Child Porn, Coke Smuggling: Hundreds of DHS Employees Arrested Last Year
By Robert Beckhusen
Border Patrol agents smuggling weed and coke. Immigration agents forging documents and robbing drug dealers. TSA employees caught with child porn. Those are just a few of the crimes perpetrated by Department of Homeland Security employees in just the past year.
Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security nearly a decade ago, the agency’s inspector general has been tasked with uncovering corruption, waste and criminality within its own ranks. The IG has had his hands full.
According to a newly released DHS inspector general’s summary of its significant investigations, 318 DHS employees and contractors were arrested in 2011 (.pdf). That’s about one arrest per weekday of the men and women who are supposed to be keeping the country safe. The report lets us not only see how corrupt some agents tasked with protecting the homeland can be, it also gives us a scale of the problem. In short: There are a lot of dirty immigration and border officers.
That might send the wrong impression. DHS is a massive agency of more than 225,000 employees. Within DHS, sub-agency Customs and Border Protection has more than doubled in recent years to nearly 59,000 employees. Maybe it’s not so surprising an organization of that size has a few bad apples. There’s also some good news. The number of arrests is going down: there were 519 arrests in 2010, compared to the 318 last year. Still, within that number includes some serious crimes.
“Border corruption may take the form of cash bribes, sexual favors, and other gratuities in return for allowing contraband or undocumented aliens through primary inspection lanes or even protecting and escorting border crossings; leaking sensitive law enforcement information to persons under investigation and selling law enforcement intelligence to smugglers; and providing needed documents such as immigration papers,” Charles Edwards, the acting inspector general for DHS, told Congress earlier this month (.pdf).
According to the report, a Border Patrol agent from Tucson named Yamilkar Fierros was given 20 months in prison for providing “sensor location maps, trail maps, and communications technology” to cartel members in exchange for more than $5,000 in bribes. Another incident involved an 8-year veteran CBP agent who conspired with cocaine traffickers to let drugs past his border inspection post. The agent, whose name and former location are undisclosed in the report, was sentenced to 110 months in federal prison.
Other corruption cases read like a list of bad career decisions, some appalling; others involve petty greed. The appalling includes at least two employees — one from CBP and another from the TSA — who were caught in possession of child pornography. A Border Patrol agent in Arizona “punched a fellow agent and threatened him with his service-issued weapon after the fellow agent joked about the excessive amount of tactical gear the [Border Patrol] routinely wore,” according to the report.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent named Valentino Johnson was sentenced to 120 months in prison for working an off-duty job robbing drug dealers, according to the report. Johnson, who was busted after attempting to steal a load of fake cocaine, worked with a stick-up crew who saw him as a means to portray a sense of legitimacy to their robberies.
A Border Patrol agent in Arizona named Michael Atondo was convicted for attempting to distribute marijuana. The agent, according to the report, using his patrol vehicle to bypass checkpoints and smuggle more than 100 kilos of marijuana. Among ICE agents, many cases involve forging fake immigration documents for bribes. A CBP agent posted to Logan International Airport in Boston even reportedly stole astronaut Neil Armstrong’s customs declaration form and attempted to sell it on the internet.
The corruption investigations have also netted contractors. At least one contractor with the Federal Emergency Management Agency was convicted of defrauding the agency of more than one million dollars. A company employee for security contractor MVM was discovered to have falsified training documents to the Federal Protective Service, which oversees security at government buildings.
There’s also a caveat. While the numbers of arrests have fallen this year, the long-term trend of cases against CBP agents, at least, has been on a rise since 2004, according to the Arizona Daily Star. Between 2004 and 2010, the number of cases doubled. Former Border Patrol agent Lee Morgan told the Daily Star the increase was due to the agency expanding its ranks so quickly. “This is just such a tarnish on the badge of the U.S. Border Patrol,” he told the paper.
Homeland Security’s inspectors are also overloaded, and are now framing out more criminal cases to sub-agencies. The CBP, meanwhile, is boosting its own internal affairs staff, and is implementing lie-detector tests starting in January.
“While the number of corrupt individuals within our ranks who have betrayed the trust of the American public and their peers is a fraction of one percent of our workforce, we continue to focus our efforts on rooting out this unacceptable and deplorable behavior,” CBP acting commissioner David Aguilar told Congress (.pdf).
The director’s testimony came at a bad time. On Friday, in one of the most high-profile cases of agency corruption in recent years, two former Border Patrol agents were found guilty of smuggling hundreds of people in their vehicles in exchange for cash. They could face up to 50 years in prison. Perhaps they’ll meet up with some old colleagues, if they’re put behind bars.
NSA whistleblowers: Government spying on every single American
The TSA, DHS and countless other security agencies have been established to keep America safe from terrorist attacks in post-9/11 America. How far beyond that does the feds’ reach really go, though?
The attacks September 11, 2001, were instrumental in enabling the US government to establish counterterrorism agencies to prevent future tragedies. Some officials say that they haven’t stopped there, though, and are spying on everyone in America — all in the name of national security.
Testimonies delivered in recent weeks by former employees of the National Security Agency suggest that the US government is granting itself surveillance powers far beyond what most Americans consider the proper role of the federal government.
In an interview broadcast on Current TV’s “Viewpoint” program on Monday, former NSA Technical Director William Binney commented on the government’s policy of blanket surveillance, alongside colleagues Thomas Drake and Kirk Wiebe, the agency’s respective former Senior Official and Senior Analyst.
The interview comes on the heels of a series of speeches given by Binney, who has quickly become better known for his whistleblowing than his work with the NSA. In their latest appearance this week, though, the three former staffers suggested that America’s spy program is much more dangerous than it seems.
In an interview with “Viewpoint” host Eliot Spitzer, Drake said there was a “key decision made shortly after 9/11, which began to rapidly turn the United States of America into the equivalent of a foreign nation for dragnet blanket electronic surveillance.”
These powers have previously defended by claims of national security necessity, but Drake says that it doesn’t stop there. He warns that the government is giving itself the power to gather intel on every American that could be used in future prosecutions unrelated to terrorism.
“When you open up the Pandora’s Box of just getting access to incredible amounts of data, for people that have no reason to be put under suspicion, no reason to have done anything wrong, and just collect all that for potential future use or even current use, it opens up a real danger — and to what else what they could use that data for, particularly when it’s all being hidden behind the mantle of national security,” Drake said.
