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“Within the next year or two, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will instantly know everything about your body, clothes, and luggage with a new laser-based molecular scanner fired from 164 feet (50 meters) away,” reports with breathless (if properly paranoid) optimism. “From traces of drugs or gun powder on your clothes to what you had for breakfast to the adrenaline level in your body—agents will be able to get any information they want without even touching you.” And that’s just the good part. The bad part: it’s only a matter of time before the Fuzzbuster lookalike molecular scanner finds its way from airports and border crossings to thousands of practitioners of “stop and frisk” policing. Concealed carry? Holster makers are already working on solutions. Or will be, soon enough.

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  1. Since we probably can’t disguise things from it, I predict a major aftermarket for things designed to confuse and overload these things. When the cops end up stopping everyone all the time they’ll get tired of it.

  2. That’s seriously effing disturbing…it’s apparently already being abused in Dubai. They jailed a guy for 4 years for having a spec of pot under his shoe – so small it bascially wasn’t even visible. What??

  3. So if the little red light goes on the tazer comes out, subject is taken to the ground, and plastic handcuffs deployed? Does it make different sounds for gunpowder, coke, or nervousness?

  4. I can think of LOTS of bad things that this could be used for, scanning people for diseases to screen them out of jobs, definitely illegal searches of person, car and home, and depending on the sensitivity thresholds the courts are willing to accept, just about everyone carrying paper money has drug residue on them. No way is this kind of technology going to just be used by the government, the private sector will use this to screen out people that smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, eat fatty foods, etc, to deny them affordable health and life insurance, jobs, security clearances, bonding for jobs that require handing cash, all in the name of “minimizing risk”. This kind of stuff seriously scares the living crap out of me. All I can think of is if I pass the “smell test” I get to go to the labor camp, and if I don’t, I become Soylent Green.

  5. Since this technology is so sensitive I wonder how much cross contamination they will discover within the general population regarding the targeted molecular compounds.

  6. The upside of this thing is that with any luck, it could unite a lot of folks who previously have only been concerned with their own pet liberty issue. I, for love would love to watch the NRA and the ACLU both stick it to the ba$tard$.

  7. Make sure to rub your hands in some gunpowder dust before going out every day and then make sure to shake hands with everyone you meet.

    • As always, in NYC, the priviliged few will be unconditionally exempt. Bloomy’s assigns will be issued a scrambler of some sort. And NYC will also be the first municipality to happily abuse the gizmo.

  8. KEE RISTE!!!!

    I see stuff like that and begin to agree with the likes of matt.

    That is down right scary. Shouldn’t a warrant be required to utilize it? Seems analogous to tapping a phone

  9. Im calling bullshit. Some magic device breathlessly hyped on a tech blog, smells like flame bait to me.

    Notice how almost all the links go back to the company pushing the product? Notice how the routers link that is supposed to back up the claim doesnt quite match the claims in the article?

    Dont dont dont believe the hype.

      • The technology to detect minute amount of substances at close range does exist, that is the kernel of truth that this (most likely) tall tale is based on. Thats the technology that the company being hyped here is normally involved in, biomed scanning and spectroscopy.

        But being able to detect something at close range and doing it at a distance are two different things.

        That or they could be employing the more time honored technology of officials lying to secure a conviction against people they dont like.

        • I’m with you on this one, Colin. I’m an electrical engineer who’s worked with sensors of virtually every description in an industrial environment, and this doesn’t pass the sniff test. I’m guessing the machine’s one feature that actually works reliably is its ability to manufacture probable cause out of thin air. It doesn’t have to work for police to abuse it! In fact law enforcement agencies around the world have a long track record of adopting bogus technology.

  10. most of the links provided dont really back up the claims made in the article. Consider this claim:

    “According to the undersecretary for science and technology of the Department of Homeland Security, this scanning technology will be ready within one to two years, which means you might start seeing them in airports as soon as 2013.”

    But the link provided actually says this:

    “This company developed a tunable laser source for the medical community and S&T is investigating the feasibility of this technology to perform non-contact, trace explosives detection. S&T expects to close four more In-Q-Tel deals in the next few months. All of these projects are expected to produce transition-ready technologies in the next 12 to 24 months.”

    Notice how the gizmodo article claims that DHS is saying that *this* technology will be ready in 2 years, but the link provided:

    actually says that they are “investigating the feasibility of this technology” and that four more undescribed deals will be ready. Not exactly the same thing. Also note that the link is the DHS cheer-leading its own R&D efforts to congress, so its fairly likely that they will sound a more optimistic note than perhaps is realistic.

