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The Bizarre Tale of Graft and Sleazy Political Opportunism That Brought Us the 'Porno Scanners'

How we got to the point of full body scans, the massive personal intrusion that represents, and the tens of millions spent for machines that irradiate us.

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We know that federal law enforcement quietly allowed the Haskell's story to stand through the statement to Brian Ross. Since key elements of the story have not been formally investigated, we don't know if Abdulmutallab went through normal check-in or if, as witnessed and indicated, he somehow bypassed normal security requirements. We don't know who the sharp dressed man is. We don't know the full extent of the system breakdown that allowed all of this to happen.

We do know that the bomber's father, Umaru Mutellab, one Africa's wealthiest individuals, told U.S. intelligence authorities that his son was a terrorist a month before the bombing. We also know that Abdulmutallab's name was placed in a terrorism database a month before the Christmas flight. However, his name was not transferred from that database to a watch list of 14,000 essentially nominated for the no-fly database, nor was the name transferred to the 4,000 member official no-fly list.

In the furor over the event, a clear voice emerged with a solution to future problems like that presented by the underwear bomber. Michael Chertoff, long time Bush national security official offered these unqualified assertions on December 27 in the Washington Post and December 28 in the New York Times:

Washington Post, Dec 27: "This plot is an example of something we've known could exist in theory, and in order to be able to detect it, you've got to find some way of detecting things in parts of the body that aren't easy to get at," Chertoff said. "It's either pat-downs or imaging, or otherwise hoping that bad guys haven't figured it out, and I guess bad guys have figured it out." 

New York Times, Dec. 28, 2009: "In recent days, Kip Hawley, the former T.S.A. director, and Michael Chertoff, the former homeland security secretary, have called for the rapid installation of a new generation of whole-body scanners that can look underneath clothing to search for hidden weapons or explosives, which officials consider the single most significant aviation threat today..." 

From that point forward, the focus on preventing future terror threats to air travel focused on full body scanners. On January 15, 2010, the New York Times appended the December 28, 2009 article with this statement:

"Articles on Dec. 28, 29 and 30, about the apparent bombing attempt on a flight to Detroit, discussed the use of full-body scanners for airport security. They cited Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of homeland security, as supporting wider use of the scanners. Mr. Chertoff has confirmed in several recent interviews that a manufacturer of the devices is a client of his consulting company. That connection should have been noted in the articles." 

Chertoff was caught red handed shilling for full body scanners in behalf of a company that was a client of Chertoff's consulting company. He was busted in public by the New York Times editor.

What was the outcome? Chertoff's original, self-interested assertion prevailed. We have full body scans headed for 1,000 airports and, for those who don't want the radiation, the national security grope, invasive searches of the passenger's genital area.

Never mind the first hand eye witness accounts by Kurt and Lori Haskell. Never mind the report by one of the most prominent public figures in Nigeria, the bombers father, that his son was a terrorist and the lack of decisive action on that tip off. Never mind the never released 200 hours of Dutch security footage that could have proven without a doubt the existence of a facilitator, the sharp dressed man who accompanies the bomber.