The hardworking folks at Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) took advantage of the Freedom of Information Act to find out how extensive the TSA’s activities are in monitoring travel.
Turns out the Department of Homeland Security has purchased a variety of scanning and surveillance devices, including backscatter x-rays affixed to vehicles – so authorities can monitor pedestrians walking down the sidewalk.
Think this is a hyperventilated conspiracy theory? The fearless Andy Greenberg at Forbes uploaded a PDF of the actual documents. Here’s his take:
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.
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.
Is this what you had in mind when Bush originally unveiled the PATRIOT Act?