'We Should Put A Metal Detector On The Other Side': The Laughable Waste Of TSA Body Scanners

from the common-sense dept

If anyone needed the perfect example of the giant waste, fraud, and abuse a government emboldened by fear and ineptitude can achieve, that example absolutely has to be the TSA's body scanners. These glorious devices that didn't work in catching weapons or explosives but did let TSA agents see you naked, and which are administered by the TSA, an agency so perfectly unable to do its job properly that all us Techdirt writers now have carpel tunnel syndrome from writing up posts on its exploits, now have a detailed price tag associated with them. So, what did the public pay for all of this fail?

Oh, only $160 million of taxpayer money, according to Politico.

The cost breakdown, which the TSA recently turned over to some members of Congress, provides the latest look at the agency’s investment in body imaging technology since it decided to make the scanners the centerpiece of the checkpoint screening process. The price tag averages more than $150,000 per unit since the agency bought the first batch of 45 devices in 2008.

And for that money, lawmakers privy to classified reports say, the TSA has gotten a woeful failure rate. Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson has such low confidence in the scanners’ ability to catch explosives and weapons that he says the agency should make fliers walk through metal detectors after passing through the body imaging machines.
Yes, dear sirs and madams, full body scanners, so inept that esteemed government officials are suggesting people exiting them should immediately go through a traditional metal detector, come at a $150k/ea price tag. But the danger of a program like body scanners, when it comes to government malfeasance, isn't solely in the primary failure of the program. Rather, the danger is in the way the failure then begins to infect everyone around it, like some kind of IQ-deteriorating brain bacteria. For example, the esteemed SHS Chairman mentioned above, who suggested metal detectors be used immediately after the body scanner, begged pardon if you had thought he meant that the body scanners weren't still needed.
“If you really want to keep using those, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t, at a minimum we should put a metal detector on the other side,” the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview. “Why not go through two? You’ve just gotta use common sense.”
Ah, yes, common sense. Well, Senator, let me try some of this common sense thing you speak of for myself. My common sense suggests that any procedure about which the following can be written ought be permanently done away with:
A recent security audit found that TSA had failed to find fake explosives and weapons in 96 percent of covert tests. And members of Congress familiar with the classified details say the body scanners are to blame for much of the problem.
Common sense does not inform me that, rather than removal of these devices, our best bet is to simply stack devices upon devices through which we should walk, all while being uncertain of their efficacy. The problem isn't a lack of devices to walk through; the problem is there are too many.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has said he has received assurances from L-3’s CEO that the company will work with the department to improve the technology.
Ah, yes, an assurance that this next go 'round they'll get it right, from a company that screwed it up the first time. You'll excuse me, sirs, if I am laughing. The point is that it's time to give up the game. The security we get at our airports is mere theater and we know it. The devices that didn't work the first time around while costing American taxpayers a hundred and sixty million dollars shouldn't get another bite at the apple. 9/11 is far enough in the rearview mirror that we can't use fear as an excuse any longer. It's time to end the masquerade and get on with it.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 6:29am

    “If you really want to keep using those, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t, at a minimum we should put a metal detector on the other side,” the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview. “Why not go through two? You’ve just gotta use common sense.”

    Ah yes, another small government Republican looking out for my tax dollars.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 7:39am

      Re:

      The idea that either of the parties are for sensible government is best left to the ignorant sheeple.

      I still do not hear any of the candidates that are running even squeaking a smidgen about restoring our liberty. Trump is only positive for 1 single message and that is trying to resolve the illegal immigration issue, but he is still a business man, and not likely to do what he says once in office.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 8:18am

        Re: Re:

        Rand Paul got close, but I genuinely think he's chickened out about putting that up front as a goal for his presidency.

        His one best defininng attribute that might help him stand out in the crowd, and get votes to boot, and it looks to me like he's buried it.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 8:25am

          Re: Re: Re:

          He's been trying too hard to court the GOP hawk vote. Dumb strategy as they were never going to budge and he's alienated the isolationist types his dad could attract.

