Wired has a story today about a team of security researchers demonstrated how people can slip weapons and explosives past TSA’s Rapiscan full-body X-ray scanners.
The article talks about blogger Jonathan Corbett who published a YouTube video two years ago showing some of these same failings which the TSA pooh-poohed. Now these researchers from the University of California at San Diego, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins are showing the same things and more.
Corbett has a court case against the TSA which is continuing and you can donate to it here at TSA Out of My Pants. I hope he wins, in a way he was already successful because those scanners are no longer used by the TSA. But as one the the taxpayers who was conned out of one BILLION dollars for a defective product, I want my money back!
How do we get that money back? Qui tam lawsuits. From the Legal Information Institute.
In a qui tam action, a private party called a relator brings an action on the government’s behalf. The government, not the relator, is considered the real plaintiff. If the government succeeds, the relator receives a share of the award. Also called a popular action.
For example, the federal False Claims Act authorizes qui tam actions against parties who have defrauded the federal government. 31 U.S.C. § 3279 et seq. If successful, a relator in a False Claims Act qui tam action may receive up to 30% of the government’s award.
Now I think this is a perfect opportunity for this kind of case. I hope that Jonathan Corbett files one. It’s time a whistleblower flip the narrative and make bank on their important work. From legal discovery we could learn a lot, like ”What did Chertoff know and when did he know it?” Two years ago the incompetence of the company could be hidden by national security concerns, but now the product isn’t used anymore in airports. This company, and Chertoff, defrauded the federal government. We paid for a defective product. Shouldn’t we get our money back?
Rapidscan Systems will still try to evoke national security and not divulge “methods and practices” on the Rapidscan 1000, but we will say the issue is moot since it is not used by the TSA anymore. I’m sure there are 17 good reasons it’s not feasible to bring this case, but for 30% of a billion dollars those reasons might be overcome, don’t you think?
Who’s Using the Defective Rapidscanners Now?
One of the points they make in the Wired article is that these scanners are still being sold to courthouses, jails, and other government security checkpoints around the country. I want to take steps to de-militarize our police, but I’m sympathetic to their concerns that it’s scary out there with the NRA pushing guns everywhere all the time.
Maybe these cities can also sue to get their money back for buying defective products.
Can We Trade In Our Tanks?
Last week I was guest posting at Digby’s Hullabaloo. One piece was titled Let’s Remove “unnecessary military equipment” from Ferguson-like Police Departments I agreed with John Oliver’s comment we should take away the polices “toys” if they aren’t using them correctly.
Read the piece, I have some ideas but I really would like to explore exactly how to do that. I know cities hate to give up stuff they bought, unless they get their money back or an equal or better item in trade. So while we push to take away their tanks with one hand, we clue them in on the Rapidscan 1000 qui tam case with the other. “Look, we want you to be safe at the courthouse and jail, we are concerned for your safety too.”
We could look for other qui tam cases for other items sold to the police in smaller cities. Maybe the reason the military is dumping them on cities is they are crappy. I can image the city fathers (and it almost assuredly are the men wanting tanks) would feel better if they had to send back a “defective tank” and got useful first aid, disaster equipment and modern communications gear instead. They could both save face in the macho boys club and look good to the people who want the police to protect and serve.