The Transportation Security Administration spent $160 million on body scanners that have largely failed to detect airport security threats.
Politico reported that the government agency paid $120 million for the body scanners currently in place at airport checkpoints across the country in addition to another $40 million on the "naked" X-ray scanners removed from airports two years ago amid health and privacy concerns.
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The TSA, which recently disclosed the costs to members of Congress probing the agency, on average spent over $150,000 per unit of body imaging technology since it first began purchasing the scanners in 2008.
The acting TSA head was reassigned in June after a security audit revealed that the agency’s devices failed to detect fake weapons and explosives 96 percent of the time in secret tests.
Members of Congress from both parties who have been probing the government agency are concerned with the costly but largely insufficient TSA body imaging equipment.
Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) said that the scanners are so unsuccessful—"These things weren’t even catching metal," he warned—that they should be preceded by metal detectors.
"If you really want to keep using those, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t, at a minimum we should put a metal detector on the other side," Johnson said. "Why not go through two? You’ve just gotta use common sense."
Ranking member of House Homeland Security Committee Rep. Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.) described himself as "troubled about their capability to detect and prevent dangerous materials from passing through security checkpoints."
Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.), the ranking member of Senate Homeland Security Committee, suggested that the agency might be better off trying to find ways beyond technology to overhaul its security measures.
"In a situation like this, if one bad person gets through and they have a bomb or a weapon, it could be a terrible tragedy for hundreds of people," Carper explained. "So I think we have an obligation to look around the world and to look at technology here and to find better ways, on an ongoing basis, to protect our safety and security."
The TSA in a statement voiced its commitment "to improve screening effectiveness, including new training for all TSA officers, improvements in alarm resolution procedures, and, in partnership with private sector partners, a range of measures to increase detection standards of our screening equipment."
The government agency has spent tens of millions of dollars on other types of failed equipment.