Follow the Money

Auburn Journal

With all the commotion over the invasive full body scanners used in airports by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), one important question has been ignored – who is who is getting rich from the TSA scanners?

The embarrassment of passing through full-body scanners that provide detailed naked pictures of you to TSA, Homeland Security and anyone else with access may not mean that the terrorists have won, but they are certainly victories for a few politically-connected high-tech companies and their revolving-door lobbyists.

Former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff has long been an energetic advocate for the controversial airport full-body scanners as a way to detect hidden explosive devices. While publicly advocating for the use of full body scanners as a security matter, Chertoff fails to reveal how Rapiscan Systems (the main manufacturer of full body scanners) has hired Chertoff’s private security consulting firm to lobby for them.

Chertoff has said, “Screening technologies with names like millimeter-wave and backscatter X-ray can show the contours of the body and reveal foreign objects. Such machines, properly used, are a leap ahead of the metal detectors used in most airports, and supporters say they are necessary to keep up with the plans of potential terrorists. “

But Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org, explains the problem with Chertoff’s pitch; “Mr. Chertoff should not be allowed to abuse the trust the public has placed in him as a former public servant to privately gain from the sale of full-body scanners under the pretense that the scanners would have detected this particular type of explosive” (unsuccessfully tried in the failed Christmas Day bomb attempt).

To date, Rapiscan has sold 150 scanners to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), with a price tag of $25 million. The US government has set aside another $300 million, largely because of Chertoff’s efforts when he was director of the Department of Homeland Security.

Government records reveal that in the last 5 years industry lobbying efforts have doubled for airport full body scanner firms. According to a USA Today report, those same firms also hired former high-profile government officials to lobby airports around the country to buy their scanners. The Washington Examiner has published a list of airport full-body scanner lobbyists, including another heavyweight, Tom Blank, who is with the lobbying firm Wexler & Walker that represents American Science and Engineering (AS&E), another full body scanner manufacturer. In 2005 Tom Blank was the Deputy Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration. Because of the Beltway’s revolving-door syndrome, he is now employed to lobby the same federal agency he formerly headed.

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