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The X-ray vans at issue are essentially a version of older airport body scanners mounted on a truck.
X-ray vans continue to be used by law enforcement agencies. They were developed shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks by American Science & Engineering Inc. in Billerica, Mass., and deployed by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan to sweep areas for roadside and car bombs. Because they typically look like blank, white panel trucks, soldiers in Iraq nicknamed them “white devils.”
The Customs documents and technical specifications—which are on the manufacturer’s website—show that the van emits less than 10 microrems of radiation per scan. That’s about twice as much as the old airport body scanners. But it’s extremely low compared to medical X-rays and well within industry standards for acceptable exposure.
The X-ray vans—which reportedly cost between $729,000 and $825,000 each—aredesigned to find organic materials such as drugs and explosives. The rays penetrate the metal in a car or concrete in a building and scatter back to a detector, producing animage of what’s inside. The van can scan while driving alongside a row of shipping containers or while parked as cars pass by. Customs agencies around the world have used them to fight drug and human smuggling.
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