This video showing a sales pitch by a government supplier is amazing for its bluntness. I blogged about these vans when I first started this blog and again last summer. Two years ago, it was something that was being used covertly, and in other countries. Now, it is being promoted openly as a device for use on American soil.
These vans do not use the backscatter radiation of the airport naked scanners - they are penetrating through metal to find contraband and thus are using x-rays more similar to that used by a doctor to view a broken bone. There is not - and can not be - a claim that they are safe for humans.
I have suspected that these devices have already been used on American soil by VIPR teams when they search trucks. I now have no doubt. It is unclear to me whether they ensure that drivers and passengers of the vehicles (all commercial trucks, to my knowledge) are clear of the x-rays. I certainly hope so, but any truckers out there should be aware of the physical danger these machines could expose them to and protect themselves in the event of a VIPR trap. I also doubt that TSA agents operating these x-rays are wearing dosimeter badges, as the TSA agents in airports do not don such badges.
What really bothers me about the use of these x-ray vans (and which is glossed over by the sales rep in the above video) is that one of the uses of the vans is to examine cargo at border crossings. What is smuggled across borders? Drugs, guns, and people. These vans have been used (at least in other countries) to see inside of trucks to find illegal passengers (leaving jails). In what world is it humane to knowingly expose prisoners, illegal immigrants, or anyone else to large doses of ionizing radiation without their consent or knowledge? It sickens me that this practice is even considered by the US government, and I fear that it has been or will soon be implemented at the Mexican border without consideration of the very serious human rights violation involved.