democracynow.org – As Congress asks if full-body scanners are “Effective Security or Security Theater?” we examine safety concerns at the heart of a lawsuit that seeks a freeze on the use body scanners pending an independent review. The Transportation and Security Administration has installed about 640 full-body millimeter wave and X-ray backscatter scanners at 65 airports as of January. Those who object to the full-body scans are subject to enhanced pat-downs and extremely invasive manual checks. We’re joined by Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which is suing the TSA; and ProPublica reporter, Michael Grabell, author of a series of critical articles on the new scanners.
10 years after its creation, the TSA has drawn the ire of just about everyone who has been forced to endure their ever-changing rules and regulations while observing the fact that the TSA has never succeeded in its objective of stopping terrorism. What it has done is anger innocent Americans unjustly assumed to be guilty of something, simply because they desire to travel.
“Americans have spent nearly $60 billion, and they are no safer today than they were before 9/11,” Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) announced when releasing the report. In other words, the TSA has squandered as much money as has been “lost to contract waste and fraud in America’s contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan…,” according to NPR and the “independent and bipartisan” Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Pres. George W. Bush signed the bill establishing the TSA on November 19, 2001. The agency took about a year to nationalize aviation’s security; in 2002, it spent $1.3 billion – a whopping increase over the $725 million “private” screening annually cost. (But was that industry really “private”? The FAA mandated and minutely supervised everything it did. Which is exactly why terrorists succeeded on 9/11: incompetent bureaucrats controlled security at airports and fined any airline that didn’t obey their silly whims.)
By 2003, that budget was rocketing upward: $4.8 billion. It’s continued climbing stratospherically ever since, frittering away $8.1 billion this year.
What do we have to show for it? Not a single terrorist caught anywhere at any time by anyone in the TSA’s employ.
The TSA is beyond a useless organization. It continues to harass and demean the very citizens it was trusted to protect while costs continue to spiral out of control. It has never made anyone safer and, after reading Congressional reports [pdf], it is clear that it probably makes things easier for anyone with nefarious purposes at the airport. Among the government’s findings are
Since 2001, TSA staff has grown from 16,500 to over 65,000, a near-400% increase. In the same amount of time, total passenger enplanements in the U.S. have increased less than 12%
Over the past ten years, TSA has spent nearly $57 billion to secure the U.S. transportation network, and TSA‘s classified performance results do not reflect a good return on this taxpayer investment.
TSA‘s primary mission, transportation security, has been neglected due to the agency‘s constant focus on managing its enormous and unwieldy bureaucracy.
The TSA is incompetent on its best days, but, until more people stand up and demand change, their behavior and its skyrocketing budget will continue until everyone is on the no-fly list and the airports are empty save for a few select “trustworthy” citizens.
Members of the military returning from Iraq and Afghanistan might be redeployed on American soil for use in surveillance and border patrol. These newly created positions would attempt to fill the expected unemployment problem of returning soldiers by employing them to operate satellite communications and blimps as well as other emerging technologies such as drone deployment.
With the drawdown of troops overseas, the Pentagon will have excess equipment and extra personnel to offer the nation, just as DHS Customs and Border Protection takes another stab at building a virtual fence across the southwest border. This turn of events prompted a House subcommittee Wednesday to invite Defense and Homeland Security department officials to share their plans on adapting military systems for domestic use. Curbing illegal immigration, drug smuggling and other criminal activity along U.S. boundaries is a key campaign issue.
The idea behind the plan is that these soldiers already know how to use this equipment, which would save thousands, if not millions in training.
Paul Stockton, assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense and Americas’ security affairs, told the panel, “We have a historic opportunity with the drawdown operations outside the United States to continue to press forward to find ways of supporting the Department of Homeland Security — so the military technology that the taxpayer has already paid to develop, that we find ways of transferring that technology.”
If there isn’t a need to support the Department of Homeland Security, why not disband it and save the country billions of dollars in the process? Looking for ways to legitimize its existence is only going to further the waste of taxpayer dollars.
While some disagree with military personnel being deployed on US borders, it appears that the only feasible recourse at this point in time is to employ honorably discharged soldiers who already know how to use this equipment. The United States is determined to create their virtual fence along its northern and southern borders. If this policy continues, then, not only is it financially feasible, but common sense to hire men and women who are already equipped with the knowledge of handling such machines.
The PSA, which will be interspersed with other messages on the welcome screen, will be the same in all 5,400 hotels that LodgeNet serves. It ends by telling viewers to contact “local authorities.”
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says that reaching the “millions of guests that stay at hotels and motels each year is a significant step in engaging the full range of partners in our Homeland Security efforts.”
The federal government gained access to hotel TV sets by forming a partnership with the hotel industry’s largest association — the A
American Hotel & Lodging Association — which connected DHS with LodgeNet, the industry’s largest TV-content provider.
By entering hotels at a time when the hospitality industry is on the rebound, the government has the power to tap a growing, captive audience. Recent research from LodgeNet says 98% of hotel guests turn on their hotel TV, and the average guest keeps it on for more than three hours per day.
Ann Parker, a LodgeNet spokeswoman, is completely behind the new initiative.
“It’s about everyone doing their part to help keep each other and the country safe,”
But critics of the campaign point out potential pitfalls. Josh Meyer of the Washington-based National Security Journalism Initiative predicts it will generate “a huge amount of potentially baseless tips that will inundate local, state and federal law enforcement authorities.”
DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard, however, cites successful citizen interventions, such as the May 2010 incident in which two street vendors helped thwart a car bombing attempt in New York City’s Times Square by noticing a smoking vehicle and reporting it to police.
The difference here is that you are unlikely to see overly suspicious behavior in a hotel. What you will see is people acting normally and going about their day. You do not know who the employees of the hotel are, so there is no way for you to report if a person is doing something wrong. Comparing a smoking vehicle to people in a hotel is like comparing apples to oranges. This program is only used as a way to instill fear.
Out of the ordinary doesn’t equate to terrorism. Stepping into other people’s private business under the pretense of preventing terrorism, however, seems to be the modus operandi of the government.
After testing their new “chat down” program at Boston’s Logan Airport, the TSA is now expanding it to Detroit’s Metro International Airport. To start, only those flying on Delta Airlines will be subjected to these “chats.”
TSA spokesman Kawika Riley said the program would improve passenger safety.
However, the TSA has not said how this will improve passenger safety, only that it will. They know best so it must.
“TSA has long recognized the value of a layered, threat-based approach to transportation security and the need to focus more of our resources on people who potentially pose a threat to aviation safety, in addition to the system’s current focus on high-risk items,” he said in a written statement. “We will evaluate the impact on security, screening operations and passenger throughput, and determine how to proceed with this program.”
If they valued this then why are they now putting the “chat down” into use and have used it in the past? It’s simply a matter of ratcheting things up to make flying more uncomfortable than it already is. It’s not going to help security at all, just as all the other measures put into place in the last 10 years have done nothing to make the airports any safer than before 9/11.
“Although the (behavior detection observers) may not have interviewed a sufficient number of passengers to yield a statistically significant result … TSA representatives indicated during the briefing that the agency plans on using the results of the pilot to determine whether the ‘assessor’ program should be expanded,” the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), said in a statement this summer.
In English, this means that the behaviordetectionobservers haven’t interviewed enough people so that they can claim the program is working, but it was successful enough that they can now expand the program into Detroit. In other words, they’re refusing to admit that the program doesn’t really work outside of a TV show, but they’re committed into pushing it onto people who don’t know how science works and assumes it’s a legitimate avenue to venture down in protecting Americans.