  11. How about this line:

    “The technology is so incredibly effective that, in November 2011, its inventors were subcontracted by In-Q-Tel to work with the US Department of Homeland Security. In-Q-Tel is a company founded “in February 1999 by a group of private citizens at the request of the Director of the CIA and with the support of the U.S. Congress.” According to In-Q-Tel, they are the bridge between the Agency and new technology companies.”

    Talk about a bunch of vacuous hype, the proof that their technology is “so incredibly effective” is that they were subcontracted by In-Q-Tel? So what? Lots of companies are subcontracted by defense R&D firms, thats hardly proof that their technology even works, let alone that its “so incredibly effective”.

  12. Here is a nice little gem at the bottom of the article:

    “The author of this story is currently completing his PhD in renewable energy solutions, focusing on converting waste to energy in the urban environment. Even while most of this information is publicly available, he wanted to remain anonymous.”

    Yea, that just screams credibility right there, a bunch of PR hype combined with an anonymous author.

  13. Isn’t there some new police device that allows cops from a patrol car to x-ray scan people on the sidewalk to see if they are carrying a gun or knife type object?

    • They actually have (white) X ray vans in a number of Metropoliton areas that can see what is on your person, as well as the items being transported in your vehicle.

  14. For comparison, let’s look at the laser spectroscopy equipment on NASA’s new Mars rover Curiosity:

    – Has a range of 7 meters
    – Does not claim to be able to detect through clothing, etc.
    – Cost $10M
    – When your target is a rock on the surface of Mars, nobody complains when you use a laser to vaporize a bit of it.

  15. Call me jaded, but it doesn’t matter, people as a whole won’t care. Look at the disgusting invasion of the TSA. People talk and bitch but don’t do anything about it. This will be the same way. So long as they get home to watch Idol and update Twitter, they’re fine.

    • I’m certainly going to miss asking those cowboys at TSA to slow down and double check my groin area. Without that ‘personal touch’ I don’t ‘feel’ like I’m getting my money’s worth out of the 9/11 tax.

  16. I remember reading an article about this technology a while ago – maybe here on TTAG. There was a video attached, but for some reason, I seem to recall that the technology projected a “shadow” if you will. Specifically, if you are walking down the street with your left side to the road and a passing patrol car zaps you with this gadget, it will pick up anything on your left side, front, or back, but if you have something on your right side, it would be in the shadow of your body which this tech could not penetrate and thus not be detected.

    Additionally, like with other types of detective technology, I would further suspect that this would be subject to “false positives” It might be provable in a court of law that the false positive rate is high enough that simply detecting something does not meet the criteria for a probable cause search.

  17. I see a market for ‘Faraday Cage’ bodystockings. Of course the powers that be will then make them illegal.


    Can person(s) simply serrepticiously sprinkle “powder” all over the surrounding premises.?

    Same with their dogs. Can person(s) sprinkle ground glass wherever they do not want to be tracked by animals?

  19. Oh good. Hit by another cancer beam from the out of control authoritarians looking for invisible ooga-booga terrorists. My take on it is that this tech is probably bogus like their “mind reading” scanners from a year or so ago. Trying to scare everyone into rolling over like domesticated Nancymen. However, should the tech be for real, we have no choice but to engage once again in non-compliance. You don’t get to search me, electronically or otherwise, just because I exist.

    So, let’s get this straight: We, the psychopathic authoritarian power apparatus stage the self inflicted wound of 9-11 so we can start wars all over the world, set up a police state at home, then spray everyone with radioactive cancer beams under the guise of keeping them safe.

    Got it. They’re trying to push us into a fight so they can crack down for real.

    Police and Military, don’t go along with this. It’ll get ugly. Fast. Not everyone is a TV watching idiot zombie jellyfish.

  20. This technology doesn’t work as advertised. To fully detect all advertised items and chemicals it would need multi-spectrum wide band coherent light into the UV band. This is an example of a company hawking a product as the only solution to a wide range unsupported market place. They may believe it works but real world test have shown the vast deficiencies of these methods of detecting chemicals, mostly the wrong guess. Just like the Bomb sniffers that don’t work, just like the body scanners that don’t find concealed items, just like the ADE-651 that hundreds of millions was wasted on, just like the next snake oil salesman from the Military Industrial Complex promising anything they want to here. This technique of detection has narrow uses, and Gun Powder requires UV spectrum to accurately detect.

  21. Oh the fun, if this goes live, simply start fogging crowds with nitrates so everyone inline is 100% positive! What better way to wake the masses up and take down the illegal police state run by the banksters which has taken over the planet.


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