A controversial new X-ray technology is being tested that could stop potential terrorists from blowing up a car bomb at one of the nation's airports, homeland security officials say.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is running a test at a North Carolina ferry terminal of a 21-foot-high arch-like machine that shoots low-intensity X-rays at cars as they pass through. The photos show whether explosives or drugs might be in the car.
The technology, called backscatter X-ray, is in use at several airports to screen passengers. Privacy advocates have denounced scanning people as invasive because the X-rays can see through clothes.
Melissa Ngo, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who focuses on privacy issues, says using the technology for cars could pave the way for "Big Brother" government spying.
"If this technology ends up being deployed widely, it seems to be another step toward a society where you need to accept surveillance in every part of your life," Ngo says.
TSA Assistant Administrator John Sammon said motorist privacy won't be invaded because taking X-rays of cars "is a fairly non-intrusive way of being able to inspect vehicles that are coming in" to an airport. At many airports, cars are currently stopped at random and searched by authorities.