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Expensive TSA Nudie Scanners Find A New Home: Prisons

from the can-i-get-a-refund? dept

It's been quite a while since we've had much news about the TSA's nudie scanners, other than the admission by one TSA employee that they, you know, don't work to do anything other than show people being naked. Yes, the federal government's oddly belated overreaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which they don't think will be attempted again, required a massive influx of taxpayer cash to pay for all this uselessness. That would be your money, my money, all of our money going into a program that didn't work, wasn't needed, and violated our rights. But a story of this kind of futility and waste needs a nice little bow put on it for an ending. The federal government never seems to fail us in this kind of request.

Where are those nudie scanners now that they're being transitioned out of airports? Why, they're in prisons of course, because piling them up on the federal curb would make them look stupid.

So far, 154 of the machines have been transferred to prisons in states including Iowa, Virginia and Louisiana. It’s a good fit because privacy concerns raised by airport passengers do not apply in many cases to prisoners, according to TSA.

“TSA and the vendor are working with other government agencies interested in receiving the units for their security mission needs and for use in a different environment,” TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein said.
Well, hey, that's great. The forty-million dollars of doesn't-work the TSA had in place are being transferred to not work in other federal institutions. And, because nobody worth their political salt is going to bother to stick up for prisoners, there's much less push back there. Nevermind that these devices still don't do the job they claim to do. Nevermind that forty-million bucks were wasted. Prisons! That's the answer, because this is America, damn it, and if there's one thing we know, it's how to bolster our already staggering jail-economy.
Members of Congress had also raised issues about the safety of the machines and their scanning technology, asking the National Academy of Sciences to explore whether people are exposed to unsafe levels of radiation during the process.
Doesn't matter, because the prisoners are all evil and whatnot and safety is no longer a concern. Meanwhile, this transfer of uselessness should be exhibit A at any hearing in which someone in national security insists they need something expensive in order to keep people safe. It's time for some accountability, please.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2014 @ 12:41am

    10 years now: "Sir, it seems 30 percent of prisoners have gotten cancer...and we have no idea why!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2014 @ 12:50am

    Re:

    Actually, it will more likely be=
    Prisoners skincancers have been skyroceting in United States. Goverment decides to remove prisoners right to have a daily hour long walks until further notice =(

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2014 @ 12:55am

    "Meanwhile, this transfer of uselessness should be exhibit A at any hearing in which someone in national security insists they need something expensive in order to keep people safe."

    Don't worry, if the government does spend money on new equipment and it turns out to be useless they will find someplace to transfer it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Tice with a J (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 1:58am

    Thank you for flying Penitentiary Air

    So the technology that was being used on everyone who wanted to fly is now being used exclusively on people considered too dangerous to let them roam free.

    Fascinating.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2014 @ 2:44am

    Re: Thank you for flying Penitentiary Air

    Insightful, but: only a small fraction of prisoners are actually considered too dangerous to walk free. (e.g., that 27-year-old caught with a bag of pot? Only dangerous if you're a pizza or a bag of Doritos.)

    However, since it's now US policy to imprison as large a percentage of its population as possible and subject them to institutionalized rape, bullying and beatings by psychotic guards (THOSE are the people who are dangerous), and long-term physical and psychological torture, we're doing our best to make them dangerous.

     

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  6.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 2:53am

    Can't we re-purpose them to scan the special lines for Congress to pass through?

    We'd get get answers about safety much sooner, plus they might help with the turn over rate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2014 @ 3:13am

    Re:

    Worse than useless. Harmful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2014 @ 4:05am

    So that is the solution for failing death sentence executions?

    Now DHS can encroach in prisons too.
    "TSA agent sent to jail" isn't a well deserved headline anymore.

    How many lawyers will want to defend suspects if they have to go through a criminal cancer treatment?
    Very few i guess.

    And if they aren't going to use them on visitors, why use them at all?
    So inmate A can't smuggle smokes from cell block 1 to cell block 2?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    zip, May 22nd, 2014 @ 4:33am

    these scanners will be for VISITORS!

    A key point that Federal Times' writer Andy Medici seemed to miss is that these naked-body-scanning machines will not be used exclusively on prisoners (assuming that prisoners were even their primary target) but on prison visitors -- and possibly even prison staff.

    Just think about it for a moment. Prisoners already receive frequent "patdown" searches --and even full body cavity searches; sometimes even x-rays-- so having these body scanners will hardly do anything that's not already being done by hand, and much more thoroughly.

    It's already a disgrace that the families of prisoners already must give up so many of their rights and privacy (and money: prisons reap a fortune charging outrageous prices for telephone calls) and now these naked-body scanners will be just the latest insult.

    If the TSA is ditching its old machines, then former DHS head Michael Chertoff should be forced to buy them all back -- after all, he was the one who bought them ... purchased from the same company which would later become a major client of his after leaving office and "cashing in" to start a D.C. "consulting" business (so it's not like he doesn't have the money).

    It might seem a bit odd that Chertoff would buy several different types of scanning machines from every company that made them, rather than testing them all out and choosing the best one (as the military typically tries to do with the equipment it buys). But this madness had a method: Chertoff was wanting to spread the (taxpayers) wealth around far and wide, not for the sake of government efficiency, but to improve his own employment/business opportunities for when he left office.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Capt ICe Enforcer, May 22nd, 2014 @ 4:46am

    Airport Nudie Scanner 3000

    Do not fear, the airports will br safe with the new 2015 Nudie Scannrr 3000. This updated scanner includes full color display so you know who you need to pay more attention to, along with an additional 60" display that other passengers can also look for weapons or strange birthmarks while they eagerly await their turn. The pleasant music being played will help soothe your body while you enjoy that tingling sensation of radiation. To ensure accuracy anyone can request an individual to remove all of their clothes in public reducing the chance of mistakes.
    "Mommy, mommy, that man has a weapon!",
    "Oh Sally, that is just that nice mans Boom Stick, no need to be afraid."
    Everyone wins.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2014 @ 5:22am

    Re:

    no.. 10 years from now when the hard core prisoners get released they'd have already learned how to thoroughly bypass scanner technology relying on the same general principles.

    great idea Uncle Sam... let the criminals experiment with ways to sneak through scanning in a controlled environment. This way they'll be ready for the real action when they are released.