Although Drake’s accusations seem astounding, they corroborate allegations made by Binney only a week earlier. Speaking at the Hackers On Planet Earth conference in New York City earlier this month, Binney addressed a room of thousands about the NSA’s domestic spying efforts. But in a candid interview with journalist Geoff Shively during HOPE, the ex-NSA official candidly revealed the full extent of the surveillance program.
“Domestically, they’re pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you’re doing. So the government is accumulating that kind of information about every individual person and it’s a very dangerous process,” Binney said.
Drake and Binney’s statements follow the revelation that law enforcement officers collected cell phone records on 1.3 million Americans in 2011. More news articles are emerging every day suggesting that the surveillance of Americans — off-the-radar and under wraps — is growing at an exponential rate.
DHS To Grant Illegal Aliens “Unlawful Presence Waivers”
In its quest to implement stealth amnesty, the Obama Administration is working behind the scenes to halt the deportation of certain illegal immigrants by granting them “unlawful presence waivers.”
The new measure would apply to illegal aliens who are relatives of American citizens. Here is how it would work, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announcement posted in today’s Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S. government; the agency will grant “unlawful presence waivers” to illegal aliens who can prove they have a relative that’s a U.S. citizen.
Currently such aliens must return to their native country and request a waiver of inadmissibility in an existing overseas immigrant visa process. In other words, they must enter the U.S. legally as thousands of foreigners do on a yearly basis. Besides the obvious security issues, changing this would be like rewarding bad behavior in a child. It doesn’t make sense.
But the system often causes U.S. citizens to be separated for extended periods from their immediate relatives,” according to the DHS. The proposed changes, first announced in January, will significantly reduce the length of time U.S. citizens are separated from their loved ones while required to remain outside the United States during the current visa processing system.
The administration also claims that relaxing the rule will also “create efficiencies for both the U.S. government and most applicants.” How exactly is not listed in the Federal Register announcement, which gives the public 60 days to comment. That’s only a formality since the DHS has indicated that the change is pretty much a done deal.
This appears to be part of the Obama Administration’s bigger plan to blow off Congress by using its executive powers to grant illegal immigrants backdoor amnesty. The plan has been in the works for years and in 2010 Texas’s largest newspaper published an exposé about a then-secret DHS initiative that systematically cancelled pending deportations. The remarkable program stunned the legal profession and baffled immigration attorneys who said the government bounced their clients’ deportation even when expulsion was virtually guaranteed.
In late 2011 a mainstream newspaper obtained internal Homeland Security documents outlining “sweeping changes” in immigration enforcement that halt the deportation of illegal aliens with no criminal records. This also includes a nationwide “training program” to assure that enforcement agents and prosecuting attorneys don’t remove illegal immigrants who haven’t been convicted of crimes.
Judicial Watch has been a front runner in investigating the Obama Administration’s stealth amnesty program by pursuing DHS records concerning “deferred action” or “parole” to suspend removal proceedings against a particular group of individuals. Last spring JW sued DHS to obtain information because the agency ignored a federal public records request that dates back to July 2010.
TSA Forces Woman To Use Naked Body Scanner Three Times Because of “Cute” Figure
Paul Joseph Watson
Female passengers say they are being targeted by TSA screeners for sexual harassment, with one Texas woman being forced to pass through a naked body scanner three times so chuckling male TSA workers in a back room could get a good look at her “cute” figure.
The incident occurred at DFW International Airport earlier this month. Wife and mother Ellen Terrell was asked by a female TSA screener “Do you play tennis?” When Terrell asked why, the screener responded, “You just have such a cute figure.”
Terrell was then told to go through the naked body scanner not once but a second time. She then heard the TSA screener talking into her microphone saying, “Come on guys, alright, alright, one more time.”
After Terrell was forced to undergo a third blast of radiation from the body scanner, the male TSA agents in the back room who were obviously enjoying the show tried to send her through yet again to see more images of her naked body.
“Guys, it is not blurry, I’m letting her go. Come on out,” the female TSA screener said, finally ending the ordeal.
“I feel like I was totally exposed,” Terrell told CBS 11. “They wanted a nice good look.”
An investigation by CBS 11 News has prompted New York Senator Charles Schumer to introduce legislation that will mandate the TSA provide “passenger advocates” who will be on duty at all times to respond to complaints at every airport in the country.
The investigation found that female travelers are victims of a “peep show” by TSA workers who are using naked body scanners to target attractive women.
“CBS 11 News dug through more than 500 records of TSA complaints and found a pattern of women who believe that there was nothing random about the way they were selected for extra screening,” states the report, which lists numerous examples of men forcing women to pass through the scanners in a clear pattern of sexual harassment.
A d v e r t i s e m e n t
“Going through security at our nations airports should not be a humiliating or degrading experience,” remarked Schumer after hearing about the investigation. “Because the TSA has refused to put passenger advocates at our nation’s airports, today I’m introducing legislation that would force them to do so.”
However, critics argue that the position would just be filled by another TSA worker, and that such a program will only be worthwhile if the advocate is independent.
A far better solution would be for airports to take advantage of a newly passed law that enables airports to apply to have TSA screeners evicted altogether.
As we have exhaustively documented, TSA workers tasked with operating naked body scanners have found themselves embroiled in an epidemic of criminality, abuses of power, and sexual perversion, with new cases appearing on an almost daily basis.
These people are the least suitable candidates to be providing security at America’s airports, which makes threats by Democrats and people like Joe Lieberman that a “new 9/11? will occur if the TSA is marginalized all the more asinine.
Government Ignored 1998 Report Finding up to 100 Cancer Deaths from TSA Naked Body Scanners Per Year
Has the government known since 1998 that the TSA body scanners could be giving you cancer? An explosive report has exposed the carcinogenic effects of X-ray body scanners, finding that up to 100 United States airline passengers each year could get cancer from the machines. Despite the report coming out years ago, millions of Americans still walk through the carcinogenic TSA X-ray body scanners, also known as naked body scanners. While many passengers may not develop full blown cancer as a result, radiation is truly unsafe at any dose. Furthermore, the long-term usage of the X-ray body scanners have not been fully studied — the number of cancers caused by the machines may actually increase over time.
In 1998, a panel of radiation safety experts got together to analyze a new security device called the Secure 1000, which was designed specifically to beam X-rays at people to see underneath their clothing. The experts pointed out in their evaluation that the machine violated a basic principle of radiation safety — they stated that humans simply should not be X-rayed unless there is a specific medical benefit.
