Australian customs found 60 pounds of drugs inside the bodies of travelers last year, now legislation is before the Federal Parliament that would allow customs officers to use these new body scanners to view all objects beyond folds of skin instead of sending drug-smuggling suspects to hospitals for internal X-rays ordered by a doctor.
The Millimeter-wave scanner can (supposedly) detect metal objects but is incapable of detecting plastics or liquid objects. The BackScatter can detect metal objects and some plastics but both are only capable of seeing through clothing and not folds of skin. This new scanner is a hospital-grade full-body scanner, the same method used for bone fractures and mammograms.
Yet another TSA officer has been arrested on suspicion of abusing her position and engaging in illegal activity, adding to a long history of cases indicating that TSA workers are prone to criminal behavior.
“Behavioral detection” officer Minnetta Walker was arrested Tuesday by federal agents at Buffalo Niagara International Airport on charges that she provided information to suspected drug traffickers and helped them get past security checkpoints with minimum scrutiny, reports The Buffalo News.
Investigators say that Walker helped traffickers move large amounts of cash through the airport, escorting them through security lines, directing them away from the naked body scanners and patdown security lines, and ensuring their luggage bypassed screening areas.
According to the Affidavit in support of the Complaint, Walker also allowed at least one person to fly under a false identity and even waited with others at the aircraft departure gate, ensuring that they were able to avoid random secondary screening.
She also did this while off duty, but still in her TSA uniform.
Walker faces up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both for “conspiring to defraud the United States by interfering with and obstructing security measures”, and faces a further one year prison sentence, a fine of $100,000, or both for “aiding and abetting another individual in entering an aircraft and airport area in violation of federal security requirements”.
Walker has pleaded not guilty. The TSA has refused to comment on the case.
The most sickening part of the case is that Walker’s role as a “behavioral detection” officer is to walk around the airport seeking out potential criminals by analyzing their behaviour. Clearly it takes one to know one, if Walker is found guilty, of course.
Updated with the TSA’s response below, which denies implementing airport-style scans in mass transit.
Giving Transportation Security Administration agents a peek under your clothes may soon be a practice that goes well beyond airport checkpoints. Newly uncovered documents show that as early as 2006, the Department of Homeland Security has been planning pilot programs to deploy mobile scanning units that can be set up at public events and in train stations, along with mobile x-ray vans capable of scanning pedestrians on city streets.
The non-profit Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) on Wednesday published documents it obtained from the Department of Homeland Security showing that from 2006 to 2008 the agency planned a study of of new anti-terrorism technologies that EPIC believes raise serious privacy concerns. The projects range from what the DHS describes as “a walk through x-ray screening system that could be deployed at entrances to special events or other points of interest” to “covert inspection of moving subjects” employing the same backscatter imaging technology currently used in American airports.
The 173-page collection of contracts and reports, acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, includes contracts with Siemens Corporations, Northeastern University, and Rapiscan Systems. The study was expected to cost more than $3.5 million.
One project allocated to Northeastern University and Siemens would mount backscatter x-ray scanners and video cameras on roving vans, along with other cameras on buildings and utility poles, to monitor groups of pedestrians and assess what they carried. In another program, the researchers were asked to develop a system of long range x-ray scanning to determine what metal objects an individual might have on his or her body at distances up to thirty feet.
“This would allow them to take these technologies out of the airport and into other contexts like public streets, special events and ground transit,” says Ginger McCall, an attorney with EPIC. “It’s a clear violation of the fourth amendment that’s very invasive, not necessarily effective, and poses all the same radiation risks as the airport scans.”
It’s not clear to what degree the technologies outlined in the DHS documents have been implemented. Multiple contacts at the DHS public affairs office didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.