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

        • icon
          FF (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 5:05pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Glad you follow Rand Paul. Are you registered Republican to support him within the GOP so he gets the nomination? Or just another keyboard jockey waiting for someone else to do the work for you?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 8:19am

        Re: Re:

        There are many candidates, have you listened to them all?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 9:27am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yes, and while some of them to have line items on that subject, I really am not hearing what I want. I did like the way Rand Paul slapped down Christie's Pro-Police State views, but sadly there are too many people that fundamentally do not understand how dangerous a surveillance state is to our own government. It makes a litter coup too easy to accomplish and makes it easier to make it a silent one. Even Bush is showing his Police State colors without any serious political concern, that family is trash to me along with the Clintoon family.

          One of these days we will wake up and realize something was ripped right out under our feet. I have already woken up to that fact but a vast majority have yet to even realize a small portion of it.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 6:30am

    Which version of the units are these? The first go round that failed so bad that DHS played hide the sausage moving them around warehouses to keep them from being looked at, or the next generation of Tiger Repelling Rock we shelled out for?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 6:42am

    Second Generation Nekid Scanners

    Isn't there a first generation of body scanners that are sitting in some warehouses that failed so miserably that the second generation was necessary? Or was that just a kerfufle intending on giving some money to Micheal Chertoff's(sp?) company for doing...well something...so well, and should not be considered a first generation?

    What the hell, couple of hundred million here, couple of hundred million there, sooner or later somebodies gonna feel safer.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 7:28am

      Re: Second Generation Nekid Scanners

      You're probably thinking of backscatter xray machines...

      Which probably work better than the current breed of millimeter wave scanners, but the risk of cancer was higher, so they scuttled those.

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

    • icon
      FF (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 4:51pm

      Re: Second Generation Nekid Scanners

      They puffed air samples. Supposedly to sniff for various "device" ingredients. Only worked in lab tests with purified air. Big fail in real life. Big succe$$ for the vendor.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 6:52am

    Why stop at two? Why not just have an endless line of metal detectors right up until you board the plane?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 8:20am

      Re:

      Detectors, all the way down

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

    • identicon
      anomymous, 27 Aug 2015 @ 11:41am

      Re: Why stop at two?

      "Why not just have an endless line of metal detectors right up until you board the plane?"

      Why not just continue to walk thru successive metal detectors until you arrive at your destination? That way you're absolutely positive that there was no bomb allowed to board the plane -- since you didn't board either.

      And that would also help solve the obesity problem -- a double win! See, the government *IS* here to help you.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 12:08pm

      Re:

      "Why stop at two? Why not just have an endless line of metal detectors right up until you board the plane?"

      That would be stupid!
      The obvious solution is first you go through a body scanner. To find those big items and so that TSA employees can look at some naked "cutie" from time to time, happy employees work harder.

      After the full body scan you go through a metal detector to find anything metal that the body scan didn't show. But to be sure a hand held metal detector will be used to find even the smallest things.

      Then the mandatory pat down, see happy emploees above.

      And now that there is nothing on your body and you are metal free you can finally go into the full body MRI to make sure there is nothing hidden inside your body.

      You might want to arrive at the airport 1-2 days before your flight but that is the price we have to pay to be safe. And of course if you deny any of that you will be investigated for possible terrorism but that is obvious I guess.

      Have a nice flight

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

  • identicon
    MB, 27 Aug 2015 @ 6:53am

    How about just having 3 body scanners in a row that dont work? Or 10? After all, when it comes to safety, you can never have too many pretend layers of protection.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 6:59am

    don't forget the shoes

    L-3 damn well better find out why they can't scan shoes this time.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 7:14am

      Re: don't forget the shoes

      That's no big mystery. If you take off your shoes, what do you become? Barefoot. These are NAKED BODY scanners, not barefoot scanners. The technology for those is still in the realm of sci-fi.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 9:00am

      Re: don't forget the shoes

      That's actually a security measure. It eliminates any opportunity for sabotage.

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

      • icon
        FF (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 4:55pm

        Re: Re: don't forget the shoes

        Sabotage? Huh?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 6:57pm

          Re: Re: Re: don't forget the shoes

          It was my bad attempt at making a "shoes hate machines" joke. (Possibly apocryphal: workers in Europe 500 or so years ago tossing their wooden shoes (sabots) into looms as a protest against automation/mechanization.)