Previous research confirms cancer link
The research suggested that anywhere from 6 to 100 US passengers could develop cancer each year as a result of passing through the naked body scanners. The findings correspond with the statements of Dr David Brenner, head of Columbia University’s centre for radiological research. Dr. Brenner warned that children and people with gene mutations whose bodies are less able to repair damage to their DNA are most at risk.
“If all 800 million people who use airports every year were screened with X-rays then the very small individual risk multiplied by the large number of screened people might imply a potential public health or societal risk. The population risk has the potential to be significant,”said Brenner.
Yet the TSA still claims that the naked body scanners are completely safe, issuing no warning over the link to cancer — not even a warning to those who are especially at risk as highlighted by Dr. Brenner. It appears that not only are the TSA body scanners intrusive upon personal privacy, but they are also health destroyers.
Congressman: Secret Report On TSA Pat Downs, Body Scanner Failures Will “Knock Your Socks Off”
“Off the charts” failure rate “sort of like the record of the Marx Brothers”
The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which oversees the TSA, has asserted that the release of a classified report on TSA security failures will renew calls for the replacement of the agency with private airport security personnel.
“The failure rate (for body scanning equipment) is classified but it would absolutely knock your socks off,” Florida Republican, Rep. John L. Mica told reporters during a briefing Monday.
Mica also asserted that recorded instances of pat downs failing to detect contraband are “off the charts.” This information is also currently still classified, but is due to be released within weeks as part of an upcoming committee report on the TSA’s first decade.
Mica suggested that the TSA’s performance report would read “sort of like the record of the Marx Brothers”.
The TSA has withheld results of its official security tests, despite repeated requests to release the information under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Department of Homeland Security has classified the results of the most recent random, covert “red team tests,” where undercover agents try to see what they can get past airport security. The reason they have done so, according to MIca, is because the results have been so shockingly and consistently bad for the past nine years.
Mica further slammed the TSA Monday, ripping into the agency’s latest experimental security “chat down” procedure.
The chairman referred to the pilot program of “behaviour detection” being tested at Boston Logan airport as an “idiotic mess”.
Describing the program as a poor man’s version of Israeli interrogation security techniques, Mica noted that that the pilot is merely an extension of an already existing program that the Government Accountability Office concluded had little scientific credibility and had cost “a quarter billion” in hiring additional TSA officers.
“This is no joke,” Mica told reporters at the briefing, adding that he had personally visited Logan airport and witnessed first hand the failures of the program.
“I put my ear up and listened to some idiotic questions,” Mica said of the “chat down” procedure, also noting that TSA officers expressed a lack of understanding of the program they had supposedly been trained to engage in.
“I talked to them about their training, which was minimal,” Mica said, adding “It’s almost idiotic… It’s still not a risk-based system. It’s not a thinking system.”
The program is set to be beta tested in Detroit next, before being rolled out nationwide.
Mica repeatedly argued that the TSA’s role at airports could be undertaken in a more efficient and less costly manner by private companies, albeit ultimately still under the supervision of the federal government.
Back in March, the Congressman charged that the TSA intentionally fixed data to ensure that federal workers were employed to screen airport passengers, rather than private contractors.
“TSA cooked the books to try to eliminate the federal-private screening program,” said Mica at the time.
The Congressman was referring to revelations from federal auditors that cost differentials between federal employees and private contractors were overstated by the TSA.
Though the agency contends it was an “error”, The TSA made it appear that it was more cost effective for airports to use federal government workers for security “by increasing the costs for private-contractor screeners relative to federal screeners,” government auditors wrote.
The 2001 Aviation Transportation Security Act, which created the TSA, contained an option written in by Congress allowing airports to choose between using TSA workers and private screeners. It is known as the Security Partnership Program (SPP).
Currently, sixteen airports throughout the country use private contractors under the SPP, however, the TSA has since actively prevented other airports from joining the program, as more and more express an interest in dropping the federal workforce in wake of an epidemic of TSA scandals and failures.
Mica, who helped create the TSA after 9/11, has repeatedly stated that he believes the agency is now completely out of control and believes it should be radically reformed.
Tennessee Becomes First State To Fight Terrorism Statewide
By Adam Ghassemi
PORTLAND, Tenn. – You’re probably used to seeing TSA’s signature blue uniforms at the airport, but now agents are hitting the interstates to fight terrorism with Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR).
“Where is a terrorist more apt to be found? Not these days on an airplane more likely on the interstate,” said Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons.
Tuesday Tennessee was first to deploy VIPR simultaneously at five weigh stations and two bus stations across the state.
Agents are recruiting truck drivers, like Rudy Gonzales, into the First Observer Highway Security Program to say something if they see something.
“Not only truck drivers, but cars, everybody should be aware of what’s going on, on the road,” said Gonzales.
It’s all meant to urge every driver to call authorities if they see something suspicious.
“Somebody sees something somewhere and we want them to be responsible citizens, report that and let us work it through our processes to abet the concern that they had when they saw something suspicious,” said Paul Armes, TSA Federal Security Director for Nashville International Airport.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol checked trucks with drug and bomb sniffing dogs during random inspections.
“The bottom line is this: if you see something suspicious say something about it,” Gibbons said Tuesday.
The random inspections really aren’t any more thorough normal, according to Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott who says paying attention to details can make a difference. Trott pointed out it was an Oklahoma state trooper who stopped Timothy McVeigh for not having a license plate after the Oklahoma City bombing in the early 1990s.
Tuesday’s statewide “VIPR” operation isn’t in response to any particular threat, according to officials.
Armes said intelligence indicates law enforcement should focus on the highways as well as the airports.
FBI to launch nationwide facial recognition service
By Aliya Sternstein
The FBI by mid-January will activate a nationwide facial recognition service in select states that will allow local police to identify unknown subjects in photos, bureau officials told Nextgov.
The federal government is embarking on a multiyear, $1 billion dollar overhaul of the FBI’s existing fingerprint database to more quickly and accurately identify suspects, partly through applying other biometric markers, such as iris scans and voice recordings.
Often law enforcement authorities will “have a photo of a person and for whatever reason they just don’t know who it is [but they know] this is clearly the missing link to our case,” said Nick Megna, a unit chief at the FBI’s criminal justice information services division. The new facial recognition service can help provide that missing link by retrieving a list of mug shots ranked in order of similarity to the features of the subject in the photo.
