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EDITORIAL: More TSA lies

Obnoxious agency is caught fibbing to Congress again

- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2012

Frequent flyers are no fans of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The blue-gloved bureaucrats are experts in making trips to the airport as unpleasant as possible. As a joint congressional panel revealed Wednesday, the agency's biggest failing is its inability to grope the truth.

Earlier this year, the House Oversight & Government Reform and Transportation & Infrastructure committees got wind that the TSA has 5,700 pieces of security equipment worth $184 million gathering dust in a Dallas, Texas, warehouse. For example, a total of 492 explosive trace detectors that cost $30,000 each have been sitting in storage for more than a year. When congressional investigators were dispatched to learn more about what was going on, TSA did everything it could to stall them.

The congressional auditors finally arrived on Feb. 15 to find a warehouse crew had been busy working from 5 a.m. that morning to shove as much of the embarrassing horde as it could out the back door. The TSA had provided the committees with a written inventory that undercounted the equipment on hand that day by 1,300 items. "Congress was misled," said Rep. Darrell Issa, the Oversight chairman. The California Republican is threatening a criminal inquiry into the incident if the agency fails to come clean about what it has been doing.

The warehouse shenanigans racked up an estimated $23 million in depreciation costs for taxpayers as the pricey equipment lost its value while boxed away on a shelf. A $500,000 cargo scanner has a useful life of only seven years, and some of the higher-tech scanning devices became obsolete before the TSA gets around to deploying them. That's not a bad thing in every case. Fourteen pornographic "advanced imaging technology" machines were locked away in the Dallas facility. America would be a safer place if every single one of those devices were consigned to the dark corner of an abandoned building.

We are told that these X-rated x-ray scanners are needed because an al Qaeda operative failed in a 2009 attempt to detonate a bomb in his underpants. The scare was renewed May 7 with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's announcement that a sleeker, more comfortable set of combustible undies had been captured in the hands of Islamists overseas. TSA's ultimate boss, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, insisted her agency's invasive contraptions would have discovered the dangerous dainties.

Government Accountability Office counterterrorism expert Stephen Lord knows from field testing whether that statement is true or not. He would not say in an unclassified session whether the scanners would have caught the new bomb. "We'll take that, and I'm going to predict it's going to be, 'No, they couldn't,' " said Mr. Issa.

To sum up, TSA is buying millions in equipment that it isn't using, throwing away taxpayer funds. Some of the equipment it does use invades privacy without identifying any real threats. This mess is the result of the agency's hasty creation in the wake of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. After a decade, TSA has proved itself mismanaged and ineffective. It's time to pull the plug.

The Washington Times

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