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Pistole Tells a Whopper in Senate Testimony to Cover His AIT Spending Spree

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TSA chief John Pistole went for the big lie yesterday in his testimony before the Transportation and Commerce Committee:

Currently, the most effective technology for detecting small threat items concealed on passengers, such as explosives used by Abdulmutallab, is Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT). AIT safely and effectively screens passengers for both metallic and non-metallic threats, including weapons and explosives, without physical contact. As of today, TSA has deployed 385 AIT machines to 68 airports nationwide, and our goal is to have nearly 1,000 AIT machines deployed by the end of calendar year 2011.

A GAO report in April of this year confirms that the TSA did, in fact, go out and buy a bunch of porno screeners in direct response to the Abdulmutallab incident:

In response to the December 25, 2009 attempted attack on Northwest flight 253, TSA revised the AIT procurement and deployment strategy, increasing the planned deployment of AITs from 878 to 1,800 units and using AITs as a primary instead of a secondary screening measure wherefeasible

So, they knew that these AIT machines would have detected the explosives carried by Abdulmutallab, like Pistole said, yes?

Well, according to the GAO. . . no:

While officials said AITs performed as well as physical pat downs in operational tests, it remains unclear whether the AIT would have detected the weapon used in the December 2009 [Abdulmutallab] incident based on the preliminary information GAO has received.

The GAO report says that the cost of an AIT is about $170,000 per unit, excluding training, installation, and maintenance. But that’s just for starters:

We estimate that, based on TSA’s fiscal year 2011 budget request and current AIT deployment strategy, increases in staffing costs due to doubling the number of AITs that TSA plans to deploy could add up to $2.4 billion over the expected service life of this investment.

That’s why the GAO had recommended in October 2009 that “a cost-benefit analysis of TSA’s AIT deployment” be conducted before the TSA expanded their use of the machines.

But the TSA didn’t do that. In January, they just ordered a bunch more with $25 million in stimulus money, without any compelling evidence (per the GAO) that they would have been effective in stopping the Christmas bomber.

Total jobs created: 1.

I guess nobody on the Senate committee tasked with oversight of the TSA bothered to read the GAO report, because nobody called him out on this dubious factoid: not Dorgan, Hutchinson, DeMint, Begich, Brownback, LeMieux or McCaskill (who described the groping as “love pats“).

No wonder this thing is such a train wreck.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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