TSA Full-Body Scanners: Protecting Passengers Or Padding Pockets?

Pilots hate them. Passengers who avoid them get a groping. They're the TSA full body scanners presently deployed at airports near you. Their effectiveness is unclear. What is clear is that lobbying for them makes you a ton of money.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for airport security and stopping the terrorists before they can cause a horrific mid-air explosion with their shoe bombs or dog bombs, or whatever it is they're going to try and use to create terror in the airways. But how about a little rationality and common sense?

Take effectiveness for example. These scanners, for all their naked human goodness, cannot see through skin. It's a gory thought, yes, but as it has been documented in movies and more importantly reality over the years, a dedicated bad guy doesn't really mind hiding a little PETN in his or his dog's body cavity for a few hours, given that it's going to be a one-way trip.

But safety, writes Washington Examiner Senior Examiner Columnist Timothy Carney, might be a secondary concern of the so-called "naked scanner" movement.

You see, there are basically three big players when it comes to the full body scanners you will see in a U.S. airport: l-3 Communications, Rapiscan and the American Science and Engineering company. All three have made hundreds of millons of dollars since terror-related events like 9/11 and the "Christmas Bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed attempt to blow up a passneger plane in 2009 (an attack, if you'll remember, that the Government Accountability office said would probably have not been prevented by full body scanners).

All three firms have cozy ties to sitting U.S. Representatives and lobbyists, from both sides of the aisle. Writes Carney:

L-3 employs three different lobbying firms including Park Strategies, where former Sen. Al D'Amato, R-N.Y., plumps on the company's behalf. Back in 1989, President George H.W. Bush appointed D'Amato to the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism following the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Also on Park's L-3 account is former Appropriations staffer Kraig Siracuse [...]Rapiscan's lobbyists include Susan Carr, a former senior legislative aide to Rep. David Price, D-N.C., chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee [...]AS&E's lobbying team is impressive, including Tom Blank, a former deputy administrator for the TSA. Fellow AS&E lobbyist Chad Wolf was an assistant administrator at TSA and an aide to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who sits on the Transportation and defence subcommittees of Appropriations. Finally, Democratic former Rep. Bud Cramer is also an AS&E lobbyist — he sat on the defence and Transportation subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee.

Then of course there's the ridicule and teasing many people will never know is happening, because it's being done behind closed doors by TSA officials when the airport's closed down for the night.

During training on the scanners, a group of TSA workers noted and mocked the genitalia of the guinea-pig employee sent through the scanner. The guy soon beat down one of his mockers and was arrested for assault. After assurances by contractors and the TSA that the nude images of the scanners' subjects weren't being stored and saved, the U.S. Marshals Service admitted that it had stored thousands of such images.

Oops! Ah, hell, as we've pointed out here before, sometimes it's being done in broad daylight too!

Lastly, there's something to be said of Britain's ol' axiom (and current Internet meme) "Keep Calm and Carry On."

[H] ow far are we willing to go to prevent weapons or bombs from getting on airplanes? In the past decade, terrorists on airplanes have killed just about 3,000 people — all on one day. Even if the Christmas Day bomber had succeeded, the number would be under 3,500. Those are horrible deaths. But in that same period, more than 150,000 people have been murdered in the United States. We haven't put the entire U.S. on lockdown — or even murder capitals like Detroit, New Orleans and Baltimore

Sorry pro-naked scanner people, but I'm with the pilots, the flight attendants, disgruntled passengers and Ben Franklin on this one. We need to put things into perspective. If we're going to spend millions on something, I'd rather it be something effective that's truly benefitting my fellow passenger, not some lobbyist and their current client. [The Washington Examiner via Daring Fireball]


    I swear terrorists are deliberately targeting planes/airports now just so these security measures will become more intrusive.

    I mean why would a terrorist target a plane now days? There is so much security around airports and air travel as a whole, yet there are just so many other targets open. Think about stadiums, public transport, city centres, all going on without crazy xrays and groping, think about how easy it would be for someone to walk onto a busy train with a backpack full of explosives, yet nothing is done about that. It doesn't add up at all to me.

    I think the best thing they did was to make the cockpit doors bullet/grenade proof, that removes the risk of hijacking much more effectively then confiscating knitting needles from elderly passengers.

