Congress: Heckuva Job, TSA

Americans are irate at the TSA’s new Hobson’s Choice of Nudie Scans vs. porno pat-downs, but members of Congress are, by and large, quite happy:
  • “Mr. Pistole, you’re doing a great job,” Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate committee overseeing air travel, told TSA chief John Pistole. For emphasis, Rockefeller added a few minutes later: “I think you’re doing a terrific job.”
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar admitted right away that “I have been a fan of the advanced imaging technology.” American air travelers, she said, “have to understand that this is being done for their best interests and their safety.”
  • “I’m wildly excited that I can walk through a machine instead of getting my dose of love pats,” Sen. McCaskill said.
Why are Americans in disagreement with their betters in Congress?

Two companies make the nudie scanners that have necessitated the implementation of porno pat-downs for those who refuse the radiation: L-3 Communications and Rapiscan (a subsidiary of OSI systems). These companies have paid MILLIONS of dollars for votes in Congress.

With this in mind, I thought I’d take a look at members of Congress who have received some of the biggest direct payments from the Nudie Scan companies in this election cycle to see how well they’re endorsing and defending the products:

Loretta Sanchez (D-CA)

There’s been a lot of debate over TSA’s use of full-body scanners and “enhanced pat downs” (which include open hand touching of passengers’ inner thighs, buttocks, and breasts). These new measures are likely here to stay, but I want to hear your thoughts: are TSA’s new screening procedures too invasive? Or do they help you feel more secure when you travel?
This is a very good statement from Congresswoman Sanchez. While expressing concern for her constituents’ opinion on the matter, she gently suggests that resistance is futile. She focuses attention on the porno pat-downs to distract from controversy over the Nudie Scans.

As a Nudie Scan CEO, I’d give this statement a grade “A.”

Charles Schumer (D-NY)

Sen. Chuck Schumer on TSA screenings: Deal with it

“If you’re going to travel you have to cooperate,” Mr. Schumer said.

[Freedom of speech: Schumer is not up for re-election until 2016!]

“I don’t think I’ve been through the kind of invasive body search that they’re talking about,” Schumer said, “every so often, my name comes up and I get patted down.”

“It’s fine with me. I’ve never seen them be inappropriate or something that made me uncomfortable in any way.”

If I were at L-3, I’d give Chuck Schumer a “B+.” He needs to soften the message just a bit, but otherwise, he’s doing a pretty good job. No mention of any complaints with the scanners… Pat-downs: inconvenient; Nudie-Scans: a non-issue!

Patty Murray (D-WA)

“Keeping Washington residents safe and keeping our economy moving go hand in hand,” Senator Murray said. “Getting these in-demand, high-tech [Nudie Scanners] into Spokane’s airport will help address evolving threats and keep the traveling public safe.”

As a Nudie Scan manufacturer, I’d give Murray a “B-” for this statement. The message is great, but it needs to be updated. This statement was issued in March.

Orin Hatch (R-UT)

“Sometimes, I think they push it way too far,” says Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. “But, we’re living in a dangerous world.”

Hatch says it’s a difficult balance between privacy and safety. Sitting on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he says he knows more about the realities of terrorist threats than most Americans.

“I don’t blame our people from trying to make sure that the airline flights are safe,” the senator says. “On the other hand, I think sometimes they go overboard. People just don’t like those total body scanners.”

We understand Orin Hatch is likely to face a Tea Party challenge in 2012, but this statement is disappointing. Giving lip service to the voters’ concerns is perfectly appropriate, but this can be achieved without making disparaging comments about Nudie Scanners. In the future, Hatch should state that he expects that “the public will come to appreciate the convenience of Total Body Scanners when they learn more about the technology.”

Orin Hatch gets a “D” for this statement.

Byron Dorgan (D-ND)

“It’s more invasive than I’m used to,” acknowledged Mr. Pistole, when asked by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) of North Dakota if he had received an enhanced pat-down himself, during a Wednesday morning hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, Transportation Committee.

Byron Dorgan gets an “A+” for this exchange with TSA Administrator John Pistole. Dorgan asked a question that gives the appearance of sympathy for the travelling public while adhering to three cardinal rules.
  1. Ask softball questions about TSA screening protocols.
  2. Direct attention away from Nudie Scans and toward porno pat-downs.
  3. In your discussions about TSA procedures, don’t provide any juicy sound bites or any memorable quotes.
Dorgan can expect a flood of $ support from the Nudie Scan industry for his re-election campaign in 2012!

Bonus statement from the POTUS:

Barack Obama (D-IL)

In 2008 OSI CEO Deepak Chopra gave Obama a maxed-out personal donation of $2,300

“One of the most frustrating aspects of this fight against terrorism is that it has created a whole security apparatus around us that causes huge inconvenience for all of us,” Obama said.

Barack Obama’s statement sympathizes with Americans’ feelings while rightfully dismissing their concerns as a petulant uproar over a mild “inconvenience.” His delicate use of terrorism-based scare tactics is simply delightful. While Obama’s lack of Clintonesque “feel your pain” empathy is a bit disappointing, his authoritative statement earns him a solid “B+.”

Your money quote of the day: “The TSA chief stressed that the pat-downs are only for those who refuse the scanners…”

Open Secrets number of the day … L-3 Total Lobbying Expenditures for 2010 so far: $4,290,000

Related: Body scanner makers doubled lobbying cash over 5 years (USA Today)

Even sooner than I expected: Next step for body scanners could be trains, boats, metro. Full-body scanners popping up at courthouses.

Discussion: Memeorandum

Temple of Mut: Profiling? No, risk assessment.


  1. Here's a thought: why doesn't the TSA introduce interviews into the screening process, like they do in Israel? If you're deemed to be non-threatening, you can board a plane in Israel carrying a pocket knife and as much damn hair gel as you can manage. They look for terrorists and troublemakers, not so-called "weapons".

  2. I have had one of these "screening interviews" in Amsterdam before a trans Atlantic flight. I thought it was silly at the time, but I had nothing to hide either… It was 5 mins in length. But close enough to get an impression of anything abnormal or sense of nervousness…

    Here's an article that may show some indication of corruption…

  3. it is all about the money. i said at the beginning, who makes these scanners, the same who make the orange barrels for road work???

  4. El Cerdo Ignatius: That makes way too much sense and it won't make billions of dollars for OSI and L-3. And how do you expect body cavity bombers to slip through the cracks if we look for terrorists and troublemakers instead of looking for WMDs in first graders' underwear?


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