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DHS Tries To Hide Mobile Scanner Details 201

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the the-new-black dept.
OverTheGeicoE writes "The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year (PDF) with the US Department of Homeland Security, whose Transportation Security Administration has been investigating the use of x-ray scanning technology for covert use in more public places, like train stations and even ordinary city streets. TSA has tested interesting devices like the Z Backscatter Vans both privately and on members of the general public. EPIC recently received new documents from DHS. Some of the documents are almost completely black from redactions."
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DHS Tries To Hide Mobile Scanner Details

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  • by chill (34294) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @06:21PM (#37135726) Journal

    The YouTube video in the first link is already yanked.

  • in trucks running around in the general public, but this might help to alleviate congestion at already borked up Mexican border crossings. I'm in SD, and I regularly hear of 2+ hour border waits during local traffic reports. Maybe this will help to speed up checks for vans and trucks. -- Oh, and Fuck the TSA.
    • by mellon (7048)

      Won't help—this stuff penetrates clothes, not car bodies.

      It seems like it would be really easy to build detectors for millimeter-wave radar. There's probably money to be had here—I'd want one, so I'd know to get off the street to avoid the radiation. It won't penetrate the walls of buildings, nor (I suspect) the glass in windows, so you'd be pretty safe just stepping into a shop when the detector goes off.

      Of course, if they see people noticing and avoiding the scanner (i.e., opting out), the

      • by psyclone (187154) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @07:18PM (#37136200)

        This looks like it scans cars, containers, and even buildings if they chose:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iABPKd0vFxQ [youtube.com]

        • by mellon (7048)

          Holy shit! If that's for real, the people running this should be jailed for mass assault with a deadly weapon. Watching that video was like watching that movie someone shot of a person being X-rayed for several minutes. You basically knew the person in the picture had to have died of cancer, if they weren't hit by a truck or something first. This is supposed to save lives? At what cost?

          • In one part they say the radiation is similar to 15 minutes on an airplane, but throughout the video they show this thing seeing the insides of dumpsters and shipping containers. The X-rays penetrate this thick steel but are safe to an unshielded person? Does not compute!

            • by Coren22 (1625475)

              Maybe I need to look into buying some lead underwear...there is a reason they cover your crotch when giving you an x-ray. Also, medical x-rays don't penetrate metal, so these must be of much higher energies...

        • by firex726 (1188453)

          Man, that's right out of some dystopian scifi story.

          Next thing you know they'll be "Freedom Checkpoints" to make sure you have you "Freedom Pass" to be allowed through.

        • by halowolf (692775)
          Better stop eating bananas and brazil nuts. Its good to know its safe, I mean when people are being scanned without their knowledge an unknown amount of times I'm sure it will mean they can monitor and control their radiation exposure that much more effectively.
      • by bendodge (998616)

        Seems like it would also be easy resist electronically. Get a vacuum tube and make a high-powered, messy x-ray emitter and just hose the van with it. (Also, carrying an x-ray detector to ensure you have the right van would probably be courteous to innocent van drivers.)

        I'm guessing the effect of an x-ray blaster on a van like this would be to wash out the image and maybe induce some concern in the operators about personal exposure. It could also get you in trouble if you just stood there and held it, but I'

        • by man_ls (248470)

          A 1B3 (an early high-voltage rectifier) running a few thousand volts over spec cold-cathode will crank out enough X-rays for DIY x-ray photography and similar hobby experimentation, but they're not very high energy - I doubt they'd make it through the metal.

      • by wwphx (225607)
        Wouldn't help me, I can't avoid it: they have one at the border patrol check point East-bound between Las Cruces and Alamogordo, NM, and I go to 'Cruces every two weeks or so. I didn't see one at the West-bound point between 'Cruces and Demming on I-10, but I'm sure they'll have one eventually.
    • by C0R1D4N (970153)
      I wasn't aware South Dakota had an international border =p
  • http://epic.org/foia_notes/foia_doc_20_snap.PDF [epic.org]

    Apparently "(5)(b)" is the only thing we're allowed to know about this project. What the hell?

    • by Trepidity (597)

      It's actually (b)(5). I think we know what that means.

    • by magarity (164372)

      Does the original file have the "undo" history so we can see what's there before it was blacked out?

      • Nope, I've checked it out. It actually looks like they blacked it out, printed it, and then scanned it in again. Smart.

