We have all heard of backscatter technology, technically known as Z Backscatter, first used at ports and border crossings for essentially x-raying trucks and railroad cars looking for dirty bombs, human cargo, or contraband. But, the manufacturer's website shows it used for packages and suitcases, "personnel inspection," and at airport entry points.
Now, instead of a fixed device that something must be run by, the backscatter device can come to you in a van, known as ZBV. The manufacturer even touts its product for drug detection:
A breakthrough in X-ray detection technology, AS&E's Z Backscatter Van (ZBV) is a low-cost, extremely maneuverable screening system built into a commercially available delivery van. The ZBV allows for immediate deployment in response to security threats, and its high throughput capability facilitates rapid inspections. The system's unique "drive-by" capability allows one or two operators to conduct X-ray imaging of suspect vehicles and objects while the ZBV drives past.
. . .
The Z Backscatter Van is used in port and border security, force protection, urban surveillance, and other critical security applications. The system is maneuverable, mobile and affordable. Simply put, the ZBV is faster, more effective, and less expensive than any mobile X-ray screening solution in the marketplace today.
The ZBV Reveals Contraband and Threats Undetected by Other Systems:
. Car and truck bombs
. Explosives, plastic weapons, and other organic threats
. Radioactive threats, including nuclear devices and dirty bombs
. Illegal drugs
. Stowaways, such as illegal immigrants and terrorists
. Trade fraud items, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other legal goods smuggled to evade duties
* In Stationary Scan Mode, ZBV operators may elect to scan the occupants of the subject vehicle. For this application, AS&E offers a Personnel Scanning option that may better enable the customer to meet any applicable country-specific regulatory requirements. For more information, please call (978) 262–8832.
At another place on the company's website, drug detection is listed first:
AS&E's Cargo and Vehicle inspection systems are engineered to provide security personnel with an effective means of detection without disrupting the flow of commerce.
AS&E uses the most advanced proprietary technologies in the industry to deliver X-ray inspection systems that can detect a multitude of threats and contraband, including:
. Illegal Drugs
. Illegal Immigrants
. Plastic Weapons and Explosives, including car and truck bombs
. Radioactive Threats, including nuclear devices and dirty bombs
. Smuggled goods, such as alcohol, tobacco products, and other legal goods smuggled to evade duties (trade fraud)
. Weapons or other inorganic threats, including metal weapons and shielding to conceal radioactive materials
These systems can inspect cars, vans, and trucks, as well as palletized cargo, and air and sea cargo containers. We offer our systems in a variety of configurations to give customers maximum flexibility, safety, and utility when implementing security solutions.
The cost means that the drug dog will never be replaced. Drug dogs are far easier to use and move around.
Questions immediately arise, and we have to know that law enforcement is already thinking about this: How fast and close must the subject vehicle be moving by (as in a train or tractor trailer) such that the technology must improve to the point that a ZBV van could be parked on a highway or a truck weigh station to scan everything going by? (Trucks creep by at a highway weigh station, so this is already possible, but vehicles likely drive by too fast on a highway to meaningfully register. But what about the future? What about a computer reading the image rather than a person? [This isn't TSA, you know.])
What about parking in a driveway (a place with a reduced expectation of privacy, but not from this) and scanning a house? How far away is that technology? It would not be useful for small quantities of drugs, but it would for large quantities, or grow operations or meth labs.
If Kyllo applies to thermal images, this is far more intrusive if it ever goes that far. Just look at the human images on the company's website.
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—United States v. $124,570, 873 F.2d 1240, 1246 (9th Cir. 1989)
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