TSA’s $1 Billion Rapiscan Scanners Really Were Completely Worthless

It should be evident enough with our porous Southern Border that the fear hyped from potential terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11 is more a mechanism of societal control than a real, tangible threat.

But nothing has proven that more than a recent WIRED report into how completely useless those Rapiscan full body scanners the Transportation Security Administration had been using at airports up until last year — you know, the ones that showed off you and your grandmother and children’s private parts in fine detail for all of TSA to see — really are.

We live in a country where we have been force fed the official story that a group of hijackers with box cutters were able to take over airplanes, so we aren’t even allowed to get on one now without taking off our flip flops first because there might be bombs hidden in them. In addition, if we don’t want to get patted down by TSA’s finest, we have to go through radiating full body scanners, you know, just to make sure we aren’t hiding bombs in our underwear either.

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Except those scanners, which were supposed to help protect the American people from rampant terrorists trying to board planes and kill us all everywhere which scanned people for nearly a decade at over 160 airports for a price tag of $1 billion don’t actually work.

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You probably remember how blogger Jonathan Corbett published a YouTube video in 2012 that showed the entire world just how easy it was to slip weapons through those scanners and onto airplanes using a few very simple tricks. You may even remember how the TSA flatly denied that this video was accurate.

Well, tech mag WIRED recently reported that a security research team from the University of California at San Diego, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins were able to fool those scanners again…and again…and again, basically rendering them completely useless at their entire reason for existing in the first place.

Unlike others who have made claims about vulnerabilities in full body scanner technology, the team of university researchers conducted their tests on an actual Rapiscan Secure 1000 system they purchased on eBay. They tried smuggling a variety of weapons through that scanner, and found—as Corbett did—that taping a gun to the side of a person’s body or sewing it to his pant’s leg hid its metal components against the scan’s black background. For that trick, only fully metal guns worked; An AR-15 was spotted due to its non-metal components, the researchers report, while an .380 ACP was nearly invisible. They also taped a folding knife to a person’s lower back with a thick layer of teflon tape, which they say completely masked it in the scan.

But it gets better (or, worse actually):

Even more disturbingly, the researchers found they could easily conceal a 200 gram pancake of putty designed to have the same X-ray deflecting properties as plastic explosives by molding it around a passenger’s torso. The simulated bomb’s detonator, made from a different material, was hidden in the would-be bomber’s belly button.

Researchers were also able to easily hijack the scanners with malware.

The scanners were switched out last year for different ones with supposedly better technology, but how many terrorist attacks did the other ones ever stop? Apparently if a terrorist really wanted to get through a scanner, all he or she would have needed was a little tape.

And how many people by now have been violated with this technology? Innumerable.

So all those years of the TSA and Homeland Security making us safe from terrorists using these privacy invading, private-part photographing scanners was an illusion, much like the rest of the agency’s security theater police state that violates our civil liberties on a daily basis every day since September 11, 2001.

Surely the fact that former U.S. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff — who helped hype the perception of danger and raise the nation’s level of fear all while promoting the scanners and prompting their purchase, even though at the same time Rapiscan Systems just so happened to be a client of his consulting firm — had nothing to do with it.

FlyersRights.org founder and passenger right advocate Kate Hanni said it best in her interview with Huffington Post:

“They’re trying to scare the pants off the American people that we need these things,” Hanni told The Huffington Post. “When Chertoff goes on TV, he is basically promoting his clients and exploiting that fear to make money. Fear is a commodity and they’re selling it. The more they can sell it, the more we buy into it. When American people are afraid, they will accept anything.”


Listen to former Congressman Ron Paul talk about Chertoff and his lucrative Rapiscanners here (starts around 4:25):


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