New Border Patrol device uses see-through scanning

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TUCSON -- See-through technology that stirred concerns about privacy of passengers scanned at airports has been adapted for less sensitive use by the Border Patrol.

The agency is checking vehicles for hidden compartments and contraband with a breakthrough X-ray detection technology mounted in vehicles it calls 'Z Backscatter Vans,' or ZBV.

The mobile device, loaded on a Ford F-350 pickup like a camper shell, can scan any vehicle, including semitrailer trucks, in minutes.

Border Patrol agent Al White in Nogales says the ZBV can detect explosives, plastic weapons, nuclear, radioactive or organic threats -- as well as drugs.

The devices cost $750,000 and one has been in use since Feb. 13 at the Border Patrol's interim checkpoint on Interstate 19 between Nogales and Tucson. The patrol has three more deployed in California and Texas.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)