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

    • icon
      FF (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 5:01pm

      Re: don't forget the shoes

      Oh, tough cuss words don't scare L3.
      A thousand people per day opting out of the voluntary scans and L3 would care. Yes, every scan is optional. They know pussies like you will always comply.

      I am a 1K flier. I have gone through precisely zero scanners. If 999 people a day would also opt out, it might change. The government and L3 rely on the fact that most people sheeple are all talk.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 7:36am

    The TSA and the DHS have to go. Burn them down to the ground and salt the earth they stood on. Nuke them from orbit.

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

  • identicon
    jilocasin, 27 Aug 2015 @ 7:38am

    Lewis Black said it best....

    "It's just this simple, the machinery in the airports doesn't work. So the whole thing is a moot point. ....just have a stick and go Ugga Bugga..."

    Back in 2002, comedian Lewis Black exposes on the futility and utter BS that airport security has become in his 'End of the Universe' routine.

    Listen for yourself and see if he's missed anything, or if anything's gotten any better since then.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 7:57am

    But if we get rid if the scanners who can the Chertoff group lobby for so they can get kickbacks in their revolving-door plot to defraud taxpayers?

    I realize we all dislike civil asset forfeiture but I'd be sorely tempted to use it against the scanner manufacturers and partners in corruption.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 8:00am

    Are you fucking kidding me?

    If the body scanners can't/don't detect metal, then exactly what CAN they detect?

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

  • identicon
    David, 27 Aug 2015 @ 8:43am

    So we need metal detectors...

    You mean like what we used to walk through all the time pre-9/11?

    Logic dictates that we really need to just go back to the way we used to do it - since they worked as well, if not more, than what we are doing today.

    Bureaucracy dictates we need to add what we used to do, to the current waste that's not working now.

    The only difference in going back to the old way is that instead of keeping your box-cutter when you put it in the tray, airport security will keep it.

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

    • icon
      FF (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 5:09pm

      Re: So we need metal detectors...

      Actually, the old way is still available. I always opt out and walk through the metal detector. Also, families with kids go through metal detctor typically.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 8:53am

    Put the supplier "at risk"

    ...The devices that didn't work the first time around while costing American taxpayers a hundred and fifty million dollars shouldn't get another bite at the apple...

    It is long overdue the US government do with procurement what some state and local governments have been doing with some of their construction contracts: put the provider at risk. It's called CMAR: construction manager at risk. The bid documents spell out the requirements, the outcome, and the amount of money the CMAR will get. That last part is important: the amount of money specified is all the money the contractor will get. If the contractor cannot provide the outcome for that amount the contractor eats the loss. And the contractor has to complete the job to the desired outcome or their license(s) get suspended and any bonds they put up for the contract are forfeited.

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

    • icon
      FF (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 5:25pm

      Re: Put the supplier "at risk"

      Or even simpler, let the company flying the plane do their own security. Sort of like the rest of the world like a mall that hires a mall guard. Yea, private property, private security.

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

  • identicon
    Gonzo Schittkoch, 27 Aug 2015 @ 8:54am

    God damn it, enough already! Just DISBAND the TSA! It's an entire agency proven to be one of the most epic boondoggles in US govt. history.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 5:08pm

      Re:

      It is very effective at conditioning people to accept tyranny though. Which was the whole reason for it to be created. Not that nonsense about safety and security

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2015 @ 6:04am

        Re: Re:

        Sadly, the people are asking for tyranny. They demand the government keep them safe. I am more worried about the government than I am about terrorism.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 9:18am

    [L-3] will work with the department to improve the technology.
    They want to get their entry in the US Government's Guide to Security upgraded from "Useless" to "Mostly Useless".

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 9:19am

    Why bother sneaking a device through security? Just blow yourself up in the security lines...

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

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 9:57am

    Thank You Sir, May I Have Another!!!

    I suggest we extrapolate on Senator Johnson's strategy, and make a form of "security tunnel" that passengers pass through.

    The tunnel would start with a body scanner, then a metal detector, then Jared Fogle would pat you down, then the fun "victory tunnel" from my kid's soccer team would cheer you up for the final section, disgraced University of Oklahoma fraternity SAE would give you ritualized spankings while yelling racist or other slurs at you!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdyqMVziKck

    I can't PROVE to you that this would catch more terrorists, but I FEEL like we'd be safer. Should we implement my plan? I’m not saying we shouldn’t, at a minimum we should try my plan. Why not go through the security tunnel? You’ve just gotta use common sense.”

