measure.

(unless there is actually something wrong with you they dont know about, then the risk is probably worth is.

An X-Ray photon, is just like a light photon, or a radio photon. Except X-Rays are at the top end of the energy scale, light rays have high energy, but low penetration, so you get sun burned, if exposed to billions of light photons, X-Rays are super high energy photons, just below gamma rays.

As you know X-Ray photons can pass through steal, people and so on, but it they hapen to interact with a molicule, especially DNA, the potential for deep tissue damage is far higher.

I dont know who many people in the US are killed each year by IUD’s but I expect its a very low number, something I would have heard about in the news.

as for the 3200 poor souls from 911 that was sad, yes, but its nothing compared to the US road toll, which is more like 40,000 to 50,000+ people per year.

With X-Rays are border crossings, airports, mobile units, air borne units, including the regular travellers on plains.

I expect the death toll from X-Ray related desease is going to rapidly increase in the coming years..

Starting with the most regular international travellers.
And border crossing truck drivers.

darryl says:

Re: Re: Re: Still any X-Ray can kill you, it takes only ONE to do it.. if your unlucky.

I dont know who many people in the US are killed each year by IUD’s but I expect its a very low number, something I would have heard about in the news.

Whoops :D.. thats funny on so many levels LOL.. Damn those IUD’s,,, trampolines for dickheads !!!..

Im sure it would be more fun (its fun is the right word) to be killed by an IUD, rather than an IED.

Virginia Willie says:

x raying at border crossing, is it safe ?

I live in Akwesasne which is on the border of the U.S. and Canada. I go though costoms at least once a day. I notice they have a scnning device there. Is there health concerns that i should be aware of, being scanned daily. There has been a lot of residents having issues with cancers, and birth defects.

Ross Wolf says:

Does Obama Intend to Lockdown America?

(1) It is obvious these X-Ray Vans can be used by the military and police to secure the perimeter of a City, for example during an instance of Revolt, to discover and stop Citizens carrying guns.

(2) Recently Obama effectively proposed disbanding the Fourth Amendment allowing the FBI Warrantless Searches of All Internet Activity including email. Obama is also supporting warrantless wiretapping of all telephone and other electronic communications.

(3) In April 2010 Obama during a national security speech asked for the Power to indefinitely incarcerate Americans not based on evidence or probable cause, but because they might do something violent. See: Obama Sound-Video:

(4) On March 4, 2010, John McCain introduced S.3081 The “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010” if passed, would allow government to use (only suspicion) or less to curtail an individual’s Constitutional Protections against unlawful arrest, detention and interrogation without benefit of legal counsel and trial. According to McCain’s S.3081, Government would not be required to provide (detained individuals) U.S. Miranda Warnings or even an attorney. Americans could be held indefinitely in military custody on only suspicion of being an Unprivileged Enemy Belligerent suspected of; having engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or purposefully and materially (supported) hostilities against the United States; its coalition partners or civilians. “Materially Supporting Hostilities” against the United States could include any person or group that spoke out or demonstrated disapproval against an agency of U.S. Government; Government could allege attending a protest supported hostilities. When you read the McCain bill it appears “suspicion” is not necessary for government to detain and interrogate Americans. See McCain Senate bill S.3081:

(5) Recently Obama took action to stop the lawful purchase of 100,000 World War Two era, surplus M1 Carbine and M1 Garand rifles that were to be shipped to the curio firearms market in The States. Obama is disallowing the return of these antique American made auto-loaders, the first of their kind. The relic riffles are not considered an item purchased by drug cartels. Interestingly, because there are registration exceptions for gun owners buying 50-year relic riffles, and easy availability of replacement parts and they have auto-reloading capability, government could not track these weapons or ammunition loaded by American collectors. So Why Now does Obama not want American civilians to have these weapons?

When one objectively views the sum of the Obama recent actions that include dumping of the Fourth Amendment that prevents government illegal search of Citizens and their homes without a warrant using Vans with X-rays; FBI/NSA Warrantless seizure of Citizens’ phone and other private electronic communications; Obama blocking Americans right to purchase relic riffles, one has to ask: Does the Obama Government have reason to fear the American People? Does Obama intend a Lockdown on America? Are Americans in danger of being harmed by their government?

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