Homeland Security’s push to deploy body imaging scanners at airports will cost U.S. taxpayers roughly $3 billion over eight years, Congressional investigators with the Government Accounting Office (GAO) report. And it is unclear that the technology would have caught the alleged al-Qaeda terrorist who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner with explosives hidden in his underwear. According to coverage in the Washington Post, “While officials said [the scanners] performed as well as physical pat downs in operational tests, it remains unclear whether the advanced imasge technology (AIT) would have detected the weapon used in the December 2009 incident,” the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s audit arm, said in testimony prepared for a hearing. The bomber allegedly concealed 80 grams of explosive powder in a pouch sewn into his underwear. “While GAO recognizes that TSA is attempting to address a vulnerability exposed by the December 2009 attempted attack, a cost-benefit analysis is important as it would help inform TSA’s judgment about the optimal deployment strategy for the AITs, and how best to address this vulnerability,” the prepared testimony states. The audit agency said TSA estimates each unit is about $170,000; it would cost about $300 million to buy 1,800 units, enough to cover about 60 percent of screening checkpoint lanes at the highest-priority commercial airports. Each scanner requires three people to operate. Based on the administration’s request for $219 million to hire 3,550 TSA staffers next year alone, GAO estimates it will cost $2.4 billion overall to staff the machines over eight years.
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