    • by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @06:56PM (#37136000) Journal

      This is where you file a FOIA complaint and they get to sit there in front of a judge and explain why they deliberately attempted to evade a properly filed FOIA request with such a ridiculous response.

      Unfortunately, as far as I know, FOIA has no teeth, i.e. there's no way to prosecute these clowns for even such flagrant abuse. However, if a judge forces the information to be released and it is legally actionable information, they could potentially be charged with obstruction.

      • it's from the Tao Te Ching, and it applies to the FOIA.

        you dont get what you want, but you get pieces of a puzzle, and slowly, over years, you piece the puzzle together. we are still finding out things about Nixon and the Pentagon Papers, we are still finding things out about war crimes in Vietnam, we are still finding out things about the Nazis, and about Stalin and the soviet Gulags and the NKVD.

        the FOIA is a tool. its not perfect, but its one of the best tools we have.

        forgive me for paraphrasing Carl Sag

  • So what if (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 18, 2011 @06:34PM (#37135832)

    I'm walking down the street with a concealed handgun (perfectly legal in 30+ states) and the DHS van shows I'm packing heat. Next thing I know I'm on the ground with a knee in my back and automatic weapons pointed at me. Is this how it's going to work? Because if that's how it's going down, I see no reason not to overthrow this government now before it gets much worse. I'd rather live under anarchic self-rule than this nanny-state bullshit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      > I see no reason not to overthrow this government now
      Some things are easier said than done, friend.

      But if you want government unlike the status quo, a potentially significant start would be to elect Ron Paul President. Whether he'll really be able to accomplish much I don't know, but he's not your typical republicrat.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jcr (53032)

        Hear, hear!

        He's the only anti-war candidate in the race, and he's the only one who doesn't equivocate about the fact that the PATRIOT act is unconstitutional.

        -jcr

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by skr95062 (2046934)

        But if you want government unlike the status quo, a potentially significant start would be to elect Ron Paul President. Whether he'll really be able to accomplish much I don't know, but he's not your typical republicrat.

        Funny, I thought that was what Obama was going to do. After all he ran under the "Change you can believe in" and the "Yes, we can" slogans.

        So far I have not seen any change in the way the assholes in DC operate. Same old bullshit from politicians "I will make a difference in DC". Although it looks like he finally figured out that "Yes, we can" is really "No, we can't"

        What really blows my mind is how many people actually bought his bullshit and voted for the lying SOB. Yes, he is a lying SOB. There ar

        • by deego (587575)

          > Yes, [Obama] is a lying SOB.

          I have to agree with that.

          It really gets me how he famously promised to revisit the PATRIOT act if elected. What does he do when elected? Colludes with the Republicans to renew the act even as his own party voted 2:1 against it. He then had the gall to praise it as good for the country.

        • Every one of Obama's campaign slogans has turned into a punch line.

          Also it's understandable that anyone who hadn't pre-judged Obama to be a lying SOB would have bought his bullshit.

    • As a fellow believer of the 2nd Amendment, I think talk of "overthrow[ing] this government now" is quite premature and irresponsible.

      We are still working through the courts to (re)gain our right to carry outside the home. Once that is gained and exercised by citizens in the North East and California, much of this 4th Amendment violation will simply disappear. It will no longer be practical.

      Insurrection is silly.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        We are still working through the courts to (re)gain our right to carry outside the home. Once that is gained and exercised by citizens in the North East and California, much of this 4th Amendment violation will simply disappear. It will no longer be practical.

        I'm interested in how concealed carry laws will stop the government from spying on your communications.
        Will these court decisions also undo the retroactive legalization of telecom spying?
        I don't think you're looking broadly enough at the 4th Amendment.

        Best case scenario, more people carry guns.
        Most likely scenario, more people carry guns and shoot at/get shot by the cops.

      • So you know not all second amendment supporters are like the GP and want to start a revolution. I recently got my carry permit for the specific purpose of hunting but not handgun hunting. As it is illegal to carry a loaded firearm when on a public road (like when walking down one to go out to the deer stand) unless one has a carry permit I decided after my run in with a wolf last year (It's not the one in front of you that you have to worry about) that it would be worth getting one so I could carry a loaded
      • by nmos (25822)

        As a fellow believer of the 2nd Amendment, I think talk of "overthrow[ing] this government now" is quite premature and irresponsible.

        Agreed. If enough of the population can be convinced that freedom is worthwhile we can still make progress via the vote. If not then a revolution is likely to make things worse rather than better.

