TSA chief skips House hearing on airport scans

Laura Rozen
March 17, 2011

Transportation Security Agency chief John Pistole backed out of appearing at a House oversight hearing on new airport security imaging procedures Wednesday, allegedly because of the inclusion of another witness who is suing the agency, The Daily Caller's Mike Riggs reports:

No one from the TSA attended Wednesday's hearing, due to the presence of [the Electronic Privacy Information Center's Marc] Rotenberg, who is suing the TSA to stop using its back-scatter machines.

[Rep. Jason] Chaffetz [R-Utah] said that TSA Administrator John Pistole's last-minute decision to back out of the hearing was "inexcusable and embarrassing," and "highly inappropriate."

The TSA later agreed to send two assistant administrators to testify on a panel with no other witnesses.

Rotenberg told the House national security subcommittee "that scanners were neither effective (they reportedly would not have detected the bomb used by the Underwear Bomber in Christmas 2009), nor ... consistent with the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures," Riggs reported.

The TSA last week acknowledged flaws in their earlier reports of how much radiation the full-body X-ray machines emit, USA Today reported.

Rapiscan, a manufacturer of the full-body X-ray machines, "informed the agency Dec. 15 of numerous errors in the inspection records, but the TSA waited almost three months before releasing that information publicly," USA Today reported Thursday. "Records on some of the devices documented radiation levels 10 times higher than expected, but Rapiscan and the TSA say those numbers reflect math mistakes and that all the machines are safe."

TSA currently has 247 Rapiscan full-body X-ray machines in use at 38 airports, the paper reported.

(A new full body scan at Boston's Logan Airport. Congress is angry that the TSA did not inform the public for months about flaws in inspection records on the full-body scanners, which give off higher radiation levels than previously said. EPA photo.)