Today, an agent would have to already know the name of an individual to pull up the suspect’s mug shot from among the 10 million shots stored in the bureau’s existing Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. Using the new Next-Generation Identification system that is under development, law enforcement analysts will be able to upload a photo of an unknown person; choose a desired number of results from two to 50 mug shots; and, within 15 minutes, receive identified mugs to inspect for potential matches. Users typically will request 20 candidates, Megna said. The service does not provide a direct match.
Michigan, Washington, Florida and North Carolina will participate in a test of the new search tool this winter before it is offered to criminal justice professionals across the country in 2014 as part of NGI. The project, which was awarded to Lockheed Martin Corp. in 2008, already has upgraded the FBI’s fingerprint matching service.
Local authorities have the choice to file mug shots with the FBI as part of the booking process. The bureau expects its collection of shots to rival its repository of 70 million fingerprints once more officers are aware of the facial search’s capabilities.
Thomas E. Bush III, who helped develop NGI’s system requirements when he served as assistant director of the CJIS division between 2005 and 2009, said, “The idea was to be able to plug and play with these identifiers and biometrics.” Law enforcement personnel saw value in facial recognition and the technology was maturing, said the 33-year FBI veteran who now serves as a private consultant.
NGI’s incremental construction seems to align with the White House’s push to deploy new information technology in phases so features can be scrapped if they don’t meet expectations or run over budget.
But immigrant rights groups have raised concerns that the Homeland Security Department, which exchanges digital prints with the FBI, will abuse the new facial recognition component. Currently, a controversial DHS immigrant fingerprinting program called Secure Communities runs FBI prints from booked offenders against the department’s IDENT biometric database to check whether they are in the country illegally. Homeland Security officials say they extradite only the most dangerous aliens, including convicted murderers and rapists. But critics say the FBI-DHS print swapping ensnares as many foreigners as possible, including those whose charges are minor or are ultimately dismissed.
Megna said Homeland Security is not part of the facial recognition pilot. But, Bush said in the future NGI’s data, including the photos, will be accessible by Homeland Security’s IDENT.
The planned addition of facial searches worries Sunita Patel, a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, who said, “Any database of personal identity information is bound to have mistakes. And with the most personal immutable traits like our facial features and fingerprints, the public can’t afford a mistake.”
In addition, Patel said she is concerned about the involvement of local police in information sharing for federal immigration enforcement purposes. “The federal government is using local cops to create a massive surveillance system,” she said.
Bush said, “We do have the capability to search against each other’s systems,” but added, “if you don’t come to the attention of law enforcement you don’t have anything to fear from these systems.”
Other civil liberties advocates questioned whether the facial recognition application would retrieve mug shots of those who have simply been arrested. “It might be appropriate to have nonconvicted people out of that system,” said Jim Harper, director of information policy at the libertarian Cato Institute. FBI officials declined to comment on the recommendation.
Harper also noted large-scale searches may generate a lot of false positives, or incorrect matches. Facial recognition “is more accurate with a Google or a Facebook, because they will have anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen pictures of an individual, whereas I imagine the FBI has one or two mug shots,” he said.
FBI officials would not disclose the name of the search product or the vendor, but said they gained insights on the technique’s accuracy by studying research from the National Institutes for Standards and Technology.
In responding to concerns about the creation of a Big Brother database for tracking innocent Americans, Megna said the system will not alter the FBI’s authorities or the way it conducts business. “This doesn’t change or create any new exchanges of data,” he said. “It only provides [law enforcement] with a new service to determine what photos are of interest to them.”
In 2008, the FBI released a privacy impact assessment summarizing its appraisal of controls in place to ensure compliance with federal privacy regulations. Megna said that, during meetings with the CJIS Advisory Policy Board and the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact Council, “we haven’t gotten a whole lot of pushback on the photo capability.”
The FBI has an elaborate system of checks and balances to guard fingerprints, palm prints, mug shots and all manner of criminal history data, he said.
“This is not something where we want to collect a bunch of surveillance film” and enter it in the system, Megna said. “That would be useless to us. It would be useless to our users.”
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They’ve been accused of rampant thievery, spending billions of dollars like drunken sailors, groping children and little old ladies, and making everyone take off their shoes.
But the real job of the tens of thousands of screeners at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is to protect Americans from a terrorist attack.
Yet a decade after the TSA was created following the September 11 attacks, the author of the legislation that established the massive agency grades its performance at “D-.”
“The whole program has been hijacked by bureaucrats,” said Rep. John Mica (R. -Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
“It mushroomed into an army,” Mica said. “It’s gone from a couple-billion-dollar enterprise to close to $9 billion.”
As for keeping the American public safe, Mica says, “They’ve failed to actually detect any threat in 10 years.”
“Everything they have done has been reactive. They take shoes off because of [shoe-bomber] Richard Reid, passengers are patted down because of the diaper bomber, and you can’t pack liquids because the British uncovered a plot using liquids,” Mica said.
“It’s an agency that is always one step out of step,” Mica said.
It cost $1 billion just to train workers, which now number more than 62,000, and “they actually trained more workers than they have on the job,” Mica said.
“The whole thing is a complete fiasco,” Mica said.
In a wide-ranging interview with HUMAN EVENTS just days before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Mica said screeners should be privatized and the agency dismantled.
Instead, the agency should number no more than 5,000, and carry out his original intent, which was to monitor terrorist threats and collect intelligence.
The fledgling agency was quickly engulfed in its first scandal in 2002 as it rushed to hire 30,000 screeners, and the $104 million awarded to the company to contract workers quickly escalated to more than $740 million.
Federal investigators tracked those cost overruns to recruiting sessions held at swank hotels and resorts in St. Croix, the Virgin Islands, Florida and the Wyndham Peaks Resort and Golden Door Spa in Telluride, Colo.
Charges in the hundreds of thousands of dollars were made for cash withdrawals, valet parking and beverages, plus a $5.4 million salary for one executive for nine months of work.
Other over-the-top expenditures included nearly $2,000 for 20 gallons of Starbucks Coffee, $8,000 for elevator operators at a Manhattan hotel, and $1,500 to rent more than a dozen extension cords for the Colorado recruiting fair.
The agency inadvertently caused security gaps by failing for years to keep track of lost uniforms and passes that lead to restricted areas of airports.
Screeners have also been accused of committing crimes, from smuggling drugs to stealing valuables from passengers’ luggage. In 2004, several screeners were arrested and charged with stealing jewelry, computers and cameras, cash, credit cards and other valuables. One of their more notable victims was actress Shirley McClain, who was robbed of jewelry and crystals.