    • Re:So what if (Score:4, Interesting)

      by http (589131) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @07:35PM (#37136362) Homepage Journal
      It's not nanny state. The aim is interference, not nurturing.
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      > I'm walking down the street with a concealed handgun (perfectly legal in 30+ states) and the DHS van shows I'm packing heat. Next thing I know I'm on the ground with a knee in my back and automatic weapons pointed at me. Is this how it's going to work?

      Of course. And if you cooperate fully and have all the proper documentation on you, and don't have the bad fortune of being in "the right place at the right time", they will probably let you go, and depending on the state and the precinct you might even

      • So, they'd be stopping him without any probable cause? They had no reason to believe he was carrying illegally, and now he gets to eat asphalt, play nice, answer all their questions, wait 20 minutes while they check his ID, and be thankful he is cooperating with national security, plus the added benefit of undocumented X-rays?

        That's the same as pulling over anyone you see driving a car, because if they don't have a license it would be illegal for them to drive, so you have to be sure. Except you treat eve

        • by roc97007 (608802)

          > So, they'd be stopping him without any probable cause?

          I understand what you're saying, but the probable cause will be that he was detected carrying a weapon. You can't be too careful. If it saves just one life etc etc.

          • If it is even a fair possibility that he was carrying legally, that isn't probable cause. See the analogy of pulling over anyone caught driving, in case they don't have a license to drive.
    • I don't like this one bit, either, but in all honesty the scenario where they just SWAT down anyone carrying a concealed handgun is extremely unlikely.

      Mainly, because there are too many of us.

      I think it's worth remembering that generally, speaking, the people doing this stuff do not think of themselves as the bad guys.  Quite the contrary--they're not going to mess with  you unless they really think you're up to serious no good.
    • Are you an undercover cop? No? So your weapon is for "protection" and not merely to make you feel like you have a ten foot long penis - why then don't you have it where it can been seen and let that help with protecting you?
      Oh that's right, the tinfoil hat defence of "that's what they expect you to do so I have to hide it to keep them guessing". That's not going to make any sense unless you live in a bad spy movie.
      As for part two - the weather in Somalia isn't bad at this time of year if you want to see
      • by jelizondo (183861)

        Sorry pal, you got it wrong on several counts:

        • If someone out to mug you sees that you are armed, then he shoots first and robs you after;
        • Where I live, you will get 7 years imprisonment for carrying a gun, however criminal bands not only have guns, but assault rifles (AR-15 A2 is the most popular here) and even grenade-launchers (Federal Labs)

        Now suppose that instead of pulling my wallet, I pull a gun: a) I might get killed or b) the thug may run away. Without a gun, I'm likely to only get killed.

        Unlike you

      • You may find this hard to believe, but in many places law-abiding citizens are required to conceal lawfully-carried firearms. The only people who can legally have a gun visible are the police. In fact, it may act as a deterrent, as a potential attacker doesn't know who is and is not carrying. Long gone is the old west attitude of "only a criminal would conceal a gun, honest men should carry them out in the open."
      • Well very often when I am carrying my handgun I also have a rifle or shot gun slung across my back as I am out hunting. I do open carry but not to advertise to everyone that I have a weapon, but so that if I need to get it in case of bear, wolf, moose attack (I hunt in areas where these animals are fairly common) I don't have to fuck around trying to get it out of the holster. I carry it since it is illegal to transport a loaded firearm on a public roadway unless it is a handgun and you have a carry permit
    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      And the alternative - that's some Tea Party?

    • by Bob9113 (14996)

      I'm walking down the street with a concealed handgun (perfectly legal in 30+ states) and the DHS van shows I'm packing heat. Next thing I know I'm on the ground with a knee in my back and automatic weapons pointed at me.

      Let's see if we can get the other side of the aisle on board as well:

      "I'm walking down the street with a bong in my pocket (none of the gov't's damned business) and the DHS van shows I'm packing illegal paraphernalia. Next thing I know I'm on the ground with a knee in my back and they're pin

    • There are apparently vans out there scanning completely oblivious and innocent people, with technology that is extremely suspect for the risk is represents to ones health, possibly causing cancer, and your problem with that is you might get halted/arrested for walking around the street with a gun?

