TSA stimulated by your… tax dollars

Ready for another grab kick in the pants? It appears that the aggressive and humiliating full body scans and complementary “enhanced” pat downs perpetrated by the TSA may be in service of scrilla, not safety.

I came across a very useful timeline that makes me even less excited about flying home for Christmas:

•2005: Michael Chertoff, as head of Homeland Security, orders the first batch of porno scanners from a company called Rapiscan Systems. After his departure, Chertoff gave dozens of interviews using his government credentials to promote the device. What he didn’t tell people was that Rapiscan was one of the clients of his consulting company, The Chertoff group.
•March 2009: The Department of Homeland Security says they will apply $1 billion in stimulus money to the nation’s airports. Senator Joe Lieberman, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, personally promises to oversee the distribution of stimulus funds so money goes toward the goal of creating “4 million jobs” and not on “boondoggles.”
•December 2009: Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz inserted language into the Homeland Security appropriations bill barring the use of full-body image scans as “primary” screening tools at airports, and it passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 310-118. Both the ACLU and the NRA backed it. The amendment also made it illegal to store and copy these images. It died in the Senate.
•December 25, 2009: The “Christmas bomber” attempts to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on board a flight to Detroit.
•December 29, 2009: Joe Lieberman calls for “more widespread use of the full-body scanners after the aborted attack.”
•January 2010: Since they couldn’t get money for the porno scanners from Congress, TSA uses the “Christmas bomber” scare to appropriate $25 million it had received in stimulus money to buy the “backscatter” scanners — from Rapiscan, Chertoff’s client. Rapiscan said the contract “helped create” 25 jobs. The government gives the TSA the green light to spend a total of $173 million on the scanners. TSA spokesperson Sarah Horowitz said “the agency has enough funds that would come from the stimulus program and other federal sources” to purchase 300 more porno scanners, per CNN. Total jobs created, per the government’s own website: 1.
•April 2010: The GAO reports that it’s unclear whether the porno scanners would have detected the weapon used in the December 2009 incident.

So based on recommendation of the head of Homeland Security, $25 million in stimulus funds went to buy Rapiscan tech – now a client of Chertoff consulting. This chunk of the boondoggle-free, 4 million job-creating Homeland Security stimulus went on to create one job and take naked pictures of travelers. To top it all off, there is little knowledge about potential health risks, and claims that this technology wouldn’t have helped catch recent would-be hijackers.

The corrosion of personal freedom is certainly deeply troubling. Equally troubling, though is the fact that tax dollars actually support these infringements, and that there seems to be a substantial conflict of interest in the choice of this technology. It’s dubious that these measures will actually thwart terrorists. It’s unclear if the full-body scanners pose health risks, and it’s absolutely not “creating” the jobs promised.

Emily Iles
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