Will Congress Say Sayonara to Funding for TSA Full-Body Scanners?
If the TSA is one of the least popular agencies in the federal government - and it is - then the agency's full-body scanners are one of the least popular techniques of one of the federal government's least popular agencies. TSA is trying to reduce public antipathy by introducing less invasive gingerbread man scans, but that technology isn't ready yet. Once it is, it will still take forever for people to notice the change, then to decide that they approve of the change, then to decide that they don't hate TSA any more because of the change.
Of course public disapproval equals political opportunity, so we periodically get the spectacle of public officials trying to make themselves look good by bashing TSA and its invasive techniques. A few months ago Texas lawmakers threatened to throw TSA employees in jail for conducting enhanced patdowns, which is moronic almost beyond words.
Now Congressional Republicans are taking aim at full-body scanners, with House GOP members threatening to zero out TSA's funding for new devices. Draft legislation doing exactly that was presented last week and, while it wouldn't do anything to remove existing machines, it would deny Homeland Security a requested $76 million for 275 new scanners.
Politics is full of uncertainty so anything's possible butnothis isn't going to happen. No politician wants to make a point of cutting TSA's funding, only to take the blame if the nation suffers another terrorist attack. Privacy advocates are pretty good about working the media, but TSA officials have friendly journalists tooand they'd make a point of naming Congressional names in the aftermath of a hijacking or bombing. There may be lots of public opposition to scans now, but you'd see that evaporate quite quickly, and complaints about TSA would be replaced with "why isn't the government doing more to protect us?" Hypocritical, fickle, maybe unfortunatebut true.
In other words, don't get excited. The funding cut is almost certainly going to get blocked by the Senate and the President. The best indication of that is, ironically, that the Republicans introduced the funding cut in the first place. If there was actually a chance that there would be consequences for the stunt, they wouldn't have trotted it out in the fist place.