Wednesday’s Senate hearing on security lapses at federal government buildings around the U.S. brings up the need for better technology at those security checkpoints, not unlike the upgrades underway at U.S. airports. The walk-through metal detector is dated and does not get at liquids or plastic explosives, as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) testers demonstrated. However, whole body imaging, such as millimeter wave would have caught those threats.

Millimeter wave is deployed at about 20 airports nationwide, and it is next generation technology that goes beyond finding guns and knives. It can find the relevant threats of today — plastics and liquid explosives. Although the airport use has generated some concerns from privacy groups, there is no doubt this technology is effective. It is even deployed at the federal courthouse in the city where I live, Alexandria, Virginia.

The Department of Homeland Security, which currently houses the Federal Protective Service as a division of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, worked to establish rigorous privacy measures for whole body imaging at airports that could also be adopted in the federal building setting.

While this solution may seem obvious, it is not a slam dunk. The House passed a bill last month that would ban the use of this very effective detection technology in primary screening at airports. Hard to believe that our elected officials would pass legislation to put limitations on a technology that gets at the very real threats we face today. It will be up to our U.S. Senators to show leadership and reason on this issue and push for wider acceptance and use of millimeter wave to get at the vulnerabilities exposed through GAO testing.

  • Bob

    Ms Howe,
    To start I support TSA, I only wish that the security that TSA provides is as important as the security that the Federal Protective Service provides.According to reports the folling:
    When the airports are tested and they fail at a high rate but it is said that TSA expects failure so they know what areas need better training. So what is the difference between protecting the public when traveling and Federal buildings. Why not use Whole Body Imaging. Seems like a better option. If you expect the travlers to go thru the WBI why not use it at Federal buildings. I am sure the WBI cost more than the Millimeter wave but why not use stimulus money. It would be considered shovel ready. If you really want security for travelers then treat the the test at TSA the same as you do in Federal Protective Service. If you expect failure you will get failure. I would like to see better security at both Federal Buildings and at Airports as well as other public modes of transportation. If we are going to do it do it right or don’t do it at all.