Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
A new study from the Cato Institute asks the question many travelers have pondered after a pat-down gone awry: Can’t we replace the TSA? The agency’s embarrassing record of waste and mismanagement makes a compelling case.
In more than one instance, the agency has wasted tens of millions on technology that ended up being a flop. It bought hundreds of explosive-detector machines that turned out not to work outside the lab.
A few years ago, defying public outcry, it installed full-body scanners that produce graphic images of passengers’ bodies. According to Cato, the agency never bothered to do any kind of cost-benefit analysis. Since then, independent scholars have done such analyses, and found that the costs far outweigh the gains. The Government Accountability Office called it “unclear” whether the machines can detect the hidden bombs they are supposed to thwart.
Congress created the Transportation Security Administration in the panicked wake of 9/11. Since then, its former chief has called it “hopelessly bureaucratic,” and despite a budget of nearly $8 billion, a report from the House Homeland Security Committee’s transportation security subcommittee blasted the agency for “failing to meet taxpayers’ expectations.”
The Cato report, “Privatizing the Transportation Security Administration,” also details some of TSA’s internal troubles: management caught reimbursing extravagant expenses, dozens of employees fired at a time for failing to adhere to procedure, hundreds fired for theft.
A few U.S. airports are not under the TSA’s watchful eye. There are 16 airports that have opted out and use private screening, although still regulated by the federal government. The DHS inspector general and a TSA consulting firm determined that the private screeners had about the same rate of competency as, or slightly better than, the TSA.
The majority of European and Canadian airports employ private screening companies. Cato comments, “In many ways, the United States has become a laggard in commercial aviation.” Privatizing security could allow screening companies to compete and eliminate waste. Airports could customize their security based on traffic flow and other factors that might be unique to their location. The federal government could focus on intelligence and analysis.
In 2005, the DHS inspector general concluded, “The ability of TSA screeners to stop prohibited items from being carried through the sterile areas of the airports fared no better than the performance of screeners prior to September 11, 2001.” Airport screening has unquestionably become more of a hassle under the TSA, by several degrees of magnitude. But according to these reports, we’re not any safer.
The other problem with HealthCare.gov. Nov 18, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 10 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
Americans are methodically dealing with the Kübler-Ross stages of Obama-care grief, with our national healing process moving briskly through roughly one stage per week: (1) denial upon realizing that the website HealthCare.gov didn’t work; (2) anger at the realization that the technical back-end of the exchanges is as dysfunctional as the front-end of the site; (3) shock at the cancellation of plans and increase of premiums; and (4) depression at the prospect of losing access to doctors, too.
3:16 PM, Oct 31, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
When Kathleen Sebelius testified at a congressional hearing on Wednesday, she acknowledged the presence of a worrisome statement included in the source code of Healthcare.gov and promised that work was already underway to remove it.
3:12 PM, Oct 14, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
12:29 PM, Oct 14, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
The launch of federal government's Obamacare insurance exchange, Healthcare.gov, has been plagued with delays, errors, and poor website design, even prompting USA Today to call it an "inexcusable mess" and a "nightmare". Now comes another example of why the website's reputation is in tatters. Buried in the source code of Healthcare.gov is this sentence that could prove embarrassing: "You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system." Though not visible to users and obviously not intended as part of the terms and conditions, the language is nevertheless a part of the underlying code for the "Terms & Conditions" page on the site.
3:39 PM, Oct 8, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
9:05 AM, Sep 14, 2013 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
With Obamacare’s massive Patient Data Hub poised to open soon, a sloppy mistake by an Obamacare employee hasn’t exactly inspired confidence that Americans’ private information will be closely guarded by Obamacare’s powers-that-be. As the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (and Andrew Johnson
Plus, the law's privacy problems haven't disappeared.2:42 PM, Sep 12, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
As the October 1 implementation of parts of Obamacare nears, House Republicans continue to pass legislation aimed at highlighting the health care law's flaws and weaknesses. On Thursday, the House passed a bill to reform an Obamacare verification process that would better stop fraudulent claims to health insurance subsidies. Politico reports:
Photocopier purchased by CBS, previously leased by Affinity, had personal health information on up to 344,579 individuals.8:31 AM, Aug 15, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
As questions remain about the security of the Federal Services Data Hub to be used in conjunction with the Obamacare marketplaces beginning October 1, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has agreed to a settlement with the not-for-profit Affinity Health Plans, Inc., for the company's "potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules." The case stemmed from a photocopier purchased by CBS News and previously leased by Affinity that still contained sensitive personal health information on up to 344,579 individuals:
6:36 PM, Aug 7, 2013 • By MICHAEL ASTRUE
In my recent WEEKLY STANDARD essay, “Privacy Be Damned,” I warned about the operational problems and privacy issues raised by the “health exchanges” that HHS will force tens of millions of Americans to use as of October 1 of this year. In that essay, I noted that “the HHS inspector general and the GAO have been snoozing on their watches.”
4:27 PM, Aug 6, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Reuters reports that the federal government is "months behind" its efforts to set up data security measures for the state health insurance exchanges, set to open on October 1, as created by Obamacare:
7:27 AM, Jun 7, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper defends the recently revealed metadata mining government intelligence programs:
A curiously opaque view of transparency.Sep 17, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 01 • By SONNY BUNCH
Throughout Privacy, Garret Keizer’s extended essay on the topic in an increasingly public world, the author confuses and conflates voluntary sharing with forced governmental action. “Does anything say so much about the times we live in as the fact that the word sharing has almost everything to do with personal information and almost nothing to do with personal wealth?” he wonders.
12:06 PM, Jul 5, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
Steve Hayes, with Rick Klein and Charles Krauthammer, last night on Fox News: