The Booman wrote on April 30:

Pork Leads to Insanity

… Let me clear something up for the brain-dead. You can save all our money that you are using to educate people about homeland security by adopting a foreign policy more akin to Canada, Germany, Norway, Japan, or New Zealand.

Today we learn that the Dept. of Homeland Insecurity has blown $4.5 billion on monitoring tools bought in a frenzy “during the blitz in security spending after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”

After spending more than $4.5 billion on screening devices to monitor the nation’s ports, borders, airports, mail and air, the federal government is moving to replace or alter much of the antiterrorism equipment, concluding that it is ineffective, unreliable or too expensive to operate.

“Everyone was standing in line with their silver bullets … We bought a lot of stuff off the shelf that wasn’t effective,” a security analyust told The New York Times.

What did you just say? Wasn’t effective? Understatement of the f–king century! I’m holding my sides! And you’ll see why below the fold.

This mad frenzy not only cost us $4.5 billion, it gave us these insane problems:

  • Radiation monitors at ports and borders that cannot differentiate between radiation emitted by a nuclear bomb and naturally occurring radiation from everyday material like cat litter or ceramic tile.

  • Air-monitoring equipment in major cities that is only marginally effective because not enough detectors were deployed and were sometimes not properly calibrated or installed. They also do not produce results for up to 36 hours – long after a biological attack would potentially infect thousands of people.

  • Passenger-screening equipment at airports that auditors have found is no more likely than before federal screeners took over to detect whether someone is trying to carry a weapon or a bomb aboard a plane.

  • Postal Service machines that test only a small percentage of mail and look for anthrax but no other biological agents.





The portal-monitor technology has been used for decades by the scrap metal industry. Customs officials at Newark have nicknamed the devices “dumb sensors,” because they cannot discern the source of the radiation. That means benign items that naturally emit radioactivity – including cat litter, ceramic tile, granite, porcelain toilets, even bananas – can set off the monitors. [BANANAS!]

Alarms occurred so frequently when the monitors were first installed that customs officials turned down their sensitivity. But that increased the risk that a real threat, like the highly enriched uranium used in nuclear bombs, could go undetected because it emits only a small amount of radiation or perhaps none if it is intentionally shielded.

“It was certainly a compromise in terms of absolute capacity to detect threats,” said Mr. Milowic, the customs official.

The port’s follow-up system, handheld devices that are supposed to determine what set off an alarm, is also seriously flawed. Tests conducted in 2003 by Los Alamos National Laboratory found that the handheld machines, designed to be used in labs, produced a false positive or a false negative more than half the time. The machines were the least reliable in identifying the most dangerous materials, the tests showed.

The weaknesses of the devices were apparent in Newark one recent morning. A truck, whose records said it was carrying brakes from Germany, triggered the portal alarm, but the backup device could not identify the radiation source. Without being inspected, the truck was sent on its way to Ohio.

“We agree it is not perfect,” said Rich O’Brien, a customs supervisor in Newark. But he said his agency needed to move urgently to improve security after the 2001 attacks. “The politics stare you in the face, and you got to put something out there.”

Agree it’s not perfect? So do we. But, hell, if there’s a perceived problem, why not throw money at it instead of stopping, pausing, and figuring out the most sane way — Booman’s way — of solving the damn problem:

“After 9/11, we had to show how committed we were by spending hugely greater amounts of money than ever before, as rapidly as possible,” said Representative Christopher Cox, a California Republican who is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. “That brought us what we might expect, which is some expensive mistakes. This has been the difficult learning curve of the new discipline known as homeland security.”

This makes my head hurt.

Read the entire article at The New York Times.

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