Bush’s Homeland Security Secretary flacking for nudie-scanners, too 

The companies that make the airport nudie-scanners have high-priced lobbying teams that include former congressmen, top Capitol Hill staff, and former TSA brass, as I reported in my column yesterday.

But because I focussed on registered lobbyists, I left out the highest-profile revolving-door character in the pay of the nudie-scanner industry: George W. Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. After the undie-bomber attempt on Christmas 2009, Chertoff went on a media tour promoting the use of these scanners, without disclosing that he was getting paid by Rapiscan, one of the two companies currently contracted by TSA to take a nude picture of you at the airport.

Here’s Chertoff in the NY Times just days after Christmas last year:

Screening technologies with names like millimeter-wave and backscatter X-ray can show the contours of the body and reveal foreign objects. Such machines, properly used, are a leap ahead of the metal detectors used in most airports, and supporters say they are necessary to keep up with the plans of potential terrorists. “If they’d been deployed, this would pick up this kind of device,” Michael Chertoff, the former homeland security secretary, said in an interview…

Chertoff was quickly reamed for not disclosing how he had monetized his public service.

The whole situation is depressing for two reasons:

1) It’s tawdry how much our “public servants” use their government jobs as meal tickets.2) It’s sad how much companies set up their businesses to depend on government, and thus lobbyists.

Influence magazine is a trade publication of K Street, and one of Rapiscan’s hired guns, McKenna Aldridge, is touting this article on its website:

Rapiscan’s Presence on Capitol Hill Pays Off

Rapiscan Systems, an OSI Systems Inc. subsidiary, has already taken note. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company puts around 15 percent of its revenues back into the company to develop new technology.

But Rapiscan knows it needs to play ball in Washington to increase its profits. Like all companies that deal in homeland security, Rapiscan faces myriad legislative issues involving privacy, liability, customs, and the implementation of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. To compete with Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and L-3 Communications Corp., among other companies, two years ago Rapiscan opened a Washington office and hired more outside lobbyists and agency-specific federal marketing and sales staff.

The results have been apparent. Last year the company did $17 million t $20 million in contracts. Over the past six months, the company has had $40 million in sales to the U.S. government, compared with $8 million in 2004.

Two parting notes:

1)  ”Play ball” is an interesting choice of words, considering that the alternative to walking through the Rapiscan is a friendly pat-down. 2) You’d think parent company OSI systems, when naming its nudie-scanner subsidiary, would have come up with a name less similar to RapeScan.

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Timothy P. Carney

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