Doug Bedell — December 22, 2009, 9:26 am

Handy Devices for Detecting ‘Dirty Bombs’

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is rounding out its anti-terrorism capability by conducting drills including hand-held and backpack radiation detection devices capable of spotting “dirty bombs.”

TSA has assembled “VIPR” teams with a variety of security disciplines, including air marshals, TSA inspectors, explosives-detection canine teams, bomb appraisal officers, explosive security specialists and behavior detection officers.

VIPR stands for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response units — groups of officers TSA has assembled to patrol aviation, rail and marine facilities nationwide as a counterterrorism measure. They are equipped with nuclear detection devices including “mini” devices that can be worn like a pager on a belt, a hand-held radiation detection device and another in a backpack.

Officers just tested the equipment in a three-day exercise at Denver International Airport. We wonder if the radiation-detection gear is being added to security arsenals in general. A place to inquire about it is the Homeland Security Department’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office.

The equipment is “very versatile, very portable and it can be deployed anywhere,” says Robert Selby, assistant to the special agent in charge of the Federal Air Marshal Service’s Denver field office.

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