One of the screeners confessed that he was trying to steal enough to sell the items and buy a big-screen television.
In 2006, screeners at Los Angeles and Chicago O’Hare airports failed to find more than 60% of fake explosives during checkpoint security tests.
The sometimes rudder-less agency has gone through five administrators in the past decade, and it took longer than a year for President Obama to put his one man in place. Mica’s bill also blocked collective bargaining rights for screeners, but the Obama administration managed to reverse that provision.
Asked whether the agency should be privatized, Mica answered with a qualified yes.
“They need to get out of the screening business and back into security. Most of the screening they do should be abandoned,” Mica said. “I just don’t have a lot of faith at this point,” Mica said.
Allowing airports to privatize screening was a key element of Mica’s legislation and a report released by the committee in June determined that privatizing those efforts would result in a 40% savings for taxpayers.
“We have thousands of workers trying to do their job. My concern is the bureaucracy we built,” Mica said.
“We are one of the only countries still using this model of security,” Mica said, “other than Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, and I think, Libya.”
The TSA is an oft hated and maligned part of airline travel, and although the agency seems to get an excessively bad rap, many stories of TSA incidents indicate that the public’s assessment is correct. Airline passengers going through security should not fear brutal force, sexual harassment, insensitive treatment, and even being separated from their child in the name of safety, yet as you’ll see from the following stories, they do. Although these stories are among the worst, so many more were not included, and continue to develop each day. Read on to find 12 chilling TSA horror stories.
What happens when you opt out of the backscatter scan and ask questions about the pat down? If you’re Meg McLain, you get harassed and ultimately, get your ticket ripped up. Meg was cuffed in a chair and escorted out of the airport by 12 Miami cops after she questioned what would happen to her in the secondary screening pat down. Her US Airways ticket was torn up, and although US Airways promised to credit her for a new flight, they then refused to replace her ticket. As a talk show host with Free Keene, Meg’s story received plenty of attention, with a wildly popular YouTube video, a visit to the Alex Jones Show, and an interview with The Consumerist. The TSA released surveillance videos of the incident in an attempt to lay the blame for the incident on McLain; however, some believe that the videos actually vindicate her.
At 94 years old, Marian Paterson is not as physically capable as others may be, and that means that it is not comfortable for her to stand for long periods of time. But nonetheless, Paterson was made to stand “for over ten minutes,” as she reports, much longer than is necessary to complete a TSA patdown, and much longer than she felt physically able to handle. Her family believes that the TSA went too far, indicating that “they groped her…all over her body.” Marian had trouble understanding why, “of all the people in America, they’d pick out some little old lady.”
Another elderly woman, Jean Weber’s 95-year-old mother, in the final stages of her leukemia battle, was forced to submit to a patdown just a week after receiving a blood transfusion. Her “wet and firm” diaper was deemed suspicious, and she was taken to a private room. They had to remove her diaper, and she was separated from her daughter Jean. She did not have an extra pair, and was forced to go through the airport without underwear. Although the procedure was technically correct, Weber feels that “the procedure needs to be changed,” allowing more sensitivity to those with certain health needs.
The TSA seems to have it out for those affected by cancer. Tom Sawyer wears a urostomy bag, a device necessary after his successful fight with bladder cancer. The TSA scanner picked up his bag, and he was chosen for a pat down. He had to ask for privacy during the screening, which he received, albeit not without eye rolling. During the procedure, he tried several times to explain his medical condition, and warned them that they could break the seal on his urostomy bag, covering him with urine. But despite his explanations, Sawyer was ignored, the seal was broken, and urine spilled all over his shirt, leg, and pants. The TSA agents’ response? As Sawyer recounted, “he told me I could go. They never apologized. They never offered to help. They acted like they hadn’t seen what happened. But I know they saw it because I had a wet mark.” Without so much as an apology, Sawyer had to walk through the airport, still soaked in urine, board his plane, and wait until after takeoff to clean himself up. On the incident, Sawyer commented, “If this country is going to sacrifice treating people like human beings in the name of safety, then we have already lost the war.”
An Amarillo woman filed a suit against the TSA for publicly exposing her breasts at a Corpus Christi Airport. She was picked out for an extended search procedure before her flight in 2008, and “as the TSA agent was frisking plaintiff, the agent pulled the plaintiff’s blouse completely down, exposing plaintiffs’ breasts to everyone in the area.” The victim filed an administrative claim against the TSA, but after the agency failed to respond, she filed a lawsuit. To further her embarrassment, the victim claims that TSA employees joked and laughed about her accident, with one male TSA employee sharing “that he wished he would have been there when she came through the first time and that ‘he would just have to watch the video.'”
The TSA indicates that “security officers are well trained to screen individuals with body piercings in sensitive areas with dignity and respect,” but Mandi Hamlin did not receive such treatment. Instead, she was forced to remove her nipple piercings, one of which had to be taken out with pliers. The TSA’s policy is to give individuals with body piercings either pat downs or have them remove the piercings in private; however, Hamlin was not given the option of the pat down — her only available option was to remove her piercings. In fact, she indicated that she could show a female agent her piercings, but was told she couldn’t board her flight without removing all piercings. In a letter to the TSA, Hamlin’s attorney reminded the agency that “After nipple rings are inserted, the skin can often heal around the piercing, and the rings can be extremely difficult and painful to remove,” making what they forced Hamlin to do cruel, especially as reinserting them is also quite painful. And as if that wasn’t enough, while Hamlin was removing her jewelry behind a curtain, she heard male TSA agents snickering at her plight. Her lawyer notes, “The last time that I checked, a nipple was not a dangerous weapon.”
The TSA recommends removing all headwear, “but the rules accommodate those with religious, medical, or other reasons for which the passenger wishes not to remove the item.” That is not the experience that Gurdeep Singh Bawa received at Chicago O’Hare in 2010. For religious reasons, Bawa does not let anyone touch his turban, and he does not take it off, an action that is very disrespectful. Despite clearing two tests for explosives trace detection, he was told he would have to take his turban off. After removing it in a private room, officers took it away, bringing it back minutes later. Bawa and other Sikhs in his community feel that they are being “religiously, racially profiled,” and Bawa in particular feels that he was offended, noting, “I’ve never been humiliated like this in my life.”