      Honestly, with the airport shit you can at least chose not to fly in order to not expose yourself to those porkbarrel scanners, these vans driving out there exposing completely oblivous people to radiation sounds l

  • by mr1911 (1942298)
    The government agency responsible for eroding the Constitution would not be open about what they are doing? Preposterous!

    Write your congressional leaders today and demand the TSA be 1) immediately defunded, and 2) disbanded all together. If you really care, expand your note to include the entire DHS.
  • Are there any backscatter detectors? Or should I just assume that every black van on the road is there to irradiate me?

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      Black vans means black body radiation.

      Time to build an EMP device. They can be made in the size of a suitcase, just walk by van and fire it. But don't wear any electronic device since it will be toast.

  • Do I get paid? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @06:44PM (#37135908)
    How much do I get for participating in these medical experiments. Better yet, how can I opt out?
  • Are they also planning to have pat-downs in major cities? Pretty soon, everywhere you go you will either have to go through an X-ray or get patted down, all for "security."
  • by vux984 (928602) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @06:55PM (#37135994)

    "The ZBV produces electronically generated xrays that detect substances containing low atomic number elements such as carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen.

    These elements are often present in explosives and other contraband..."

    not to mention lumber, tofu, soil, cucumbers, coal, ice cream, books, mayonnaise, ham, and blankets...

    • ... squirrels, birds, trees, cats, gasoline, diesel, small children, ants, dogs, large children, nylon, foam, rubber, paper money, credit cards.

      This sounds like an interesting way to get some "reasonable suspicion" and be able to search anyone any time.

  • this is simply unacceptable. I wouldn't be surprised if people started carrying personal x-ray detectors. If you expose my children to x-rays while they're just walking in a public place, I have a serious issue with this. I can't even imagine what's gonna happen if a parent discovers their children have just been exposed.

  • coat a photo-diode in zinc sulfide. voila! detector

    • by delt0r (999393)
      The photo diode on its own is not bad either. Or get a proper PIN diode for the job, they are cheap enough.
  • the reason (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nimbius (983462) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @07:12PM (#37136146) Homepage
    your safety comes second and the governments ability to detect terrorists comes first, is because the death of US citizens is well known to be uncontroversial and tolerable, even on large scales such as katrina.

    What is absolutely intolerable is terrorism, because terrorism undermines the governments control of the populous. its one thing if an earthquake kills three thousand people, but its entirely different when a single terrorist accomplishes it...the terrorist draws unwanted attention to the united states government, its foreign policy, its structure and its members position in the class system.

    this is also incidentally why governments are loathe to negotiate with terrorists, regardless of the validity of their positions; a single person or idea should never be allowed to upset the balance of power as it stands.
    • Re:the reason (Score:5, Insightful)

      by evanism (600676) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @07:31PM (#37136310) Journal

      The days of "the united states" seem well and truly over. Economically, politically and socially it has turned to despotism, desperation and an absence of morals.

      time to turn our attentions elsewhere while the poor old US eats itself alive with hate and fear.

      Wonder how long it will be before the hate mongers generate a war with China?

      • by Omestes (471991)

        You have me with politically and economically, but I don't know about socially, especially when it comes to "morals". Whose morals? "Morals" is generally just an excuse for totalitarianism, and enforcing arbitrary religious and social views on others who don't hold those views.

        • by evanism (600676)

          Morals in good form are always found, even in the most despotic society. East Germany, Zimbabwe, China, NKPR... its how the "authorities" act that determine the tenor of the society, even if its citizens are moral themselves.

          I agree with your assertion of what is moral, is not, and judged by whom. Morals are an extension of ethos and ethic. The problem lies here for the USA is that both its ethos and ethic are made up to suit the situation at hand. They are not true convictions but mere reactions to ext

          • by Omestes (471991)

            Thank you for the clarification. Generally when morals come up in a conversation about society it is meant as "people don't believe the same stuff I do, and that is bad". This raises my hackles, obviously. Not that I don't think we have some problems on that front, we've become a bit too callous to the plight of others, a bit too quick to assign blame, and wish the maximum level of punishment on others without minimal actual knowledge of them or the events. We put almost no emphasis on empathy, and inst

    • this is also incidentally why governments are loathe to negotiate with terrorists, regardless of the validity of their positions; a single person or idea should never be allowed to upset the balance of power as it stands.