    PS: It's for the children

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

  • identicon
    dr evil, 27 Aug 2015 @ 10:09am

    no, it gets stupider

    I always opt out, much to the chagrin of the TSA and often with punishment ..but that is a different story.. and they take me AROUND the metal detector while going past the 'surrender box'.. every time I ask the TSA drone why they don't check us opt outters through that first.. best answer was that people would think the line is so much faster with the old tech they would refuse the new. Uh, mmmm duh... of course, when the sheeple had the chance to all opt out, they went the sheeple way and eventually gave in. If you do not opt out you are part of the problem! Oh, and the fun when the SB was being twitchy and they felt up everyone else anyway was priceless.

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

    • icon
      FF (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 5:15pm

      Re: no, it gets stupider

      Excellent, my brother!!!

      Can you keep a secret? I discovered that a kneck or shoulder problem which makes it painful to lift your arm (wink wink) gets a quick trip through metal detector and no grope-down.

      This has worked for years for me, and I havent been patted down since 2012. I believe it legally works because of ADA. Not allowed to discriminate based on disability of arm shoulder neck pain.

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

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 12:09pm

    Current techniques are clearly inadequate

    The TSA has repeatedly failed every test it has been subjected to. The latest one, this June, failed 67 of 70 fake implants of weapons, explosives, etc. Clearly more aggressive measures must be taken -- perhaps firing everyone in the TSA?

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

  • identicon
    Tumor, 27 Aug 2015 @ 12:23pm

    We are over paid, and not really bright, can we have more money, to get more things wrong? Standard agency S.O.P..

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 12:27pm

    Bit overpriced

    During the latest C3 conference in Hamburg (Germany) there was a talk about the now banned Rapiscan model which cost the TSA $40m.

    Those were sold for $180,000 a piece to the gov. While those scanners were still in use the researchers were looking to buy one and they found one for a different price: $50,000

    Security Analysis of a Full-Body X-Ray Scanner [31c3]
    https://youtu.be/x_f4HUrn-NA?t=7m57s

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

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 12:32pm

    “If you really want to keep using those, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t, at a minimum we should put a metal detector on the other side,” the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview.
    Or the TSA could just combine metal detectors with patdowns sans groping. You know the method that worked quite well for decades before the invention of the useless body scanners.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 3:04pm

    those who are TSA officers, whether man or woman, are the most arrogant people i have ever met at any transit area, in any country i have been to or passed through. the attitude is born out of the instilled fear generated by those making the laws, using fear as an excuse to ramp up laws that hinder, not help. when there are delays at airports, it's always because of the actions or inactions of TSA officers exercising their authority and abusing the ability they have to delay anyone and everyone, for as long as they see fit, using the flimsiest of excuses and taking as long as is humanely possible to take. and in all fairness, no one wants a repeat of anything let alone 9/11 but relying on these people to stop something should anyone ever even think of doing such dastardly deeds again, you can forget it!!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 5:14pm

      Re:

      have you seen the pointless red light green light exercise they hold over people? Just more conditioning people to obey whatever authority tells them.

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

    • icon
      FF (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 5:22pm

      Re:

      TSA doesn't have Ny real "officers". That is just a word game they play, like kids playing.
      There is ALWAYSa real officer from a local police jurisdiction. Only that person has a gun, handcuffs, authrity to detain or arrest, etc.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2015 @ 5:01am

    So how long will they need before they reach the conclusion that mandatory body scanner + metal detector couldn't satisfy their security theatre desires and make an additional patdown mandatory.
    But even that won't be enough so orifice checks for everyone (who aren't TSA). Then some exploratory surgery and later on some vivisection.

    Just need some cattle prods to move the "citizens" along.

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

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 30 Aug 2015 @ 9:39am

    New TSA Plan:

    -Flyer goes to airport
    -Flyer is rendered unconscious
    -Flyer is stripped naked and searched including cavities
    -Flyer is loaded onto plane
    -Upon arrival at destination, flyer is brought back to consciousness

    SAFE AND SECURE!

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


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