EPIC website scanner image
WASHINGTON–It isn’t only happening in airports.
American citizens have been subjected to potentially dangerous, super-sensitive body scanners in train stations, sports arenas, and even while they’re driving down public streets – and images of their virtually nude bodies allegedly may be stored on computer hard drives.
The Washington, DC-based Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Homeland Security demanding information about the use of body scanners in “street-roaming vans,” trains, stadiums and subway stations.
“EPIC seeks documents concerning the development and deployment of ‘body scanner’ (or ‘whole body imaging,’ ‘advanced imaging technology,’ ‘millimeter wave,’ or ‘backscatter’) technology by law enforcement agencies in surface transit and in street-roaming vans,” according to the request.
EPIC has cited both privacy and safety concerns in information requests and lawsuits filed against DHS.
“Recent news stories have also documented the implementation of body scanner technology in vans that are able to scan other vehicles while driving down public roadways. These vans, known as ‘Z backscatter vans,’ are capable of seeing through vehicles and clothing and routinely store the images that they generate,” according to the Nov. 24 FOIA request.
EPIC also notes that DHS has tested body scanning machines on people traveling by train outside of New York City.
On its website, EPIC describes itself as a “public interest research center” focusing on civil liberties issues, with the goal of protecting “privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values.”
EPIC filed suit in July to suspend the Transportation Security Administration’s use of body scanners at U.S. airports, deeming the technology “invasive, ineffective, and unlawful.” TSA is a branch of DHS.
The lawsuit followed TSA’s failure to respond to an earlier EPIC FOIA request demanding disclosure about radiation risks posed by the scanners, according to the privacy group.
EPIC argues that the TSA’s use of scanners has “violated the Administrative Procedures Act, the Privacy Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Fourth Amendment.”
“Body scanners produce detailed, three-dimensional images of individuals. Security experts have described whole body scanners as the equivalent of ‘a physically invasive strip-search,’” said EPIC on its website.
“EPIC concludes that further deployment and contracting for body scanners should be suspended until the privacy and security problems identified are adequately resolved,” according to the website.