Your Entire Car May Be X-Rayed for People, Drugs and More at the Border

Backscatter Us Border Credit: AS&E
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United States border authorities are increasingly relying on X-rays to scan vehicles and luggage for drugs being smuggled at ports of entry and more, according to a new report.

Back in January, Customs and Border Protection officers seized the largest stash of fentanyl (an extremely dangerous synthetic opiod) they’ve ever confiscated at the Nogales border crossing in Arizona. CBP officials were able to spot the stash, which was hidden beneath a pile of cucumbers, thanks to X-ray technology, CNET reported.

While some in the U.S. are clamoring for a wall, data sourced from the CBP appears to tell a different story about the flow of drugs into the country. Last year, about 90 percent of heroin, 88 percent of cocaine, 87 percent of meth and 80 percent of fentanyl seized by authorities were caught at legal ports of entry.

So the CBP and other government entities are increasingly deploying X-rays to scan anything from handheld luggage to entire vehicles at ports of entry.

More specifically, they’re using what they call “nonintrusive inspection systems.” The X-ray-based scanners allow border agents to more quickly search vehicles and keep traffic flowing at the border.

A CBP spokesperson told CNET that the agency has more than 300 car-sized scanners, 3,500 smaller X-rays, and 35,000 handheld scanners at U.S. ports of entry.

As far as the privacy implications, the systems are a similar type of security that you’d see at the airport. In fact, they’re probably less intrusive because they’re designed to scan vehicles and not people. They could also help prevent more intensive searches — such as ripping out car door panels or thoroughly combing a car’s interior.

And while some may be worried about the health effects of being beamed with radiation, the CBP claims that it’s isn’t a concern because the machines emit a “low” level of radiation. According to the agency, it would take about 2,000 exposures to equal on hospital chest X-ray.

All in all, it appears to be a much more efficient and faster system for catching drugs at the border — one that could help speed up border crossings but also clamp down on drug smuggling.

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