Agency head admits $1 billion body scanner program may fail
Although reports today suggest that the TSA is looking to move away from physical pat downs, owing to public backlash, TSA head John Pistole admitted recently that screeners are being trained to pay specific attention to the crotches of travelers moving through airport security.
In comments to Bloomberg News columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, Pistole noted that the TSA is responding to the recent crotch bomber double agent panic.
“Pistole told me that the TSA has developed mock-ups of the bomb, and agents are being instructed on its design and how to detect it,” Goldberg writes.
“If done properly, it may be found,” Pistole said referring to TSA pat downs.
Goldberg himself was the journalist that related the story of his own 79-year-old mother-in- law being stopped and asked by the TSA if she was wearing a sanitary napkin because TSA agents spotted “an anomaly in the crotch area”.
Goldberg also reveals that Pistole admitted that the expensive body scanners that have been installed in hundreds of airports across the country may fail to detect explosives.
“The advanced imaging technology gives us the best chance to detect the underwear-type device,” he said.
The best chance? “This is not 100 percent guaranteed,” he said. “If it comes down to a terrorist who has a well- concealed device, and we have no intelligence about him, and he comes to an advanced-imaging technology machine, it is still our best technology. But it’s really an open question about whether the machine, or the AIT operator, would detect the device.”
“The existence of this latest iteration of the underwear bomb is, as the security expert Bruce Schneier argues, “an advertisement against increased airport security — not in favor of it,” Goldberg concludes.
He further notes “when even the head of the TSA admits that its technology might not be able to stop innovative new bombs, it might be time to look at our counterterrorism spending priorities — and focus more resources on stopping embryonic plots and less on harassing my mother-in-law.”
Earlier this month, a secret Department of Homeland Security report revealed that federal investigators have “identified vulnerabilities in the screening process” involving TSA full body scanners.
An unclassified summary of a November 2011 Inspector General report noted “The agency acknowledged that improvements can be made in the operation of new passenger screening technologies to prevent individuals with threat objects from entering airport sterile areas undetected.”
The report provides a basis for renewed investigation of claims made in March by Engineer Jon Corbett who posted a video of himself demonstrating how the TSA’s radiation firing body scanners can easily be bypassed.
In February, The Inspector General released a further report claiming that it had found the body scanners to be no danger to the health of commuters or operators. Despite being cited as newly authoritative by TSA head John Pistole, we exposed the fact that it merely repeats old and questionable information that has been available on the TSA’s website for two years.