When it comes to full body scanners, the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t always offer the same level of transparency that it imposes on your clothes.
Last week, I wrote about a new set of documents the Electronic Privacy and Information Center (EPIC) obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, revealing research proposals to bring full-body scanners to train stations, mass transit, and public events. Contracts included in the EPIC release showed plans to develop long-range scans that could assess what a subject carried from 30 feet away, along with studies that involved systems for x-ray scanners mounted in vans and “covert” scans of pedestrians.
When I reached the Department of Homeland Security for comment, a spokesperson offered only this immediate statement at the time: the “TSA has not tested the advanced imaging technology that is currently used at airports in mass transit environments and does not have plans to do so.”
But when I pressed for more information, the agency sent along a more thorough statement. ”None of the projects included in the documents released by EPIC are currently active – all have been terminated. The objective of the projects was to assess the technology,” the statement begins. And then the interesting bit: ”With the exception of the Rail Security Pilot Program, which conducted limited field testing in public locations in 2006, testing for all of these projects was conducted in labs, using volunteers.”
The “exception” in that second statement seems to clearly contradict the DHS’s first comment. Did the DHS test scanners on subway and train passengers, or didn’t it? Read the rest