Agency has mothballed $14 million machines in a Texas warehouse
Nov 16, 2012
A TSA official was given a grilling in a House hearing yesterday concerning information suggesting that one of the vendors of the agency’s x-ray body scanning machines may have faked tests on software which was supposed to eliminate naked images of passengers passing through the devices.
The House Homeland Security subcommittee on transportation chaired a hearing entitled “TSA’s Recent Scanner Shuffle: Real Strategy or Wasteful Smokescreen?”
During the hearing, the subject of Rapiscan allegedly manipulating operational tests on the machines was raised.
As we reported yesterday, on November 9, Rapiscan received a show-cause letter from the TSA demanding to know why the company was not complying with the TSA’s terms in failing to develop the privacy friendly software.
It appears that the discovery of potential faking of test results put into advanced motion a move by the TSA to remove over 90 of the body scanners from major airports. Initially, the agency claimed that the machines were being moved to smaller airports to alleviate passenger queues at the bigger hubs. However, it has now been revealed that the machines, worth a total of around $14 million, have actually been mothballed in a warehouse in Texas.
In his opening statement Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) noted “At this time, I’d like to insert a letter for the hearing record that I sent to Administrator Pistole yesterday expressing concern about recent allegations of contractor malfeasance that may have led to the failed tests that put us in this situation. Without objection, so ordered. I hope we can get some answers today on this extremely disturbing situation.
After submitting prepared comments, and when questioned on the allegations, John Sanders, TSA’s assistant administrator for security capabilities, told Rogers that he was unable to speak in detail about the case because investigations into the matter were ongoing.
“I wouldn’t say, sir, that we believe…have any evidence that documents that they absolutely did,,,” Sanders said when Rogers asked him when exactly the TSA found out about the vendor potentially faking test results on the machines.
“We have contacted the manufacturer to ask for additional information, so that we can look into the matter further.” Sanders said.
The TSA official then repeated thoroughly debunked claims that the TSA has had the machines independently tested to verify they are safe for public use, and effective.
As we have exhaustively documented, numerous prestigious health bodies have indicated that the backscatter x-ray devices will statistically cause an increase in cancer, including Johns Hopkins, Columbia University, the University of California, and the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety. To put that in perspective, the probability of dying in a terrorist attack is the same as the probability of getting cancer when passing through the x-ray scanner just one time.
Johns Hopkins’ biophysics expert Dr Michael Love warned that, “statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays,” after conducting a study of the naked body scanners.
It has also been proven that the scanner can be fooled by sewing a metallic object into the side of one’s clothing, rendering the entire $1 billion dollar fleet of machines virtually useless.
A recently discovered Homeland Security report also noted that federal investigators have “identified vulnerabilities in the screening process” involving the scanners.
During yesterday’s hearing, Rep. Rogers, who described the issue as “aggravating”, also asked why the body scanners had been mothballed and not put into use in a security lane where it was made clear that they were operating without privacy software. TSA official Sanders replied that the agency was attempting to comply with the mandate to have the privacy software on all machines by June 2013.
Sanders was not able to say how soon the software would be updated for the mothballed scanners, but said that he was confident the TSA would make the June 1st deadline.
In a statement for the record, privacy rights group The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) highlighted public concerns about the use of body scanners, including health and privacy risks, and the failure of the TSA to take public comments on the program.
The federal government has invested close to a billion dollars so far into a fleet of 800 scanners, and the TSA has outlined plans to buy nearly 1,000 more in the next two years.
The TSA is continuing plans to roll out more full body scanners in airports across the country despite the fact that another recent Congressional report concluded that the agency “is wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars by inefficiently deploying screening equipment and technology to commercial airports.”
Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.