Kids often get very attached to toys, and three-year-old Mandy Simon is no exception. So when screeners took her teddy bear away from her to run it through the x-ray machine, she was very upset. Although it was standard procedure, the incident was jarring for little Mandy, and she was so upset about her teddy bear, she couldn’t walk calmly through the metal detector, setting the machine off twice. It was at that point that she had to be patted down, still crying, and screaming, “Stop touching me!” Her dad, a Houston TV news reporter, caught the incident on video, which ended up getting lots of attention and pushback from Slashdot and a mention in several news outlets, including NY Daily News.
In 2010, Robin Kassner sued the TSA for using abusive bodily force against her at the Reagan National Airport in 2007. The TSA claims that “was interfering with the screening process and refusing to follow security procedures.” The security cameras show a scuffle, with Kassner wrestled to the floor by police, and taking an elbow to the head as she was slammed on a table. Kassner claims that she blacked out and suffered a concussion, which has led to memory problems. It’s not clear what she did to provoke such a response. She is seeking $10 million in damages for the incident.
Four-year-old Ryan Thomas was born sixteen weeks early, and as a result, is developmentally delayed: at the time of his TSA incident, he was just starting to walk. His parents use a stroller for him, as well as leg braces for his malformed legs with low muscle tone. Unable to walk steadily on his own, his mother initially walked him through the metal detector, and his leg braces set the alarm off. Ryan was forced to take off his leg braces, but his mother was not allowed to help him walk this time — he had to walk on his own. That’s right, a disabled four-year-old just learning to walk with the assistance of leg braces had to walk, without any physical assistance or the use of his braces, through the detector for TSA. After Ryan’s father went to the press, the TSA apologized to the family, and acknowledged that there are other ways to screen those with disabilities, including those that don’t require a disabled child to do what is nearly impossible.
Peggy is a mother of a four-year-old, and she also has a below-knee amputation. Both she and her son were subjected to invasive pat downs, and were also separated from each other. Peggy had to sit and watch without helping or comforting her son as he was patted down, which included a peek in his diaper, an experience that left him shaking but still not able to seek the comfort of his mother. Peggy had her own, far worse embarrassment to deal with after her son’s ordeal. She had to remove not just her prosthetic leg, but her prosthetic liner, and run them through the x-ray scanner. Her prosthetic liner must be kept sanitary to avoid infection and a possible higher level amputation, and above that, protects from sight a part of Peggy’s body that she feels “is on par with one’s genitals.” She was gawked at while her liner was run through the machine with no attempt to keep it sanitary, and was then thrown haphazardly into her lap. Peggy’s story reached Boing Boing, and is a focal point of the Amputee Coalition of America’s Call for Improved Screening Procedures for TSA.
TSA agents took my son
The TSA doesn’t seem to respect the bond and safety of mother and child. In 2009, Nicole White claims she was separated from her 16-month-old son, Jackson. According to the TSA, they “will not ask you to do anything that will separate you from your child or children,” but that was not Nicole and Jackson’s experience. After his pacifier clip set off an alarm, Nicole and Jackson were escorted together to a plastic box, where they waited and became increasingly late for their flight. They were eventually patted down, but instead of patting down Jackson in Nicole’s lap, a TSA agent insisted that he had to be picked up, and Nicole handed him to the agent. It was at that point the agent walked away with her son, and despite Nicole’s questions and tears, she could not see Jackson and was ignored until the TSA threatened to involve the authorities. She was separated from her son for an estimated 10 minutes, during which time she had a panic attack. The TSA posted videos to discredit her story, but Nicole, just like Meg McLain, maintains that the full incident was not posted, including the time when Jackson was taken away and Nicole made two phone calls to her husband and mother.
TSA Considering Banning Photography Of Checkpoints
By Carlos Miller –
The Transportation Security Administration is considering changing its policy on photographing security checkpoints after several videos depicting questionable incidents between passengers and TSA screeners were posted on Youtube.
News of the possible changes in policy was posted Friday on the TSA Blog, the same blog that posted that it is permissible to photograph checkpoints, even though most screeners act as if it has always been illegal.
The reason it is considering changing its policy stems from a Youtube video that was recorded in Phoenix when a woman opted-out of the metal detectors and chose to get patted down by a TSA screener.
The woman began yelling hysterically that she had been molested by the screener.
Meanwhile, the woman’s son was recording the incident and continued to do so, even though several TSA screeners told him he was breaking the law.
It is impossible to tell whether the woman was molested in the video, but it’s clear that the TSA screeners were creating their own laws in dealing with the videographer – as they’ve done so many times before.
This is what the TSA had to say about the incident:
You may have seen the video of a woman at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport who was upset about her screening experience.
TSA takes all allegations of improper screening seriously and investigates each claim to the fullest. After reviewing this passenger’s time at the checkpoint, we found that our security officers acted properly and neither the CCTV footage nor this YouTube video support any of the allegations levied. Real violations of our protocols are worth every ounce of our energy to investigate, but this alleged incident does not meet that threshold.
This incident has also raised many questions about whether or not passengers can film at checkpoints. This topic is currently under review, but you can read this blog post on our current policy for photography at checkpoints.
It doesn’t make sense to ban people from videotaping checkpoints just because a woman began yelling that she had been molested. If anything, more video cameras can provide more sides of the truth.
The real issue here is that TSA has made absolutely no effort to train its screeners on the current photography policy judging from my personal experiences as well many other embarrassing videos on Youtube.
And they probably find it easier to rewrite the policy to what the screeners already believe than make an attempt to educate them.
Whatever their reasons, it has nothing to do with keeping up safe from terrorists.
UPDATE: Mickey H. Osterreicher, attorney for the National Press Photographers Association, just sent an awesome letter to Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, regarding this matter.
UPDATE II: The TSA updated its blog after this post was published to include the following paragraph: ***Update: 6/9/2011 – There have been many many different interpretations of the photography portion of this post, so I wanted to clarify things a bit. We recognize that using video and photography equipment is a constitutionally protected activity unless it interferes with the screening process at our checkpoints. While our current policy remains the same, TSA is reviewing our guidance to officers at the checkpoint to ensure consistent application. Our goal is to protect passenger’s rights, while safeguarding the integrity of the security process. ***
So does this mean that they are going to start training TSA screeners that photography is allowed?
Are Ridiculous Airport Security Measures Killing Airline Profits?
The American Dream
June 7, 2011
Over the past couple of years, the attitude of U.S. consumers towards flying has shifted dramatically. Once upon a time most Americans looked forward to flying, but thanks to rising airfares, horrific fees and ridiculous airport security measures that has changed. In particular, the new airport security scanners that can look underneath our clothing and the new “enhanced pat-downs” have caused many Americans to decide to give up air traveling for good. It is being projected that airline profits are going to be way down in 2011. Could this partially be due to the fact that these ridiculous airport security measures are chasing Americans away from the airports?
