Firm rolls out body scanner

Two years after privacy advocates railed against a prototypic X-ray device that sees through people's clothing for hidden weapons, another company has launched similar technology that will be marketed to airports and government facilities.

Security Intelligence Technologies Inc., a company that manufactures detection, surveillance and security products and is based in New Rochelle, N.Y., has developed the Terrorist Trap Digital Bodyscan, a radiographic scanner that detects and displays organic and nonorganic objects on a human body.

It is similar to the Rapiscan Secure 1000, which used X-ray technology to scan and display a graphic image of a body on a computer screen. Civil libertarians objected that it was unnecessarily invasive, describing it as a virtual strip search. Rapiscan Security Products, a subsidiary of OSI Systems Inc., based in Hawthorne, Calif., manufactured that device, which was tested at Orlando International Airport in 2002.

According to Arielle Jamil, a spokeswoman for Security Intelligence Technologies, the Terrorist Trap is much safer than previous similar technologies.

"The amount of radiation you're exposed to is equal to the amount of radiation you get sitting in an airplane for an hour," she said.

"This machine is really a walk through and go," she said. "It keeps traffic moving. Like a metal detector, you stand inside a box and it does a full body scan. This thing will catch anything. This thing will catch somebody putting something somewhere. There's no getting around this thing."

The device can detect various objects -- such as guns, knives, plastic and electronic explosives, precious stones, metals and smuggled items including narcotics or contraband -- concealed in clothing or a person's body cavities or if swallowed. It provides a visual image on a computer within 10 seconds.

Despite what civil libertarians have said previously about invasion of privacy, Jamil said she would rather go through the device than not.

"There is a tradeoff," she said. "If we want to keep ourselves alive there's a tradeoff."

Jamil said the technology is being used in parts of Europe, but not in the United States. In addition to the private sector, the company plans to market the product to prisons, courthouses, embassies, military checkpoints, border crossings and customs.

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