There has been intense interest in the use of millimetre wave and terahertz technology for the detection of concealed weapons, explosives and other threats. Electromagnetic waves at these frequencies are safe, penetrate barriers and have short enough wavelengths to allow discrimination between objects. In addition, many solids including explosives have characteristic spectroscopic signatures at terahertz wavelengths which can be used to identify them. This paper reviews the progress which has been made in recent years and identifies the achievements, challenges and prospects for these technologies in checkpoint people screening, stand off detection of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide bombers as well as more specialized screening tasks.© (2006) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.