The new generation of millimeter-wave body scanners from the convicted war-criminals at L-3 were supposed to replace the useless, expensive backscatter radiation machines from Rapiscan with a more robust, less privacy invasive alternative.
But the pornoscanners used in airports (overseen by a House Appropriations Committee staffed by a former Rapiscan exec) today run buggy software, are run by undertrained personnel ("a lot of them that aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer" -Steve Bucci former Pentagon official), and are not well maintained. They miss over 96 percent of dangerous materials that covert TSA testers bring through them, including metallic items that would be caught by the traditional magnetic scanners they replaced.
The TSA has refused to state how much it had spent on the new machines, but it has finally admitted that the program cost $160 million, of which $120 million was spent on L-3's machines themselves. This is on top of the hundreds of millions spent on backscatter machines and puffer machines, all since decommissioned as ineffective boondoggles.
There is a serious procurements problem at the TSA.
TSA officials are working to determine how much of the machines’ failure rate can be attributed to human error.
Another concern is how well the machines are maintained. A separate inspector general report from May said that “because TSA does not adequately oversee equipment maintenance, it cannot be assured that routine preventive maintenance is performed or that equipment is repaired and ready for operational use.”
Lawmakers were so concerned by those findings that the House passed a bill this summer, in a 380-0 vote, that would force the agency to create specific maintenance guidance and penalize those who don’t mind the new rules.
Anthony Roman, a pilot and security expert who also designs management software, said probably only a small percentage of the body imaging machines’ failure rate can be chocked up to the technology itself. The rest is likely because of the TSA’s “low-paid, under-motivated, not incredibly well-trained personnel,” he said.
Price for TSA's failed body scanners: $160 million [Jennifer Scholtes/Politico]
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)
(Image: Burn Money, Purple Slog, CC-BY)