Since the early 1990s, AS&E has made SmartCheck, a $50,000 low-intensity X-ray scanner that can spot a bottle of organic compounds in a passenger's pocket.And just let the White House tell us that these systems aren't really proven technology. Then why is the White House [LSB: and the Supreme Court] using liquid explosive detective systems at all? Bush had the chance to save American lives and chose his own first.
But is the liquid an explosive, or a batch of baby formula? Ahura says its $30,000 handheld laser scanner, the First Defender, can answer the question. The device can "see" through glass or plastic bottles and identify any of 2,500 different chemical compounds in about 15 seconds. The FBI and New York City police already use the Ahura system, which went on sale about a year ago.
Joe Reiss, AS&E's vice president of marketing, said his company's SmartCheck systems are used at the White House and the US Supreme Court. But they're not widely used in airport security. TSA agreed last year to conduct tests of the system. But Reiss said those tests had not yet begun.
But after this month's foiled terrorist plot to smuggle liquid explosives aboard jumbo jets, the government may not have the luxury to wait. Charles Slepian , founder of the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center, a transportation security firm in New York, said that technology for detecting explosives in carry-on bags is well understood and readily available, but the US Department of Homeland Security is reluctant to spend the large sums needed to deploy it at hundreds of airports.Why? Because Bush and the Republicans who control Congress didn't give Homeland Security enough money.
"Now they're embarrassed because they have to say that we have nothing in place," said Slepian. "Shame on us. We've had the science for years."
The TSA has not outfitted airports with the devices, in part, because officials have to prioritize where they spend limited dollars, according to Frank Cilluffo, former special assistant to President Bush for homeland security...We had money for tax cuts, lots of them. $300 billion for the Iraq war, and counting. But not enough to stop terrorists from blowing up US commercial airliners when we knew about this threat ten years ago.
UPDATE: This is yet another Democratic opportunity, but will they take it? George Bush wants to talk terror and scare the hell out of people. Okay, let's scare the hell out of people - by talking, as Bill Clinton noted yesterday, about just how unsafe we really are because George Bush dropped the ball. The Republicans called Congress back into session for Terri Schiavo, let them do it for the safety of the entire flying public. And then let's have a frank and open and REALLY SCARY discussion about just how vulnerable George Bush, Dick Cheney and the Republicans have left us.
- John Aravosis