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Electronic Frontier Foundation Privacy Security The Almighty Buck Transportation Politics

TSA Spending $245 Million On "Second Generation" Body Scanners 335

McGruber writes "Continuing its standard practice of wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, the TSA has awarded an indefinite delivery / indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract, worth up to $245 Million, to American Science and Engineering Inc. to deliver an unspecified number of 'second generation' Advanced Imaging Technology screening systems for use at U.S. airports. As previously reported, Jonathan Corbett proved that TSA's current nude-o-scopes are incapable of actually detecting hidden objects."
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TSA Spending $245 Million On "Second Generation" Body Scanners

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  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:26AM (#41386741) Journal

    Talk about a huge cost to US businesses. The number of additional man-hours lost daily is staggering. With the "enhanced" security you can plan on an extra 1-1.5 hours of transit time each way on every single trip. That almost 1.8 billion hours spent every single year on worthless "security". At typical billing rates, that's over 100 Billion dollars a year of wasted time.

    I don't hear any outrage from the right. I wonder why...

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mellon ( 7048 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:34AM (#41386855) Homepage

    Oh come on. Seriously. You have a ceramic knife, and five buddies, and there are 200 people on the plane. How are you going to "start killing people?" You are going to get your ass handed to you. Every asshole that's tried something on a plane since 9/11 has been wrestled to the floor by angry and enthusiastic travelers. This isn't a real threat model.

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @11:10AM (#41387321) Journal

    Why not? What is it about airport security that doesn't scale linearly?

  • by CQDX ( 2720013 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @11:13AM (#41387371)
    Apparently the TSA agents didn't know what a MoH is and were supsicious because the medal is the shape of a star and feared it might be used like a Japanese shuriken (throwing star)! Never mind that the guy they didn't trust was a WWII ace, a retired general, and form governor. [] The meme used to be if you weren't smart enough to get into college, you could join the Army. I think now it's you can join the TSA.
  • by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @11:14AM (#41387381)

    The TSA has this program now called Fly By. It's a voluntary program that has been rolled out to a few airports (lucky my hometown airport is one of them). If you join up - and remember it's voluntary - the TSA will do a background check on you. If all goes well then the next time you go to the airport you get whisked over to a special line at security. You don't have to take your shoes off, you don't have to take your belt off, you don't have to take out your toiletry bag. You just put your stuff on the belt and walk through the x-ray machine. Easy, peesy. Now, I still can't bring through a bottle of water and I'm still subject to the regulations that other passengers are but still...this is a Godsend for frequent flyers and a model for how airport security should be done. It's fast and convenient and still provides a measure of safety.

    I've been critical of the TSA in the past but this time they got it right.

    However, back to the article at hand. Don't you think it might make sense to try these new things out in the field before awarding an IDIQ contract? I haven't read the contract but it sounds suspiciously like some of the other government contracts in that the supplier gets paid no matter what. If something goes wrong then you have to sign another contract, and pay more money, to get it fixed.

    I've worked with many government agencies over the years as a contractor, and many years ago, as an employee. The big problem, as I see it, is not so much the people that work there it's the procurement system. The rules and the hoops you have to jump through to get anything done is just appalling. Often, the rules prevent you from making the best purchasing decision. No private company could survive under the same set of rules. That - as much as anything else - is what is contributing to the massive waste in government today.

  • cheaper alternative (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @11:46AM (#41387833)
    I'm not going to do the math but I bet it'd be cheaper to put an armed air marshal on every single US flight instead.
  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Digicaf ( 48857 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @11:58AM (#41388033)

    So you expect a human being to sit by while 200 people are killed on the other side of a door. Are we going to start hiring sociopaths to be airline pilots?

    In short, Yes. In long, Yes absolutely.

    They don't need to be sociopaths, just don't underestimate things like the bystander effect and the human capability to ignore something unpleasant. Turning off communications with the cabin would help, and I'm wondering if items like that were formalized once they started locking the doors and treating the cockpit like a secured zone.

    The human mind is wired to rationalize inaction and ignore reality, especially when there's any small amount of "push" being applied in that direction. Look at all the experiments we've seen that involve getting people to do or ignore horrible things with minimal effort. The Milgram experiment, for example. I'd be willing to bet that a pilot would ignore anything coming from the cabin if she or he was being told to ignore it by controllers.

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @12:09PM (#41388231) Homepage

    Has anybody stopped to ask why terrorists need to get past the TSA?

    They can just as easily blow up the queue for the scanner. It would probably do just as much damage in real terms.

  • Re:Note to TSA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SomePoorSchmuck ( 183775 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @03:26PM (#41391187) Homepage

    Has anybody stopped to ask why terrorists need to get past the TSA?

    They can just as easily blow up the queue for the scanner. It would probably do just as much damage in real terms.

    I think about this all the time. I fly 3-5 times a year, and so far I have always opted out of the scanner. When this happens, the agents all go about their business while I stand there waiting for the next Feeler to become available -- "Male Assist on lane 3! Male Assist on lane 3!......(two minutes later) Male Assist on lane 3!......(two minutes later) Male Assist on lane 3!.......(repeat)". Typically my (punishment) wait time is between 15-25 minutes while all the other folks walk through nude photobooth. During this interval I am standing in the middle of the screening area right next to the machines and agents and passenger line, and I have had no pre-screening at all other than the ID/boarding pass check at the back of the line. Some whackjob could load up his underclothes and his carry-on bag with enough explosive to destroy the entire checkpoint, and just stand there watching the line, waiting until some family with babies or a big church youth mission group with dozens of bright-eyed photogenic save-the-world kids gets up to the front of the line for maximum psychological impact on the evening news. He'd get the bonus -- regular passengers, high-drama passengers, shutdown all airports nationwide in the panic, as well as destroy tens of millions of dollars worth of body-scanner equipment in that checkpoint.

    Incidentally, I've also wondered about that punitive wait time. There have been a couple occasions were it seemed the Feelers were available, but they busied themselves with normal screening procedures for a few extra minutes. The last time I flew it occurred to me that perhaps they do have secret instructions to make anyone who opts for a pat-down wait around long enough for the face-recognition software (or the casino-style camera mounted over the person at the back of the line checking ID/boarding passes) to run your name and picture against a preliminary database.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.