Von G.W. Schulz, CIR – truthdig
While debate continues in the United States over whether whole-body imagers now being used at airports to detect weapons violate privacy rights and even create potential health risks, manufacturers of the technology are opening deeper opportunities for themselves elsewhere that could make the controversial machines a bigger part of everyday life.
A Massachusetts-based company claims that government agencies here and abroad have purchased hundreds of its van-mounted X-ray devices that reveal the contents of passing vehicles without authorities relying on a manual search to find human stowaways, secret compartments full of narcotics or bomb ingredients.
An executive of American Science & Engineering told Forbes privacy writer Andy Greenberg late last month that the X-ray scanners are most popular with the Defense Department, a fact borne out by federal contracting data. Troops face insurgent bomb architects in Iraq and Afghanistan capable of stymieing the world’s most powerful armed forces with crude, MacGyver-style explosives, so vehicle X-ray technology in a place like Baghdad makes sense.
But marketing vice president Joe Reiss said they’re also being snapped up by law enforcement officials here, another fact supported by public records, which list at least five major federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security as purchasers of the equipment, in addition to the Pentagon. “This product is now the largest selling cargo and vehicle inspection system ever,” Reiss boasted to Forbes.
Drilling deeper, the transcript of a February earnings conference call shows that company CEO Anthony Fabiano told investors AS&E had sold its first vehicle X-ray scanner “to a state government for law enforcement applications. That’s a U.S. state.” Additional details are scant.