May 21, 2009, - 12:58 pm

Your Tax Dollars @ Work: Remember the TSA “Puffers”?

By Debbie Schlussel
Remember the “puffers,” the machines that used air blasts to detect explosives? I remember them because I had to go through one when flying out of Detroit Metro Airport. And it was annoying.
Well, not only were the machines annoying, they don’t work. Yes, the $36 million spent on designing this failed anti-terrorism device is yet another boondoggle and yet another waste of your tax money. Yet another example that government can’t do anything well or right.
Here’s a “stupid” question: Aren’t they supposed to test a device before they buy more than 200 of them, not after? Just asking.

A $36 million anti-terrorism program designed to detect bombs on airline passengers by shooting air blasts to dislodge explosive particles is being scuttled because the machines proved unreliable at airports.

puffer.jpg

$36 Million in Taxes Down the Drain

The “puffer” machines – glass portals that passengers enter for checkpoint screening – are being removed after the Transportation Security Administration spent $6.2 million on maintenance since 2005. Removing them will cost nearly $1 million, TSA spokeswoman Sterling Payne said.
Problems emerged after the TSA bought 207 puffers for $30 million starting in 2004. Ninety-four were installed in 37 airports. The other 113 machines stayed in storage.
Dirt and humidity in airports led to frequent breakdowns, Payne said. The TSA has removed 60 puffers and will pull the rest but has no deadline. The puffers, costing $160,000 each, attempted to identify bomb residue on clothing. They were used as added screening on passengers who had gone through metal detectors.

Wrong. On several occasions–when departing from Detroit Metro Airport–that’s the ONLY screening device I went through.

Some of the machines had trouble detecting bombs, said Hasbrouck Miller, a vice president of puffer manufacturer Smiths Detection. “It was a torturous four years,” Miller said, describing repair efforts. “The TSA finally got tired of pursuing that angle and moved on to something else.”

Hmmm. . . not so “torturous” that Miller and Smiths Detection didn’t cash the multi-million dollar checks for their defective products.

As a replacement, the TSA is installing body scanners that create images of passengers through their clothing. The TSA plans to have 250 scanners next year, costing $170,000 each, its 2010 budget shows. . . .
Security consultant Rich Roth said the TSA faced pressure in 2004 to improve airport screening, and puffers were the best equipment available. “We knew it didn’t work 100%, but we still used it because it gave you an edge over terrorists,” Roth said.

They knew it didn’t work, but somehow this gave an “edge over terrorists”? You keep telling yourself that.
And wasting more tax money.

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4 Responses

“Yet another example that government can’t do anything well or right.”
Story below this one says they caught 4 terror suspects.
[M: REMEMBER HOW THEY CAUGHT SEVERAL TERRORISTS WHO WERE GOING TO FLY PLANES INTO THE WTC, THE PENTAGON, AND A LOCATION IN WASHINGTON, AND HOW THEY FOILED THE PLOT B/C THEY LOOKED INTO ZACCARIAS MOUSSAOUI’S HARD DRIVE–AND HOW BECAUSE OF THIS THEY SAVED 3,000 AMERICAN LIVES? DON’T WORRY, I DON’T REMEMBER THAT EITHER. DS]

Middleman on May 21, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Anybody been to the Statue of Liberty recently? They use the puffers (as part of their multi-checkpoint program), as well as something I had never seen before. Two rangers gave each person a plastic card as we entered the tent for the first security checkpoint. Before entering into the xray screening area, an officer would feed the cards into a machine to scan.
Anyway, I didn’t realize they didn’t work so well. sigh. At least I got to see the Statue before some wingnut does something really bad.

cirrus1701 on May 21, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Debbie’s right. When the feds do something, most of the time its after the fact. I should be feeling safer – but don’t in spite of all the money spent on security.
Who do the feds profile in the airports? People like Debbie and me. Political correctness will be the death of us all.

NormanF on May 21, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Y’all should look into BRIJOT (sp?) Imaging Systems in Orlando, and/or OPAL, and/or ThruVision (U.K.) and/or FLIR along with DRS Technologies. These are the heavy hitters in the passive interrogation genre. However, some of these companies are more “equal” than others…some have more “government relations” personnel. It’s not who you know at TSWIG (DOS), it’s who you blow (sorry puffer joke). P.S. I particularly enjoy being screened by women who can’t appear to say much more in English than “I.D.?” It gets even better when they are observing Hijab. Maybe next time I’ll travel in a Disdasche (sp?).
TSA’s first name was, “Federal Aviation Transportation and Security Service.” FATASS.

SickBoy on May 24, 2009 at 10:35 am

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