This Laser Can Instantly, Remotely Scan You For Drugs or Explosives

Scanning the crowd from 160 feet away

That inconspicuous brown box above is reportedly a new kind of laser-based molecular scanner that can collect spectroscopic information from more than 150 feet away. It can instantly probe your clothing and luggage for chemical traces of anything–explosives, drugs, biological matter–and you will never even know it.

So says Gizmodo in a mildly terrifying piece posted this morning about Genia Photonics’ laser scanning device, contracted by an entity called In-Q-Tel, which is basically a group of private technology incubators working for the CIA. The idea, reportedly, is to install this molecular scanner in airports and border crossings and the like, where it can deliver instantaneous (it analyzes in just 50 picoseconds) spectroscopic analysis of people and cargo from a distance–and likely from an unseen location. Authorities could scan everyone passing through an airport terminal, sports stadium, or customs check.

Or it could scan everyone simply walking down a street. It’s supposedly portable, so it could be deployed anywhere from far enough away that the subject wouldn’t have to know about it. Reports Gizmodo‘s anonymous author:

“The small, inconspicuous machine is attached to a computer running a program that will show the information in real time, from trace amounts of cocaine on your dollar bills to gunpowder residue on your shoes. Forget trying to sneak a bottle of water past security—they will be able to tell what you had for breakfast in an instant while you’re walking down the hallway.”

DHS says the technology will be ready for deployment in just one or two years. You can practically hear the privacy rights groups gathering their pitchforks for this one. Much more on this technology over at Gizmodo.