    *facepalm*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Wig, May 22nd, 2014 @ 6:17am

    Cause that's what you do with frauds; send them to prison!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Richard P, May 22nd, 2014 @ 7:31am

    Scanners ruled out for NI prison searches after pilot

    From a BBC report early last year "Scanners ruled out for NI prison searches after pilot"
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-21451741

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2014 @ 8:38am

    Re: Thank you for flying Penitentiary Air

    Prior to the TSA dropping this equipment, not even prisoners were determined to be "dangerous enough" to use these scanners on.

    That's a privilege that was reserved exclusively for the majority of law-abiding citizens just trying to travel from point A to point B.

    Fun times to be an American.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2014 @ 8:40am

    Re:

    plus they might help with the turn over rate.

    Indeed! I bet we'd see more studies about the potential for the machines being cancer-causing a hell of a lot faster too...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2014 @ 10:51am

    "That would be your money, my money, all of our money going into a program that didn't work, wasn't needed, and violated our rights."

    Not all Techdirt readers pay taxes in the US. Some of us are from abroad, and some of us are, er, corporations with our HQs in Luxembourg.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Digger, May 22nd, 2014 @ 12:37pm

    Better Idea

    Place them at every entrance, exit and restroom door in the house of congress and the senate, also the same for every office door in the pentagon, nsa facilities, fbi and cia as well.

    Make those douchebags get cancer after walking through them a thousand times a month.

    It's for the greater good after all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    wallyb132 (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 4:20pm

    Really?

    Timothy, with all due respect, I think the tone of your article is way off base.

    The part about prisoners rights, you are right on that, there is alot of issues about the way we treat prisoners.

    The part about the scanners being useless in the prison setting couldn't be farther from reality.

    the odds of someone trying to smuggle illicit items on to an aircraft by means of body cavity is so low I dont think its possible to even compute.

    The odds of a prisoner trying to smuggle illicit items or something that could be made into a weapon into a prison by way of body cavity: Extremely high!

    Every prison in America has an internal economy that is driven by the sales of drugs and other types of illegal contraband. This is no secret, drug abuse in prisons has been widely known for eons.

    How exactly do you think those prisoners smuggle their wares into the prisons? I'll give you one guess...

    You see, just about every US prison, with the exception of maximum security facilities, has minimum security, offsite work crews, depending on the state or they're in, these prisoners provide a cheap labor pool for a wide range of tasks throughout the states they reside in, for example, here in Arizona, California anf most western states prisoners are trained in wildland fire suppression and used frequently to help wild fires. When these inmate hand crews are requested to an incident, these prisoners are not movement controlled like they are while on the prison yard. These inmates, while out on an incident are bound only by rules, not by lock and key, though they have very strict rules to follow, theoretically there is nothing stopping from doing anything they choose except for the fear of punishment / loss of the limited freedom and sense of a normal life outside the prisons they are afforded while on an incident.

    How hard do you think it would be for one of these inmate firefighters to arrange for a package to delivered on an incident? not very, it actually happens all the time. So much so that that fact isn't really even worthy of thought because its a given.

    What is worthy of thought and discussion is the number of smuggling attempts vs number of attempts detected by prison staff. The number of packages intercepted at the point of entry into prisons are mind boggling low compared to the number of packages that are successfully smuggled in.

    Though this technology is questionable at every level, the logical place for it, if there ever were one, would be prisons

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    zip, May 22nd, 2014 @ 7:12pm

    Re: Really?

    "the odds of someone trying to smuggle illicit items on to an aircraft by means of body cavity is so low I dont think its possible to even compute. The odds of a prisoner trying to smuggle illicit items or something that could be made into a weapon into a prison by way of body cavity: Extremely high!"

    The numeric "odds" of body-cavity smuggling in prison can be computed with a high degree of accuracy because every prisoner's body cavities get searched. Since airline fliers are yet to get anal-probed (not counting people from Colombia) how can anyone have any idea what the odds really are?

    Like discovering oil, you never know for sure until you start drilling!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    wallyb132 (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 9:25pm

    Re: Re: Really?

    Did you reply to my comment just to make yourself feel better or something? Because the information you provided is complete and total bullshit! At least when it comes to the state of Arizona.

    Your statement is so inaccurate that its almost not even worthy of being called bullshit, bullshit statements the world over are offended right now because dumbness of your magnitude is being associated with bullshit!

    If you believe what you said is really true, you've been watching way too many movies, to the point that its unhealthy, its clouded your concept of reality, you should really get out more often, because the way the world operates is entirely different than what you see on TV.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Sheogorath (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 11:40pm

    How does one make the Federal Government look stupid...

    ...when they already do because they are stupid?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 7:01am

    Re: Really?

    "The odds of a prisoner trying to smuggle illicit items or something that could be made into a weapon into a prison by way of body cavity: Extremely high!"

    These scanners do not find things that are hidden in body cavities.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, May 27th, 2014 @ 5:53am

    Re: Re: Really?

    *Facepalm* So why did we get them again? For TSA agents to point and laugh at us when we were going through security?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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