The issue of airline security is heating up just as the busiest travel times of the year are approaching. Now, in addition to arguments over safety and privacy, another subject is being mentioned: Washington’s familiar “revolving door.”
The companies that make body-scanners have doubled their spending on lobbying over the past five years, according to a report in USA Today and another in The Hill. Not only that, but the people the companies have brought in to pitch their products were once prominent in the federal government.
One security company, Rapiscan Systems, has spent $271,500 on lobbying so far this year, compared with just $80,000 five years earlier, USA Today reported. It was criticized for hiring former Homeland Security secretary and DOJ Criminal Division chief Michael Chertoff, an advocate of body-scanners, to push its products. The government has spent $41.2 million on Rapiscan equipment, USA Today reported.
And L-3 Communications, a security-equipment company that has sold $39.7 million worth of the machines to the federal government, spent $4.3 million trying to influence Congress and federal agencies during the first nine months of this year, up from $2.1 million in 2005, USA Today said, citing data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. L-3 Communications lobbyists lobbyists include Linda Daschle, a former official of the Federal Aviation Administration and wife of Tom Daschle, former Democratic senator from South Dakota who served as Senator majority leader.
Peter Kant, a Rapiscan executive vice president, said Chertoff’s firm provided advice to Rapiscan on “non-aviation security issues” and is no longer a consultant, USA Today said. And a spokeswoman for Chertoff, Katy Montgomery, said his firm played no role in selling body-imaging technology to the government, and that he was not compensated for his public statements.
Linda Daschle said L-3 Communications’ effective equipment, not her lobbying, accounted for the company’s success.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union says it has received hundreds of complaints from travelers who find the scans and pat-downs too intrusive, The Hill said. John Pistole, the head of the Transportation Security Administration and former FBI Deputy Director, promised that his agency would listen to the public. But he added, “We all wish we lived in a world where security procedures at airports weren’t necessary, but that just isn’t the case.”