Lookout! Government peering at you with X-rays on highway

Michael Carl


A plain white van moving through traffic on a busy thoroughfare looks like a delivery vehicle, making a run to a local business.

It could be any plain white van in any American city.

But there are two men sitting in the back of the van operating X-ray machines. As their panel van moves in and out of traffic, the men use the X-ray machines to scan passing vehicles, peering behind the walls of the adjoining trucks to discover if the targets are carrying weapons, drugs or illegal immigrants.

This scenario isn’t from a spy movie, it’s happening every day in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service and even local law enforcement agencies are buying and deploying mobile X-ray vans.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress in an April 2010 hearing that 30 of the vans were being deployed to the Mexican border.

Napolitano said the machines would be, “used in a mobile inspection capacity to identify anomalies in passenger vehicles – on the Southwest border … These machines greatly assist CBP officers in inspections.”

The military uses the machines in anti-terrorist operations in the Middle East and for base security in the United States. For the past three years, the Air Force has used the devices to scan vehicles that come to the gate of a stateside base.

contract from the Department of Defense website shows that the United States Marine Corps had an $86 million contract in 2005 to purchase 52 of the vans. Delivery of the first part of the order was scheduled for 2006.

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