According to the International Air Transport Association, profits for the global airline industry will only be about $4 billion this year. Last year, the airline industry made $18 billion. Things look particularly bleak in the North American region.
Of course rising oil prices and global economic turmoil are contributing factors, but there are also millions of Americans out there today that have now decided that they simply are not going to fly unless they absolutely have to.
Take myself for example. Once the naked body scanners and the “enhanced pat-downs” went in, I decided that I would not fly unless I absolutely had to. At this point I have not taken a flight in over a year.
Analysts say that the airline industry is being “right-sized”, but you would think as our population grows that the number of people in need of air travel would continue to grow.
Instead, we have witnessed a horrible decade for the airline industry. Over the past decade, one out of every four airline jobs has been lost…..
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, passenger airlines lost one in every four jobs between 2000 and 2010, dropping from 523,208 jobs at the end of 2000 to 390,053 at the end of last year.
Of course this has nothing to do with all of the ridiculous security measures put in after 9/11, right?
2008 and 2009 were particularly bad years for the airline industry. During the years of 2008 and 2009, airlines combined to lose a whopping 23 billion dollars.
According to a 2008 survey, air travelers in the United States avoided 41 million trips because of perceived problems with the air travel system. The U.S. Travel Association says that those avoided trips cost U.S. airlines 9.4 billion dollars.
Most Americans are still taking flights, but there is a small percentage of Americans (that is growing) that simply do not want to go through the hassle of air travel anymore.
Thanks to the Internet, Americans are reading all of the worst TSA horror stories. For example, one 61-year-old retired special education teacher was left humiliated, crying and covered with his own urine after an “enhanced pat-down” went badly.
As horror story after horror story about these ridiculous airport security measures continue to come out, an increasing number of Americans are deciding to change their travel habits.
A recent poll of air travelers found that 35 percent said that they would be traveling less by air and only 17 percent said that they planned to travel more by air.
Sites like The Drudge Report have been featuring negative stories about the TSA for months. If the airline industry thinks that this is not having an impact then they are delusional.
The rest of the world is watching all of this happen as well, and millions of people are deciding that the United States is a place that they would rather not visit.
In 2009, 54.9 million tourists visited the United States, and those tourists spent approximately 93 billion dollars. Tourism is the first, second or third biggest employer in 29 U.S. states.
So what happens if a significant chunk of international tourists decide that they are simply not going to fly because they don’t want to be blasted with radiation and they don’t want to be subjected to TSA groping?
The U.S. economy has gotten worse over the past couple of years. Do we really need to kill off the tourism industry also?
What is going on at our airports is just another example of how America is turning into a “Big Brother” police state. For many more examples of this phenomenon, check out this article: “32 Signs That The Entire World Is Being Transformed Into A Futuristic Big Brother Prison Grid“.
If you are still convinced that all of this new airport security is no big deal, you might want to think again. You never know, the next viral video on YouTube might be of you….
Doctors on why they avoid naked body scanners at airports
Ethan A. Huff
For those still contemplating whether or not the radiation emitted from airport naked body scanners is serious enough to avoid, you may be interested to know that many doctors routinely “opt out” and choose the full-body pat down instead because they recognize the inherent dangers associated with any level of radiation exposure. A recent CNN piece explains that for many doctors, avoiding all sources of radiation whenever possible is just the smart thing to do.
Throughout the past year, NaturalNews has covered many stories related to the US Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) controversial naked body scanners, which are now installed and in use at nearly 80 US airports (http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ai…). Besides representing an unconstitutional invasion of privacy (http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ai…), the scanners blast passengers with full-body doses of health-destroying radiation (http://www.naturalnews.com/naked_bo…).
So what do medical doctors who fly have to say about the machines? Well, according to CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen who recently conducted her own small investigation, many are concerned about the radiation these scanners emit. In fact, Cohen quotes several doctors who express concern about the cumulative effects of repeated radiation exposure, even if such exposure is supposedly miniscule and below established thresholds for causing harm.
“I do whatever I can to avoid the scanner. This is a total body scan — not a dental or chest X-ray,” said Dr. Len Lichtenfield to Cohen in an email. “Total body radiation is not something I find very comforting based on my medical knowledge.”
Another doctor explained that there is “no absolutely safe dose of radiation,” and that “each exposure is additive.” So even if the supposedly low radiation doses emitted from the naked body scanners are as low as TSA and the machines’ manufacturers claim they are, habitual exposure will still cause bodily harm.
Even Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS) expressed concern about whether the safety of them machines, and whether or not TSA is properly maintaining and testing them for safety. After all, TSA refused to release safety reports for quite some time, and when they did, the bungled reports explained nothing more than TSA’s high level of incompetence (http://www.naturalnews.com/031792_a…).
Back in December, radiation scientists admitted that naked body scanners are fully capable of causing both sperm mutations and cancer, despite insistence by authorities to the contrary (http://www.naturalnews.com/030607_n…). Other reports suggest that nobody really knows how much radiation is actually emitted from naked body scanners due to flawed and inconclusive safety tests (http://www.naturalnews.com/031792_a…)
In an astounding cover story for the March 21 issue of TIME called ‘Your Data for Sale,’ author Joel Stein tells readers to simply “get over” constant surveillance. The tagline, “Everything about you is being tracked– get over it” puts the issue in your face. Yeah, get over it, and the TSA porno-scanners and grope-downs, too.
Newsweek, like TIME, another Skull and Bones-dominated media organ, similarly published a shocker in 2009 with its cover story, ‘The Case for Killing Granny,’ preparing the masses to simply accept massive shifts in society’s norms as if it were a trifling occurrence. Unauthorized NSA wiretapping and other related surveillance (started long ago) was at least controversial during the Bush Administration, though it has unabashedly continued under Obama.
TIME magazine, March 21, 2011
In an promotional interview with CNN about the article, author Joel Stein makes light of the fact that his social security number (and lots of other personal data), as well as that of his family members, were easily found online. Stein and CNN host Kiran Chetry giggle like schoolgirls about Facebook’s exploitation of personal data, and the many other data-mining companies who keep “permanent files” on us. Stein even quips that he has “blackmail material” now on his mother and sister, whose SSN numbers he obtained during his research. Stein further called personalized-ads on systems like Google’s G-MAIL “kinda cool.” That’s right, now that we’re at the heart of a big brother system, 1984 is kinda cute-and-fuzzy.
