The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) this week announced it is partnering with Amtrak to test new security technology aimed at identifying body-worn explosive devices such as suicide vests.
TSA said the technology being tested would ideally detect whether a person is concealing an improvised explosive device on their body. The testing phase is being conducted inside New York’s Pennsylvania Station within the station’s Amtrak concourse, officials said.
The system is referred to as a stand-off explosive detection unit, which officials described as “passive,” and said triggers an alarm if a person carrying or wearing an explosive device passes by the machine.
“It is a type of screening technology that can be used by Amtrak and mass transit agencies to detect potential threats—metallic or non-metallic—by identifying objects that block the naturally-occurring emissions emitted by a person’s body,” officials said.
TSA said the machine does not emit any type of radiation and added that no anatomical details of a person’s body are displayed.
The person operating the equipment will see either a green image of a person, called a “green ghost,” or a color-indicator bar overlay, depending on which model of the technology is used.
“The use of such a device enables a rail or transit agency to help safeguard against terrorist threats in the mass transit environment,” TSA said. “It is operated by employees of the agency, not by TSA.”
TSA said it will supply two models of the equipment for demonstration purposes. One model will be mounted on a tripod and the other will be contained within a trunk.
The equipment is mobile, officials said, enabling agencies to relocate it to different stations as needed. Users can use the technology with a laptop computer in the station.
When using the detection technology, the operator will see an image on the laptop screen that will reveal any concealed objects that block naturally occurring body emissions, TSA said. The image will also indicate the location and size of those objects on a green image of an individual.
TSA said it has been collaborating with many passenger rail and transit agencies on demonstrations of the security equipment.
So far, the TSA has worked with Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority on testing and demonstrations.