TSA testing new screening technology to detect suicide vests

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is testing a new screening technology that can detect suicide vests in transit hubs and other soft-target areas, the agency announced Wednesday.

While the project has been in the works for several years, the announcement comes just days after an attempted terrorist attack on a busy New York City transit hub.

A man detonated a pipe bomb strapped to his body in an underground passageway connecting the Times Square subway station and the Port Authority bus terminal, injuring five and stirring panic during the Monday morning commute.


The TSA said it is partnering with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to test the explosive screening system, known as a stand-off explosive detection unit. The technology has already been used for big events such as the Super Bowl.

The device can tell whether an individual is wearing a person-borne improvised explosive device by identifying any metallic or non-metallic objects that are blocking the naturally occurring emissions from a person’s body. If someone wearing a suicide vest walks by the unit, then an alarm is triggered.

The detection system can help combat the growing threat to mass transit systems, especially as terrorists have begun to shift their targets in the face of ramped up aviation security. The TSA warned the trucking industry months ago that terrorists are increasingly turning to unsophisticated weapons and tactics such as vehicle-ramming.

“Along with industry partners, we are committed to identifying, testing and deploying technology that addresses threats to transportation across the spectrum,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement.

“We need to innovate and evolve faster than the adversary, and more importantly, deploy technology ahead of the threat-curve.”

While the TSA is supplying the equipment for the demonstration, the system will be operated by employees of the transit agency, the TSA said.

The unit does not emit any kind of radiation or display a person’s anatomical details, the agency added.

Tags Anti-terrorism mass transit Transportation Security Administration
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