The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request with the United States Department of Homeland Security, demanding that the agency turn over documents concerning the use of body-scanner technology by law enforcement agencies in surface transit and street roaming vans.
The vans, produced by American Science and Engineering, Inc., have the ability to look inside passing vehicles or inside buildings. They are available in the form of a large delivery-type van or even larger tractor-trailer versions.
According to AS&E’s website, the Z Backscatter Van™ is “an extremely 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 ZBV can also be operated in stationary mode by parking the system and producing X-ray images of vehicles as they pass by. Screening can also be accomplished remotely while the system is parked. Remote operation allows scanning to be done safely, even in dangerous environments, while maintaining low-profile operation. The system is unobtrusive, as it maintains the outward appearance of an ordinary van,” the website states.
AS&E is one of the manufacturers of the naked body scanners found in some of the nation’s airports. EPIC has sued to suspend the deployment of body scanners at U.S. airports, pending an independent review of their safety and efficacy.
In the news release announcing their latest FOI request, EPIC said that the program is "unlawful, invasive, and ineffective."
EPIC contends that, in employing the scanners, DHS has violated the Administrative Procedures Act, the Privacy Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Fourth Amendment. EPIC cited the invasive nature of the devices, the TSA’s disregard of public opinion and the impact on religious freedom.