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TSA plans random use of explosive trace detectors on air passengers’ hands

Itemiser DX

Another fall-out from the Christmas Day underwear bomber incident seems to have occurred at airports across the nation, with TSA’s announcement on February 17 that it intends to institute “random use” of explosive trace detection (ETD) equipment to screen passengers’ hands and carry-on luggage at security checkpoints and departure gates.

“Officers may swab a piece of luggage or passengers’ hands, then use ETD technology to test for explosives,” said a TSA statement. “The swab is placed inside the ETD unit which analyzes the content for the presence of potential explosive residue.”

About $15 million has already been awarded under President Obama’s stimulus program for the purchase of 400 fixed ETD units, said TSA. That contract was awarded to Morpho Detection, Inc., a business unit of Sagem Securite, which announced the award on February 11 and indicated it was valued at “approximately $16 million.”

In his FY2011 budget request unveiled earlier this month, the president is seeking an additional $39 million for approximately 800 portable ETD machines, says the TSA statement.

TSA ran two-week pilot programs to test the use of ETD technology in checkpoint queue and boarding areas at five airports in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.

“Expanding the use of this technology at checkpoints and at departure gates greatly enhances security to keep the traveling public safe,” said Gail Rossides, TSA’s acting administrator.

The TSA contract awarded to Morpho Detection was for the Itemiser DX, a desktop system, which Morpho described as, “the company’s first branded product since Sagem Securite acquired GE’s Homeland Protection business in September.”


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