Wednesday, November 24, 2010

TSA Body-Scanners: Follow the Money

The story about Michael Chertoff's financial interests in working as a consultant for a major manufacturer during the $2.4 billion initial phase of awarding contracts for airport body-scanner machines has been around since the Washington Post first timidly wrote it, and then quickly backed off early this year. The Post news story, interestingly, was published the same say that the same newspaper published an op-ed piece by Chertoff arguing the case for the machines. A disclosure notice about Chertoff's financial interests was added to the online version later. The Post story and the op-ed piece both ran on New Year's Day, when nobody reads a newspaper.

Till recently, the media haven't paid a lot of attention to the fact that, while he was Homeland Security secretary and afterward, when he was making money from it, Chertoff energetically promoted these machines, which cost over $100,000 apiece. The TSA now has 400 deployed at 70 airports, and another 600 due on line in the next year.

Generating fear is famously and historically profitable on many levels. As always, following the money is an excellent tip for figuring out the evidently unfathomable. Here's a good summary of the Chertoff scandal in the Huffington Post today.

And here is a nice wrap-up USA Today did the other day on the whole sordid money-generating framework around this issue, including the lobbying spending by the manufacturers of these machines.


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