Gadget, covering the upcoming TIME article, has posted an article ‘How to Opt Out of Everything Online‘ with information on how to opt-out from many of the online data companies. Below is the first of a long-list of resources and/or preference settings where you can lobby to take yourself off of the data-mining lists:
Oh man, strap in for this one. The NAI Opt-out Tool shows you all the big-name marketing companies that have installed tracking cookies on your computer and lets you opt out of some or all of them in one fell swoop.
While these options may improve some aspects of online privacy, don’t hold your breath. Your ISPs alone are likely storing complete records of everything you do, to say nothing of what the NSA and other intelligence outlets have underway.
It would seem the death of privacy and the 4th amendment is officially upon us. Morever, it’s something to be passively accepted and even laughed about. The TIME story has a publish date of March 21, 2011; the detailed story text is not yet available.
The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that it would retest every full-body X-ray scanner that emits ionizing radiation — 247 machines at 38 airports — after maintenance records on some of the devices showed radiation levels 10 times higher than expected.
By Scott Olson,
The TSA says that the records reflect math mistakes and that all the machines are safe. Indeed, even the highest readings listed on some of the records — the numbers that the TSA says were mistakes — appear to be many times less than what the agency says a person absorbs through one day of natural background radiation.
Even so, the TSA has ordered the new tests out of “an abundance of caution to reassure the public,” spokesman Nicholas Kimball says. The tests will be finished by the end of the month, and the results will be released “as they are completed,” the agency said on its website.
TSA officials have repeatedly assured the public and lawmakers that the machines have passed all inspections. The agency’s review of maintenance reports, launched Dec. 10, came only after USA TODAY and lawmakers called for the release of the records late last year.
The agency posted reports Friday from 127 X-ray-emitting devices on its website and said it would continue to release results from maintenance tests for the approximately 4,500 X-ray devices at airports nationwide. Those devices include machines that examine checked luggage. Of the reports posted, about a third showed some sort of error, Kimball said.
The TSA announced steps to require its maintenance contractors to “retrain personnel involved in conducting and overseeing the radiation survey process.”
Some lawmakers remain concerned, however.
The TSA “has repeatedly assured me that the machines that emit radiation do not pose a health risk,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a written statement Friday. “Nonetheless, if TSA contractors reporting on the radiation levels have done such a poor job, how can airline passengers and crew have confidence in the data used by the TSA to reassure the public?”
She said the records released Friday “included gross errors about radiation emissions. That is completely unacceptable when it comes to monitoring radiation.”
U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz also was troubled by the information posted by the TSA. Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairs a House oversight subcommittee on national security and has sponsored legislation to limit the use of full-body scans. He has been pushing the TSA to release the maintenance records.
At best, Chaffetz said, the radiation reports generated by TSA contractors reveal haphazard oversight and record-keeping in the critical inspection system the agency relies upon to ensure millions of travelers aren’t subjected to excessive doses of radiation.
“It is totally unacceptable to be bumbling such critical tasks,” Chaffetz said. “These people are supposed to be protecting us against terrorists.”
In the past, the TSA has failed to properly monitor and ensure the safety of X-ray devices used on luggage. A 2008 report by the worker safety arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the TSA and its maintenance contractors had failed to detect when baggage X-ray machines emitted radiation beyond what regulations allowed. They also failed to take action when some machines had missing or disabled safety features, the report shows.
Chaffetz said the TSA’s characterization of the maintenance mistakes “sounds like an excuse rather than the real facts.”
“I’m tired of excuses,” Chaffetz said. “The public has a right and deserves to know. It begs the question, ‘What are they still not sharing with us?’ These are things you cannot make mistakes with.” Chaffetz said he expects to address some of his concerns during a hearing Wednesday.
The full-body scanners, called backscatter devices, are supposed to deliver only a tiny amount of radiation — about as much as an airplane passenger gets during two minutes of a typical flight.
Peter Rez, a physics professor at Arizona State University, said Friday he wanted to scrutinize the 2,000 pages of reports the TSA posted. He has expressed concerns about the potential for the scanners to break and the importance of proper maintenance and monitoring.
“Mechanical things break down,” Rez told USA TODAY in December. Rez also has voiced fears about the potential for a passenger to get an excessive dose of radiation or even a radiation burn if the X-ray scanning beam were to malfunction and stop on one part of a person’s body for an extended period of time.
He said Friday that the contractor mistakes TSA identified only heighten his concerns.
“What happens in times of failure, when they can give very, very high radiation doses. I’m totally unconvinced they have thought that through,” Rez said of the TSA. “I just see a large, bumbling bureaucracy. Of course it’s not very reassuring.”
The TSA’s Kimball disputed such characterizations.
“Numerous independent tests have confirmed that these technologies are safe, but these record-keeping errors are not acceptable,” he said. For instance, “the testing procedure calls for the technician to take 10 separate scans” for radiation levels, “add them up and then divide by 10 to take an average. They didn’t divide by 10,” Kimball said.
“We’re taking a number of steps to ensure the mistakes aren’t repeated,” he said, “and the public will be able to see for themselves by reviewing all future reports online.”
The TSA is responsible for the safety of its own X-ray devices. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it does not routinely inspect airport X-ray machines because they are not considered medical devices. The TSA’s airport scanners are exempt from state radiation inspections because they belong to a federal agency.
Some of the records were written by employees of the machines’ maker: Rapiscan Systems. In a written statement, the company’s executive vice president, Peter Kant, said, “The mistakes were the result of calculating and procedural errors that were identified by Rapiscan management and have been corrected. In actuality, the systems in these airports have always been well below acceptable exposure limits.”
Rapiscan Systems said in a Dec. 15 letter to the TSA that company engineers who tested the backscatter machines were confused by inspection forms and instructions, leading them to make mistakes on the forms that vastly inflated the radiation emitted by the machines.
Rapiscan vowed to redesign its inspection forms and retrain its engineers.
The TSA released inspection reports from 40 backscatter machines, and reports for 19 of those machines had errors, including six that were deemed “considerable.”
In a written statement sent to USA TODAY, TSA Administrator John Pistole said the equipment is safe.
“Independent third-party testing has confirmed that all TSA technology is safe,” Pistole said. “We are also taking additional steps to build on existing safety measures in an open and transparent way, including commissioning an additional independent entity to evaluate these protocols.”