U.S. Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican who chairs the House Transportation Committee, says the Transportation Security Administration’s airport body scanners are “badly flawed” and “can be subverted,” reports ProPublica. The TSA uses hundreds of the devices to prevent suicide bombers from smuggling explosives onto planes. But Mica says indicate a significant failure rate. “If we could reveal the failure rate, the American public would be outraged,” he said earlier this year.
Mica’s comments received almost no press coverage. But his outrage, together with other reports by government inspectors and outside researchers, raise the disturbing possibility that body scanners are performing far less well than the TSA contends. The issue is difficult to assess since the government classifies the detection rates of the devices, saying it doesn’t want to give terrorists a sense of their chances of beating the system. But the evidence is mounting. Last week, Department of Homeland Security investigators reported that they had “identified vulnerabilities” in the scanners’ detection capability. And Mica described the findings of covert tests on the machines “embarrassing.”