We knew the full-body scanners didn’t work before they were even installed. Not long after the Underwear Bomber incident, all TSA officers at O’Hare were informed that training for the Rapiscan Systems full-body scanners would soon begin. The machines cost about $150,000 a pop.
Our instructor was a balding middle-aged man who shrugged his shoulders after everything he said, as though in apology. At the conclusion of our crash course, one of the officers in our class asked him to tell us, off the record, what he really thought about the machines.
“They’re shit,” he said, shrugging. He said we wouldn’t be able to distinguish plastic explosives from body fat and that guns were practically invisible if they were turned sideways in a pocket.
We quickly found out the trainer was not kidding: Officers discovered that the machines were good at detecting just about everything besides cleverly hidden explosives and guns. The only thing more absurd than how poorly the full-body scanners performed was the incredible amount of time the machines wasted for everyone.Here's a bit more:
It worked like this: The passengers stood between. . . [the whole article is at Politico.]
But the only people who hated the body-scanners more than the public were TSA employees themselves. Many of my co-workers felt uncomfortable even standing next to the radiation-emitting machines we were forcing members of the public to stand inside. Several told me they submitted formal requests for dosimeters, to measure their exposure to radiation. The agency’s stance was that dosimeters were not necessary—the radiation doses from the machines were perfectly acceptable, they told us. We would just have to take their word for it. When concerned passengers—usually pregnant women—asked how much radiation the machines emitted and whether they were safe, we were instructed by our superiors to assure them everything was fine.I've written on this subject extensively already. My most generous assessment is that this is the result of people who simply can't think of a better way to do this. They can't lure the more educated and intelligent workers Holland and Israel use, so they rely on faulty machines. My least generous assessments are that it's designed to
- intimidate passengers and make us all more docile
- make money for some companies selling scanners to TSA
- enable sadists and molesters to find work with high job satisfaction
As I say, we tend to believe things that confirm what we already believe. For those people who are right, there's nothing wrong with that.
This piece sounds totally believable to me. The writer is Jason Edward Harrington,
a former TSA agent who has a blog on this topic called Taking Sense Away. It was anonymous until yesterday when this piece was published at Politico.
Chicago native. MFA candidate working on my first novel. Frequent contributor to McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. My humor pieces have been recommended by the New Yorker, the Boston Globe, Gizmodo, and have been chosen as among the year’s best by the Awl’s Splitsider.com.
Photo from Politico
Work also featured in Politico. I occasionally review things. Other stuff here and there. I once got to play Joseph Heller on the Bygone Bureau, which was fun.
Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/Jas0nHarringt0n
If you would like to contact me directly, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is it genuine? There's nothing in the TSA descriptions that sound unlikely. His descriptions of his experience as a blogger sound familiar, though I haven't had to fear for my job.
He's even posted his picture at the end of the article, where he turns in his uniform, leaves the TSA to study creative writing. I imagine it will be a challenge to write something more amazing than what he saw as a TSA officer.