Superman's got nothing on the new DARPA Radar Scope that can detect movements through up to 12 inches of concrete.

The new "Radar Scope" will give warfighters searching a building the ability to tell within seconds if someone is in the next room, Edward Baranoski from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Special Projects Office, told the American Forces Press Service.

By simply holding the portable, handheld device up to a wall, users will be able to detect movements as small as breathing, he said.

No word on whether or not the device will be able to see through clothing, but there are certainly law enforcement applications.

Proposals are expected this week for the new "Visi Building" technology that's more than a motion detector. It will actually "see" through multiple walls, penetrating entire buildings to show floor plans, locations of occupants and placement of materials such as weapons caches, Baranoski said.

"It will give (troops) a lot of opportunity to stake out buildings and really see inside," he said. "It will go a long way in extending their surveillance capabilities."

The device is expected to take several years to develop. Ultimately, servicemembers will be able to use it simply by driving or flying by the structure under surveillance, Baranoski said.

The technology will probably run into the same legal hurdles as thermal imaging technology. Only lower courts have considered whether or not monitoring radiation emitted from a house constitutes an unreasonable search, and decisions have gone both ways. The Supreme Court has yet to consider it, but the conventional wisdom is that viewing such emissions isn't even a "search" per se, any more than is observing visible spectrum light from a house (i.e., using your eyes to look at it). In essence, allowing incriminating radiation to escape from your house may be legally the same as committing a crime in front of an open window.

The opposite view is that our law derives from common expectations, and that even though thermal radiation may be the same physical phenomena as visible light, people have different expectations regarding it. Someone expecting privacy will close their blinds, but should they be expected to wage an arms race against ever-improving law enforcement technology? That's a race that private citizens can never win, so if privacy is to be preserved at all then our laws need to track our expectations.



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