      Exactly how is one supposed to negotiate with a person or group who has no clear or rational motivation or who's goals are something horrible like genocide? There is no one who has been able to clearly articulate why some crazy people flew a pair of planes into the World Trade Center. We know *what* they did. But there is no clear answer to *why* because it was not a rational act by people with rational goals. Furthermore, if the demands of the terrorists are something that plainly cannot be accommodat

    • Re:the reason (Score:5, Informative)

      by inviolet (797804) <slashdotNO@SPAMideasmatter.org> on Thursday August 18, 2011 @08:18PM (#37136750) Journal

      your safety comes second and the governments ability to detect terrorists comes first, is because the death of US citizens is well known to be uncontroversial and tolerable, even on large scales such as katrina.

      What is absolutely intolerable is terrorism, because terrorism undermines the governments control of the populous. its one thing if an earthquake kills three thousand people, but its entirely different when a single terrorist accomplishes it...

      Not quite. The real death toll from Katrina, for example, is still classified. Were it published, it would significantly undermine public confidence in their government.

      The published death toll involved a great deal of 'creative' counting. Oh yeah, lots died from electrocution, and from falling objects, and from heart attacks, and from lawless violence... but those aren't Katrina deaths, you see.

      • Re:the reason (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Bob9113 (14996) on Friday August 19, 2011 @01:42AM (#37138526) Homepage

        The real death toll from Katrina, for example, is still classified.

        Classified?

        Are you saying the number is extremely hard to calculate perfectly, and so it is something other than 1836 (current number listed on Wikipedia), and depends on your definition, and nobody really knows?

        Or do you mean that the actual number including proximate deaths is well known and clearly documented by the government, significantly higher than the 1836 cited on Wikipedia, and has been intentionally prohibited from public view?

        If the latter, I am very intrigued by your supposition. Do you have a source?

    • I think you give them too much credit.

      They do it because terrorism scares the hell out of a lot of people, including people in government.

      I really think that as time passes, the mania for anti-terrorism will pass, as the manias for anti-communism, anti-liquor, etc. have passed.

      Or we could all be subjected to continuous control.  Robots will enable that.  That's what scares me, but I think we've got some time.
    • by dbIII (701233)
      That's right, Reagan didn't negotiate with terrorists, he just put it to them straight.
      Here's $7 million for the hostages, take it or leave it. Got enough guns? Poindexter and North have some at a good price.
  • by ad454 (325846) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @07:49PM (#37136462)

    As a cancer survivor, it appears that I will need to start to wear tin-foil outfits from head-to-toe for health reasons whenever I use public transit or visit government buildings and other "risky" place. Thank you Obama, this will really encourage me to reduce my car usage and carbon footprint.

    Doctor Oz does not consider these scanners to be safe for the following 4 groups: cancer survivors, pregnant women, children, and elderly, and he recommends that they should avoid being scanned at airports.

      http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/dangers-radiation-exposure-pt-4 [doctoroz.com]

    Check around 4:10, also at 1:30 as well.

    • Doctor Oz does not consider these scanners to be safe for the following 4 groups: cancer survivors, pregnant women, children, and elderly, and he recommends that they should avoid being scanned at airports.

      Doctor Oz is also on record as promoting homeopathy and other unproven "alternative" treatments [wikipedia.org]. Just because someone says it on TV doesn't mean they know what they are talking about or that it is accurate.

      Personally unless I see some studies from extremely reputable journals like Nature, I don't consider them proven safe for any group. They may be reasonably safe but they may not be as well and DHS just saying "trust me" isn't good enough. I'm actually glad I rarely need to fly anywhere these days.

  • Meh (Score:4, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @08:51PM (#37137016)
    They should be easy to find. Just look for an SSID of 'DHS_MOBILE_SCANNING_VAN' to pop up in your wireless access point list.
  • I wonder how many lawyers have already figured out that any suspect that has evidence brought against them, evidence obtained with this technology, already has in hand an admission by the authorities that the suspect was subjected to x-rays against their will? Hell, even a probable cause statement for a warrant would require the admission of use of this technology.

    Every prosecution could mean a reciprocal civil lawsuit for damages associated with X-ray exposure. I think it would be justified. If nothing els

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      I wonder how many lawyers have already figured out that any suspect that has evidence brought against them, evidence obtained with this technology, already has in hand an admission by the authorities that the suspect was subjected to x-rays against their will? Hell, even a probable cause statement for a warrant would require the admission of use of this technology.

      There's no risk for having the lawyers sticking their noses in. The PATRIOT act and Guantanamo are still alive, you know?

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