Shame on Chertoff
So, I'm back from vacation. It was good, thanks. And yours? Much of my vacation was spent with family, who happen to know I cover the security industry, and thus I was forced to talk about the whole Christmas Day attempted terrorist attack quite a bit. Mostly, my family types just wanted to talk about what a farce aviation security is, etc., and it's hard to argue with them, but no one really has a great alternative. Are we supposed to just have no security at all? Should we just let anyone on the plane and see what happens? (You could argue this is essentially what we do for subways and trains and buses, etc., but that's another argument entirely. Why you would spend all kinds of time and energy in an attempt to blow up a plane, but you wouldn't just walk onto any Boston T car at rush hour and kill the same amount of people without having to deal with virtually any security at all is completely beyond me. Again, another matter, though.) I did let people know about millimeter wave technology, and how I've reported on ThruVision and Brijot quite a bit, and that the technology is available to make sure none of this stuff gets on a plane, but that it's expensive and there are some privacy concerns (i.e., people don't want to be seen all naked by people they don't know that well). So, they all probably thought it made sense when they saw former DHS head Michael Chertoff talking about how these body scanners would really be a big help for the TSA and what a great idea they are and how they're totally worth the investment. He knows what he's talking about. I'm just dumb Sam, who generally spends his free time listening to obscure indie rock and playing his guitar. They were all nodding their heads: Let's do this. It's for the safety of airline passengers everywhere! Sam's concerns about expense and privacy don't amount to a hill of beans. Really, you're a skin-flint, callous jerk-face if you don't think this is worth it... Oh, wait, except Chertoff is just a shill for a company that makes these body-scanning devices. Oops! And, yes, I understand that Chertoff was an advocate for these kinds of devices back before his consultancy group was hired by Rapiscan, but that's not the point. The point is that everyday people have no way of really knowing what's a valuable technology and what's not really going to work and what's too expensive. They trust public servants and former public servants like Chertoff to advise them and give them the straight dope, and even if he's not currently employed by the federal government, he has a responsibility to live up to his former title. To avoid a conflict of interest, the first words out of his mouth should be, "well, I'm consulting for a company called Rapiscan right now, they make body scanners, but don't let that color your view about what I'm about to say because I believed this back in 2005 before I earned a penny from them: body scanners could be great for aviation security, for all these reasons, blah, blah." Instead, he only mentioned his financial relationship when a reporter on CNN asked him point blank. That's bad. It contributes to a public perception that the first goal of most people talking about security is to line their own pockets and that contributes to a continuing perception amongst the mainstream public that most security efforts are pointless bullshit and so why should they participate in the overall public effort to keep people safe. That's, as my daughter would say, even badder.