      The ironic thing about all this security, as pointed out by one of the writers for The Atlantic - http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/10/for-the-first-time-the-tsa-meets-resistance/65390/ - is that these security measures do a wonderful job of funnelling all of the unscreened people at an airport into one place - the security line. All it would take is a couple of grenades or some other anti-personnel explosive, and it would cripple the airport, and most likely the whole airline industry.

    I think the thing we are missing here, is that the terriost have won. They've induced fear into our every day lives. They don't need to do anything else.

    What happens when someone detonates a car bomb in the middle of a traffic jam? Do we close the steets? Start inspecting every car as it enters our cities or towns??

    What about a bomber in the middle of an intersection??

      Exactly right. Terrorists seek to create maximum disruption to everyday life. The occasional bomb-in-a-printer-cartridge is there just to make sure that the level of disruption is kept high.
      The US gov., and to a lesser degree Australian gov., has done their work for them.

        hear hear,

        damn straight! I am sick of all this security crap we have to put with at the airport, blowing up a plane is easy anyway even with the security - get about 10 tough guys on board and overpower everyone, then do what ever you want; you dont need explosives

    In addition, Australian police can now enter your home without a search warrant in the interests of counter-terrorism. How many Australians have been killed by terrorists on Australian soil? SFA if any... (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/senate-passes-security-reform/story-fn59niix-1225954075841).

    Now let's watch the home invasions begin where the invaders a posing as (plainclothes) police without a warrant.

    Everyone is complaining about theses scanners and the pat downs, but does anyone have an SUGGESTION as to how to change the security procedures instead of all the whining.

    If not then drop it.

    TSA - Thousands standing around
    The Stupid AssH%^LES
    Take Soda Away

    My favorites are the first two - how many more can we come up with?

    Points well made... I'm waiting for the day when a top egomaniac politician stubs his tow on a step and those obviously frightening and terrible parts of our lives will all be banned and we will have to walk up and down ramps... then the same moron will slip and fall on a ramp and... well, you get the idea.

    IMHO we have allowed far too much to be attached to the word "security". Just about every politician and employer shakes in their boots at the thought of liability and litigation because they have not succumbed to not implementing every single nuance, letter and word some "security expert" recommended... but having spent millions on nonsense, the crapola then still hits the fanola anyway and the Bosses all scuttle sideways under their desks, their giant claws clattering uselessly.

    Let's STOP this nonsense. Our ancestors managed to create useful and appropriate inventions and responses to life's needs. After all that went before, why do we feel we have to throw all of our money and resources at a single problem?

    Are we in this world so devoid of good ideas and plans that our entire way of life goes to hell?

    Let's see some common sense come out of all this, for heaven's sake. There MUST be a better way to secure our aircraft without resorting to all this expensive and harmful technology - or its "groping" alternative.

    I can only imagine that a deranged CIA black op slave would blow up his shoes or underpants on a plane, when there are millions of public places to blow up where there is stuff all security.

    There is so much backlash against these scanners in the U.S. and in Germany with good reason.

    Independent doctors say they are dangerous and can cause cancer.

    They are a complete invasion of your privacy and your rights as a human being.

    The Pilots association in the U.S. are suggesting all Pilots boycott these scanners for these reasons.

    If more time & money was spent on profiling and real intelligence instead of turning our borders into something out of Nazi Germany we wouldn't have a problem. These scanners & Opt out 'pat downs' are not ok.

    Are you happy to send your kids through these machines with dangerous cancer causing radiation? Or have someone sexually molest your child by genital pat downs?


    This is corporate fascism plain and simple. Unite and protest against this corporate fascism, it is about money, not your security. Its about making people Submissive and less Independent.
    America is so screwed from the BUSH rein. Unite for the right cause America and regain your independence!!!

    A huge Samoan fella I know was once Taserd by a cop, fortunately the cop was able to sneak away before the Samoan figured out what bit him. He is one big bastard, and he loves to travel. But you would never be able to get him into one of those scanners, he simply wouldn't fit. I would like to see the TSA officer suicidal enough to try and give him a pat down. I can imagine the headline, "TSA OFFICER STRANGLED WITH OWN TASER"

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