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TSA begins testing suicide-bomb detectors at Penn Station, New York.

Posted by Luke Upton on Feb 28, 2018

TSA begins testing suicide-bomb detectors at Penn Station, New York. (Pic Courtesy of TSA)Yesterday, saw a new chapter begin in the fight against terrorism at train and metro stations. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began testing a heat-sensor camera — designed to scan large crowds for suicide-bomb vests — on the Amtrak concourse at Penn Station, the main intercity railroad station in New York City. Serving more than 600,000 commuter rail and Amtrak passengers a day, it is the busiest passenger transportation hub in the Western Hemisphere. The move followed a public push by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer which began following the failed terror attack of December 11th, when 27 year-old Akayed Ullah detonated an “improvised low-tech explosive device attached to his body” on the city subway, only seriously injuring himself.

Schumer explained that the TSA possesses a technology to help detect suicide vests or other strapped-to-the-body explosive devices before they detonate, however, it had not yet been formally tested in New York City. Schumer argued this past December that New York City should be the next location tested and he announced today that the TSA has heeded his call and will deliver these devices to New York’s busiest transit hub for testing.

"At long last and at note a moment too soon, the TSA has agreed to bring this new, potentially life-saving technology to New York City and Penn Station for testing, and so we thank the TSA for heeding the call,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer ( @SenSchumer ). “When I made the push to bring this technology to New York City it was because we need to put it on the fast-track and we need to perfect it, because if it works, this is where we want it: in New York City’s busiest transit hubs. The ability to detect concealed explosives worn by cowards looking to do us harm – demands the federal government continue to put both the testing and the perfecting of this technology on the fast-track. America’s busiest cities, like New York, are the places where these devices will save lives, and if they work as well as touted, we must pursue an expedited seal of approval that gives all of us another layer of security to fend off would be lone wolf terror. As the threats we face evolve our preparedness and response must evolve as well to remain a step ahead of evil doers.”

As well as Decembers blast, the recent lone wolf terrorist truck attack along the West Side bike path that left 8 dead and more injured. Given an era of terror and lone wolves, Schumer publicly urged the TSA to speed up plans and deploy the screening technology to transit hubs across the nation, and specifically here in New York. Schumer said this technology could have helped detect the pipe bomb used in this week’s terror attack at the Port Authority Bus Terminal

According to the TSA ( @TSA )  a new screening technology, known as Stand Off Explosive Detection Technology, will help law enforcement officials detect hidden explosives and whether an individual is wearing a suicide vest. According to the Asssociated Press, the detectors set to be deployed are QinetiQ SPO-NX screening devices, Resembling CCTV cameras on tripods they can scan crowds of people to detect any explosive devices that may be concealed. If the machine detects something suspicious, it sounds an alarm on an operator's laptop.. They are already used in one of Los Angeles' busiest stations, the 7th Street Metro downtown.

Eddie Mayenschein, Assistant Administrator, Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement at the TSAwill be joining Michael Lowder, Director, Office of Intelligence, Security & Emergency Response from USDOT and Lynne Clark, Chief, National Information Assurance Education and Training Program from NSAamong many other expert speakers at Transport Security & Safety Expo (Washington DC, 11-12 June 2018)  

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. No radiation of any kind is emitted by the unit, and no anatomical details of a person are displayed. The operator of the equipment sees either a green image of a person, known as a “green ghost,” alongside of the actual image of the individual or a color-indicator bar overlay, depending on which model of the technology is being used.

Since 2004, the TSA has been working on the technology with transit agencies like Amtrak and the New Jersey Transit. And while the technology has already been used to help secure large-scale events, like the Super Bowl, it has not yet been permanently utilized at transit hubs and other soft-targets. This spurred Schumer to demand the TSA test the technology in New York City. It has already been reported that the TSA began testing the screening equipment at Los Angeles’ 7th Street Metro Station downtown, as well. Schumer pointed out there could be several variations of this technology that exist and therefore it is critical for TSA to help local transit agencies examine the best options to address the vulnerability and circumvention of suicide vests and bodily-attached explosives as soon as possible.

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Transport Security & Safety Expo 2018

Topics: TransportSecurity

Luke Upton

Written by Luke Upton

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