A portable version of the airport body scanners which travelers hate will soon be used to screen at commuters at bus stations and subway systems across the nation.
The Los Angeles County Metro Authority announced last month it intends to become the first to use the technology. The scanners will be in place by the Autumn of 2018 and allegedly will add an extra layer of security to the third-largest transit system.
The New Jersey Transit is looking at the technology and the system has already been tested at Washington D.C.’s Union Station.
Stand Off Explosive Detector
Security experts claim the “standoff explosive detection” technology is a breakthrough in the era of increasing threats and will detect weapons. New York City officials point to a pipe-bomb detonation which injured five at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in December as added justification for the city to implement the scanners.
ACLU Gets Involved
The devices have raised concerns among privacy advocates and civil liberties observers. They believe the technology may be misused. They also question if screening everyday commuters in the name of security is going too far.
The ACLU filed, this week, a public records request. The filing demands more information about the scanners which the group believes raises “serious constitutional questions and concerns.”
Body Scanned From 40-Feet
During a recent morning rush hour at Washington’s Union Station, security officials from the Transportation Security Administration were stationed behind a bank of computers while the body scanners monitored passe3rby in the city’s busiest rail station.
Unlike the stationery scanners used by TSA at airport checkpoints, these scanners are mobile. As commuters walked past a scanner mounted on a tripod or the second which was stored in a rolling case, the devices scanned their bodies searching for anomalies.
The scans can create images 40-feet away and is designed to detect suicide vests or other explosives which may be strapped to the body.
If an explosive is detected, an alarm will be triggered. The scanners can detect metallic and nonmetallic threats and both are detected without radiation.
How Much Is A Human Life Worth?
The technology has been on the works since the 2004 Madrid train explosion that killed almost 200 travelers.
The device has been used in America for large-scale events including the Super Bowl and the Pope’s 2015 visit.
Although multiple transit systems are interested, the cost can be prohibitive. Each device costs around $100,000. With many of the interested agencies already struggling to cover basic operating needs, the price is high.
Transit authorities in San Francisco have not considered the devices but not because of money. The city lacks the personnel needed to run the system.
Funding for the program is scarce. Federal transit security grant money has been in decline for years even as the number of cities competing for federal dollars has grown. Federal security funds have gone from about $253 million in the fiscal year 2010 to over $880 million in 208.
“There is no illusion we can stop every terrorist in the nation,” says Arkady Bukh, a New York criminal defense attorney. “What we can try to do is mitigate the risk through deterrence and detection.”