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    Bomb detection devices get tests ON THE 'PATH' TO SECURITY?  

PATH Trains Hudson Tubes Hudson & Manhattan RRA glass booth that looks straight out of "Star Trek" was in action yesterday at Jersey City's Exchange Place PATH station. The booth, nicknamed "the Portal," and another high-tech device - both designed to detect explosives - were being demonstrated yesterday at the station by representatives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Department of Homeland Security.

Starting tomorrow, a total of seven devices will be tested on randomly selected commuters as part of a two-week pilot program. Eric Varley, of Sandia Labs in New Mexico and the coordinator of the project, said the Exchange Place PATH testing will be the first time this type of device has ever been used. The space-age equipment being tested is a far cry from the airport-style machines used in February during the first phase of the $10 million project. The machines use "imaging technology" to scan commuters for strap-on explosives, such as those used in the London Underground last year.

The machines will be monitored by screeners on loan from San Francisco International Airport. If they see something out of the ordinary, they'll notify other screeners to pull the passenger aside for a more thorough search using metal detectors. Brian Lacey, deputy director of the Port Authority Office of Emergency Management, strapped a bulky vest underneath his jacket and passed through the two types of machinery. With the first machine, "passive" or naturally occurring millimeter wave technology captured front and rear images of Lacey as he stepped in front of two lines. On a monitor, the location of the vest was indicated by two black splotches surrounded by two red boxes.

The second machine, called "the Portal" by scanners, uses low-frequency or "active" millimeter waves to test for objects hidden beneath clothing. As Lacey entered this machine, a series of antennas quickly turned toward his body. On a monitor, the vest was depicted by a large red box.

Port Authority and Department of Homeland Security officials say results from both phases of the test will be studied by manufacturers to provide real-world feedback. Eventually, officials say, it is most likely that this type of technology would be mobilized in response to specific threats. "Safety and security are without a doubt our top priority," said Samuel J. Plumeri Jr., director of public safety/superintendent of the Port Authority Police Department. "And in light of recent events, we know how critical it is for our agencies to work together to protect the safety and security of the American public."

More than 15,000 people pass through the Exchange Place PATH station - which is the sixth busiest of the 13 stations. The Exchange Place station was selected because its design and volume are conducive to the tests, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

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