Covert Body Scanners: A Necessary Physical Security Tool or a Blatant Violation of Rights
No requirement for length – however, ensure you answer all parts of the question and that you write in complete sentences. Additionally, make sure you proofread for grammar and spelling.
In early March 2011, a USA Today reported wrote and published an article entitled “Homeland Security Looked Into Covert Body Scans.” This article (attached below) outlined the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to develop and study surveillance systems that could covertly track pedestrians and check under people’s clothing with airport-style body scanners.
Two years later in early March 2013, a CNN reporter wrote and published an article entitled “TSA Removes Body Scanners Criticized as Being Too Revealing.” This article
(attached below) outlined the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to backscatter X-ray machines from airport security checkpoints for a number of reasons but mostly because they were too revealing of the general public.
For this discussion board, you will take the position of either an advocate or an opponent of this type of scanning technology. Please note, your assignment below may not be your initial position. However, students should think critically about the position assigned and develop logical and convincing arguments to substantiate their points. Students may wish to conduct additional research on this technology if they are not familiar with its implementation and subsequent removal
If your last name begins with the letters A – L, you will serve as an advocate and answer those questions below.
If your last name begins with the letters M – Z, you will serve as an opponent and answer those questions below.
ADVOCATE: Last Names Beginning with Letters A – L:
1) Why is this type of technology necessary in the United States?
2) Where would the implementation of these technologies be acceptable?
3) Would the implementation / testing be permissible for the private sector?
4) How would the implementation of these technologies help safeguard life and property within critical infrastructure?
5) Can you think of any recent current events where the use of this technology would have been useful to the American public?
OPPONENT: Last Names Beginning with Letters M – Z:
1) What are your concerns about the use of these technologies?
2) What rights could potentially be violated through the implementation of these technologies?
3) Would the implementation / testing be permissible for the private sector?
4) If technologies such as these are not utilized, what are other strategies/procedures should be implemented?
5) Other countries such as Israel and China are undoubtedly working on similar technologies, why should the United States be different?
Homeland Security looked into covert body scans
By Thomas Frank, USA TODAY
4 MARCH 2011
The Homeland Security Department paid contractors millions of dollars to develop and study surveillance systems that could covertly track pedestrians and check under people’s clothing with airport-style body scanners as they enter train stations, bus depots or major events, newly released documents show.
Two contracts the department signed in 2005 and 2006 were part of its effort to acquire technology to find suicide bombers in a crowd of moving people, according to documents given to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a privacy-rights group that is suing Homeland Security.
The department dropped the projects in a “very early” phase after testing showed flaws, Homeland Security spokesman Bobby Whithorne says.
EPIC lawyer Ginger McCall says the project is disturbing nonetheless because it shows the department “obviously believed that this level of surveillance is acceptable when in fact it is not at all acceptable.”
A $1.9 million contract with Rapiscan Systems, which makes airport body scanners, asked the company to develop similar machines for “covert inspection of moving subjects” and to find explosives on suicide bombers “through clothing, backpacks and other packages.” The contract was signed in 2005.
Rapiscan’s airport body scanners require subjects to stand still while the machines create an image of passengers underneath their clothing to reveal hidden weapons. EPIC has sued the department to stop their use, saying the machines violate privacy.
Rapiscan Vice President Peter Kant says the company gave Homeland Security a prototype machine designed “primarily for non-aviation settings” because it could scan people while they were moving.
Lab tests of the prototype resulted in the project being dropped, Whithorne says.
In 2006, the department signed a $1.3 million contract with Northeastern Universityin
Boston to test systems that could potentially “monitor and track individuals in a crowd.” Northeastern studied video cameras, imaging equipment similar to body scanners and radar, which can spot people at a distance.
After receiving Northeastern’s reports, Homeland Security decided against trying to develop a prototype machine, Whithorne says.
Using systems to covertly scan pedestrians “would be a clear violation” of laws against unreasonable searches, McCall says. “If you are walking down the street, this allows them to digitally strip-search you and rifle through your belongings without any sort of justification,” she says.
Homeland Security studies privacy implications of technologies before they are used on the public. The department dropped the two projects “before we even got to the privacy assessment phase,” Whithorne says.
Homeland Security has sought for several years to develop technology that can scan moving people, and has publicly tested equipment at a New Jersey rail station and at airports in Denver and Minneapolis.
Body scanners typically require a controlled environment that eliminates outside light, security consultant Rich Roth says.
Homeland Security has spent billions of dollars to develop systems that detect everything from airborne pathogens to people illegally crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.
TSA removes body scanners criticized as too revealing
By Mike M. Ahlers, CNN.com
Thu May 30, 2013
The TSA had developed protocols to assure that screeners who saw imagery of passengers never saw the passengers themselves.
• Backscatter full-body scanners generated controversy
• Critics said images were too revealing, others cited potential health concerns
• TSA says it has met June 1 deadline to remove machines from airports
• Airport full-body screening will use different technology
Washington (CNN) — The harshest critics labeled them “virtual strip searches.” Airport passenger screening that produced particularly realistic full-body images using backscatter technology.
Others also expressed health concerns about low doses of radiation from the X-rays underpinning those scans.
Well, it’s all over now as the Transportation Security Administration says it has met a June 1 deadline to remove all 250 backscatter machines from U.S. airports.
Travelers will still go through other full-body scans that rely on a system that uses radio waves and produces less detailed body imaging. The millimeter wave machines raise fewer privacy and virtually no health concerns.
“I think from the privacy perspective, that (the elimination of backscatter machines) has to be considered a victory,” said Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
The TSA maintained that the backscatter machines, manufactured by Rapiscan Systems, were safe and effective.
The agency had developed protocols to assure that screeners who saw imagery of passengers never saw the passengers themselves.
But Congress voted to require all body scanners to have privacy-protecting software, and the TSA announced in February it was phasing out backscatter systems because they could not meet the new standard.
The last backscatter machines were removed about two weeks ago, a TSA spokesman said. All 250 units were removed at Rapiscan’s expense, the agency said.
Currently, there are more than 700 body scanners at about 165 airports, all with Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) software, which display items on a generic body outline.
Rotenberg said he still has privacy concerns about millimeter wave machines, including what information is captured by the machine — even if unseen by screeners — and how long that information is retained.
“We’d like to see clearer rules about the collection of the images,” Rotenberg said. “Are they deleted? Are they saved? Is some analysis being done and can they be linked to passengers?”
Most countries do not use body scanners, he said, preferring to use a combination of metal detection and technology that can identify explosives.
Backscatter machines could return one day if the company develops required software, the TSA has said.
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